Today’s devotional is by Carole Townley.
"This carol was composed by English poet, Christina Rossetti, and published under the title ‘A Christmas Carol’ in January 1872. Gustav Holst then set the words to music in 1906, followed by Harold Darke’s more complex composition in 1911. This latter version was named ‘Best Christmas Carol’ in a 2008 poll of some of the world’s leading choirmasters and choral experts.
It was only as I started to write this devotional that I discovered there are actually five verses in the carol, rather than the four that are commonly sung.
Another translation of this passage says that ‘a great company’ of angels appeared. In military terms, a company can have up to 200 soldiers in it. And the fact that Luke says it was a ‘great’ one would tell us that it was around the maximum size.
In a song of many contrasts, we see the difference there will be when Christ returns - “when He comes to reign” – compared to His first coming, when “a stable place sufficed” for the King of Kings (v2).
In the third verse (v3), the simple surroundings into which Jesus was born, a humble stable with animals, is compared with the worship and adoration of the angels in heaven, contrasting what He left behind for the life He would live on earth.
“Enough for Him, whom Cherubim worship night and day,
a breastful of milk and a mangerful of hay:
enough for Him, who angels fall down before,
the ox and ass and camel which adore.”
The contrast continues when a comparison is drawn between the angels at Christ’s birth, who took the message to shepherds and filled the night with their praises - “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ ” (Luke 2: 13,14) - and Mary’s worship for her new born son, displayed in the simple gesture of a kiss (v4).
At the start of the final verse, a very important question is asked - “What can I give Him, poor as I am?” – and we are all challenged to consider our response to Jesus.
The shepherds were the first to come - “When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manager.’ ” (Luke 2:15-16). They didn’t delay or put it off until another day. They went to find the Saviour as soon as they heard.
The wise men came seeking - “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east come to Jerusalem, saying ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him’ ” (Matthew 2:1-2). They came seeking one who was deserving of their worship and travelled many miles to find Him.
The final line of the carol gives us the answer to the question posed - “Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.”
This Christmas, as you give and receive gifts, consider the question, “What can I give Him”, and the answer, “give my heart”. Remember all that He has given for you - “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)."