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They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes, and lift them high:
Thou cam’st a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.

O Son of Man, to right my lot
Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea Thy sail.

My how or when Thou wilt not heed,
But come down Thine own secret stair,
That Thou mayst answer all my need,
Yea, every by-gone prayer.

Christmas! — all the glitter, music, light, beauty, expense! What does it have to do with a baby born in a barn in a village? This poem by George MacDonald explains what the Christ was doing – and what He is still doing. Here is my explanation of this Christmas poem-prayer:

Stanza 1: As still today, in Jesus’ day many people wanted a powerful conqueror to put their enemies down and give their nation all the power and glory. Instead, Christ came as a typically amazing, tiny, helpless human (“baby thing”) in the normal way (“that made a woman cry”).

Stanza 2: “Son of Man” is a term Jesus often used to describe Himself. Our lives (even our world) will never get straightened out unless He is fully and freely present here (“naught but Thy presence”). But there is no coach (“wheels”) or ship (“sail”) bringing Him. And today there is no powerful rocket or plane or armored vehicle carrying Him, Emperor-like, to us.

Stanza 3:
The Lord does not ask our advice nor follow our preferred scripts for His work. He comes down secretly (to the no-wheres-ville of Bethlehem, not to the capital cities of Jerusalem or Rome). He still comes in His own secret way – by His Spirit into the inner secret parts of each person. His agenda is to satisfy every deep and lasting need of this human race, and of me and you, and He goes about it the way He knows will actually succeed. Even the deepest longings and prayers of all history will somehow be fulfilled and answered in Him.

So says George MacDonald. He nailed it pretty well.

[MacDonald was a Scotsman, a pastor, author and teacher. Though they never met, he had a great influence on the thinking of C. S. Lewis, the author of Mere Christianity and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. MacDonald died in 1905.]