I love Christmas songs as much as the next guy. We've been listening to Christmas music at work since the Monday after Thanksgiving. Most good Christmas music is the same 15-20 songs, redone by various artists. What does not exist, however, are very many new christmas songs actually worth listening to. One of my favorite Christmas albums is by MercyMe; it's called The Christmas Sessions. The final track on the CD is an original song titled “Joseph's Lullaby,” and aside from being a catchy tune, it raises some interesting theological questions and ideas.
The basic gist of the song is Joseph, the father of Jesus, singing his son to sleep. What's interesting about the lyrics is that they combine a very human emotion of love for a son with the divine revelation that this baby is the Savior of mankind.
Joseph begins by acknowledging that though there is joy in this moment of birth, the journey of Jesus will be a long one.
The next verse is probably my favorite just because of the implications and questions raised by it. Joseph asks Jesus if he understands who he really is. The God of the Universe has now been encapsulated in a human child. The mystery of how Jesus can be fully God and fully man at the same time is highlighted here by Joseph contemplating if Jesus, even as a baby, knows that He is God. More than that, the song raises another question: does the Father Himself guard Jesus' heart and mind in this season of childhood so that he can simply sleep at night. After all, how could a child be a normal kid if he knew he would one day bear the weight of the entire world's sin, be abandoned by his father, and be ruthlessly murdered in a humiliating way? At what point did Jesus know his own purpose, and did the Father intervene in this revelation? Where is the dividing line between being fully God and fully man? This is what makes the song fascinating to me.
The last two stanzas play off of Joseph's human emotions, something I also found worthy of contemplation. I can't imagine that, even though angels appeared to Joseph to download him with special information about Jesus, he would have been aware of the full picture. I don't think he knew Jesus' ultimate fate. Mary and Joseph acted in faith with very little information. There lives were basically wrecked because of this out-of-wedlock pregnancy. What Joseph is relaying here is that he knows Jesus is beyond special; he knows Jesus is the hero that ultimately saves the day. But he can't deny his responsibility for, love of, and emotional tie to his own son, and he pleads with the Lord that those ties be honored in that moment. He wants to hold his child and see him grow up to chase his dreams. Joseph simply wants to experience fatherhood. And so the dichotomies continue.
Stuff like this is what makes studying theology fun. It's also what makes me realize that I can't box God in. He acts outside of our parameters because he created our parameters. Christmas is about the beginning of an unbelievable rescue mission, which of course started with the birth a baby boy. Let this be a standard this Christmas. Don't let even the familiar carols slip off your tongue without giving some thought to the truth in them.