I was listening to an interview the other day with the Bishop of Croydon whilst driving my daughter to school.
The Rt Rev Nick Baines was defending his book 'Why Wish You a Merry Christmas?' (This book sets out to return the Christmas story to "its heart")
In the book, Baines says "most carols are OK", and accepts they have a difficult task. "They try, within the constraints of several verses and an easily memorable tune, to capture something of the story of Christmas or the mind-boggling idea of God becoming human and living among us," he writes.
But even accepting these lyrical hindrances, the bishop believes some carols are lacking in substance. He is particularly critical of nativity play favourite Away in a Manger, asking: "How can any adult sing this without embarrassment?"
"I always find it a slightly bizarre sight when I see parents and grandparents at a nativity play singing Away in a Manger as if it actually related to reality. I can understand the little children being quite taken with the sort of baby of whom it can be said 'no crying he makes', but how can any adult sing this without embarrassment? I think there are two problems here: first, it is normal for babies to cry and there is probably something wrong if they don't; secondly, are we really to believe that a crying baby Jesus should be somehow theologically problematic? Or, to put it more bluntly, is crying supposed to be sinful?"
Suddenly my daughter Bethany, who is only 11 years old said "stupid man, doesn't he realise it's just a metaphor used by the poet to illustrate the fact that Christ brings peace to the world!"
Out of the mouths of babes and infants...
Christmas grace and peace, A