Advent Reflections 2021: Day 24

Born in the night, Mary’s child

(StF 193)

This is my favourite carol: I love Geoffrey Ainger’s haunting earworm of a tune and the barebones feel of his words. For me it tears away the wrapping paper of fluttering angels, shepherds and the rest that can sometimes hide the glory of the incarnation from view at Christmas.

The poetry of the carol provokes some unspoken, seeming simple questions, that are anything but.

We are presented with ‘Mary’s child’ unnamed, whom we must recognise. The first verse makes us ask, where is this child’s ‘home’?

In the second verse, we are made to think, how does this child ‘light up our way’?

The third verse ties Christmas to Easter, and reminds us that one has no meaning without the other. Why is it essential to God’s goodness that the Christmas revelation is confirmed by the ‘cross of wood’?

Finally, the fourth verse reminds us that Christmas is the beginning of the fulfilment of the hope of Advent. True fulfilment will not be complete until the Kingdom comes, and Mary’s child will ‘walk in our streets again.’ So, in the last line of the carol, you suddenly find yourself offering a prayer while being brought crashing back into the present time. Which provokes the question what do this all mean for us?

What a wonderful carol to think and pray about on Christmas Eve. Why not try singing the carol to yourself or if you are brave, to a friend or partner, and don’t forget to have a go at answering the questions it provokes.

Ken Stokes


Loving God,

you chose to meet us

in the mystery of that holy night,

coming to us in Mary’s child.

As we kneel before your manger,

may we also recognise and rejoice

in your presence in our lives. Amen