I’m still thinking about a Christmas song that I was able to sing a few times this Christmas season:
“Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
from tender stem has sprung.
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
as men of old have sung.
It came a flow’ret bright,
amid the cold of winter;
when half-spent was the night.”
I’m especially captivated by the last couple of lines: Christ came “amid the cold of winter, when half-spent was the night.” We celebrate Christmas during the “cold of winter,” but we know from historical clues that Jesus was actually born in the springtime. So does this song simply make a mistake when it says Jesus was born in the winter? And half-way through the night? Was Jesus really born at night?
Many places the Bible pictures God’s Kingdom as a thing that begins small, and grows until it fills the earth (Ez. 47:5, Hab. 2:14, Dan. 2:35, Mt. 13:31-33). Since Jesus is the Light of the World (Jn. 8:12), we might think of the whole world as being in darkness before His coming (Lk. 1:72). To those waiting for His coming, it must have seemed that the darkness grew deeper, the cold of separation from God more bitter.
Into this night of sin, this winter of mankind’s soul, Christ came. “When half-spent was the night”…when the world looked darkest, when all hopes had failed, at the mid-night and mid-winter of history, Christ came.
How fitting that, right after celebrating Christmas, we should celebrate a New Year. In this new year, let’s see and display the new life, the new light that is in each of us because of Christ’s coming. As the light of His Kingdom increases, may He also “shine in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.” (2 Cor. 4:6)