Atypical Christmas Songs: #1 Cry Of a Tiny Babe

This is the continuation of a collection of posts I’m doing this year about some of my favorite “Christmas Songs” that most people may not think of when they think of  Christmas.  This is a re-post of a blog from 2012 about my all time favorite song in this category.  Merry Christmas!

One of the things I enjoy most about the Christmas season is the music.  I enjoy the traditional carols with their images of silent and holy nights and a peaceful scene in some manger far away.  There have also been some newer songs that capture my attention with a new twist to the old themes we find in Christmas carols.  Then, every once in a while, an unexpected song comes along that connects the timeless truth of the Incarnation with the hard realities of the world we live in every day.  These songs usually come from mainstream artists who spend most of their time speaking to the world in which we live, but have a sense that there’s a bigger story that needs to be told.

While at a Christmas party in the mid-90’s a friend introduced me to “Cry Of A Tiny Babe” by Bruce Cockburn.  As an aspiring philosophy student with a bent toward social justice, I was just beginning to discover Bruce’s music and the prophetic way he addressed many of the issues of the day we lived in.  His music showed a faith that was sincere, even if it was edgier than what I was accustomed to.  As I listened to his telling of the Christmas story in song that night, it had the same edgy, but truthful, feel to me.  Over the years it has become my favorite Christmas songs.

It’s the edgy and down to earth nature of this song that captures something often lost in our more traditional carols.  Jesus’ birth did not happen among the acceptable people of his day, but in the midst of scandal and on the margins of society.  Jesus spent much of His life dealing with the messiness of human existence.  He cared for and restored dignity to many who lived on the margins of society.  These were the people Jesus said He came to touch.  One verse especially captures this point:

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums

This remains true today. Whatever there is in our lives that brings shame and messiness, that is the part of our lives Jesus wants to enter into and bring healing and wholeness. Even as it was for those on the margins in Jesus’ day, it is true for us today that “forgiveness is given for (our) guilt and (our) fear.” In a single moment in history, redemption and restoration ripped “through the surface of time” and the ripples of that moment carry on to our day.

Merry Christmas.

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