“Lullay thou little tiny child,
Bye, bye lully lullay.”
Most people don’t know that a massacre, much like the one on Friday, is just as much a part of the Christmas story as angels and shepherds. Here is that part of the story:
On their way to Bethlehem, the Wise Men told Herod (the king) that a baby had been born in Bethlehem, and that baby was going to be the king of the Jews. Herod didn’t want another king in Jerusalem. He sent the Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem with instructions to report back when they found the baby. When they didn’t report back, Herod ordered that every male child near Bethlehem under the age of two be killed. Every little boy. Every single one.
Over the past few days, I (like everybody else) have been trying to process the tragedy that happened in Connecticut. At first, I sent up silent prayers and continued with life as usual, but that didn’t last for long. Yesterday afternoon, my world kind of stopped. I was sitting in Panera, checking my email (no internet at home) and I cried. I got in the car and I cried. And I didn’t want to do anything- not read or shop for Christmas gifts or bake or anything. Nothing at all, which is unusual for me. I was mourning.
And the strangest thing comforted me in my mourning: a Christmas carol came to mind. It’s not one that you probably know the words to. You may have heard its haunting melody on some instrumental album and thought, “oh that’s nice,” but of all the songs I could ever imagine, this is the most appropriate. It’s a song that commemorates the lives of those babies who were killed because of the first Christmas. It is, appropriately, a lullaby:
“Lullay thou little tiny child
Bye bye lully, lullay.
Oh sisters too, what can we do
For to preserve this day?
This poor youngling for whom we sing
Bye bye lully, lullay.
Herod the king, in his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All young children slay
That woe is me, poor child for thee
And ever mourn and sigh
For thy parting neither say nor sing
Bye bye lully lulay.”
This is the world that Jesus entered: a violent, evil, ruined world. A world where songs are written in memory of little babies killed by horrible men.
So God came to Earth as a little baby because he loves little babies so so much. More miraculous than that- he loves the men who killed them.
I’m not saying that I love those men. I’m not God, after all: I can’t be entirely loving and entirely righteous at the same time. Mostly I’m human and the “righteous” side shows itself only when other people do horrible things.
But when God sees those men, he sees them first as little babies. He sees how their hearts die long before their bodies do.
I don’t often post about my faith here, but this is what truly gives me hope: That if God can love them, then surely he can love me.
So when I sing this song, I sing it in memory of those babies who died 2000 years ago, and the babies who died two days ago, and the ones whose hearts are dying before their bodies ever do.