On this Good Friday I am pondering the words to a familiar hymn. For me, it best captures the sorrow of today: the pain of the cross, the despair in death, the question “Why?” and the foolishness of a King come to die.
What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the king, whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary!
Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you;
hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the son of Mary!
So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh; come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high, the virgin sings her lullaby;
joy, joy, for Christ is born, the babe, the son of Mary!
At birth, Jesus laid in Mary’s arms, innocent and defenseless.
At death, this same Jesus laid in Mary’s arms, innocent and defenseless.
So often I have thought of the adult Jesus on the cross, the Jesus who is God. Powerful and in control. And yet this is the same Jesus who was born and laid in a manger. This same Jesus chooses to give up control and become weak.
This Jesus is God and man– with a human family. A family mourning a loved one’s death. A mother holding her son one last time.
The fleshiness we celebrate at Christmas is now mourned in death on the cross.