Sunday, December 18, 2005

1534 Carol


In December several years back, way back, when J C. Penny’s catalog store took up one corner of downtown Conroe, I ambled toward my car. As I neared my vehicle I heard carols. Thinking one of the downtown stores piped music outdoors for the shoppers, I twisted my head back and forth to discover the instigator of such joyful noise.

Embarrassment colored my face as I neared my car. A week or so earlier, our radio broke, and for some reason the shade tree mechanic directly wired the radio to the battery. I’d turned off my car, but not the fully powered radio. The windows of the Dodge pulsed with the tinkling notes of a jolly Christmas song. The car seemed a living thing and the volume amplified as I neared. I hopped in and flew away like the down of a thistle.

For the most part, Christmas carols bring tidings of joy. But not all carols are about merry gentlemen resting, midnights clear, or the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay. One carol is particularly haunting.

The Coventry Carol, written in 15 34 by Robert Croo, is a lament. The song honors the Christ Child and the babies killed when King Herod ordered their execution. After the magi saw a defining star in their ever-watched and interpreted sky, they traveled to Judea. They asked King Herod of Jerusalem if he knew where this young child lived, the future King of the Jews.

Seeming solicitous, the deceptive Herod asked for the magi to notify him when this child was found, saying he wanted to worship the baby, too. The wise men eventually found Jesus and worshiped him but didn’t return to Herod with an address. Warned in a dream, they bypassed Jerusalem.

Because of a dream-warning, Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus escaped to Egypt. Herod planned to rule at all costs, and thinking the child Jesus was still in the vicinity of Bethlehem, ordered executions of every male under age two. Foretold in Old Testament prophecy; the horrendous act caused the women to weep for their “children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15). Estimates of deaths range from 20-60.

The Coventry Carol’s words “Lullay, Thou little tiny Child, by, by, lully, lullay” sound like a lullaby, but chronicle Herod’s massacre. Recently, my husband and I attended a concert by Kemper Crabb and band, featuring carols from their Medieval Christmas album/CD.

Crabb remarked before singing the Coventry Carol words similar to these: History tells of the atrocities of Herod and later one period is called by some the Dark Ages. In a thousand years, will our generation be considered the real Dark Age because of all the unborn we have slaughtered? These are some statistics I found when writing this article: Russian abortions surpassed live births in 2005. Americans aborted over a million babies per year for years.

The group then sang the Coventry Carol, “Herod the King, in his raging, Charged he hath this day, His men of might, in his own sight, All children young to slay.” The moment pierced my mother-heart.

When you kiss your babies, your grandchildren and your adult children this Christmas, lift a prayer of thanks to God. Celebrate. Laugh. Enjoy Christmas carols. But through the season, listen for the Coventry Carol. Remember the innocents then and now. “For Thy parting, nor say nor sing, By, by lully, lullay.”

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