A youtube video of one of those popular flash mobs is circulating on Facebook this season. The video is of a random group of people singing various Christmas carols, ending with “O Holy Night.” During the final song, two robed figures depicting Mary and Joseph appear in the mall’s main staging area carrying a baby. By now, most of the crowd is paying rap attention, including the children. A parent points out the figures to a transfixed older boy who, a few shots later, falls to his knees, his eyes still glued to the Mary and Joseph figure.
I can’t help it. Every time I watch that video, a lump forms in my throat and tears spring unbidden to my eyes. Even if I cynically stop and wonder if the boy’s kneeling was staged, I still cry. It reminds me powerfully of something that happened fifteen years ago. Our small church put together a “Victorian Christmas” program complete with the “street singers and a traditional feast with goose and plum pudding. Several ladies, including me, formed a singing troupe and rented era costumes. At the climax of the program, a couple with their new baby would reenact the nativity scene. We planned to have a high school girl with a tremendous voice sing, “What Child Is This?”
But at the last moment, the girl ditched and the director asked me to fill in. So there I was, in my ill fitting costume, singing to a baby. As I sang, I was transfixed into another time frame.
What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
My back to the audience, I moved toward the couple, still singing. Impulsively, clumsily, with my full skirt billowing around me, I “fell to my knees” gesturing toward the baby. Something beyond myself guided my arm motions, giving the babe “laud” and honor. I rose, only dimly aware that a sheen of tears lay on my cheeks. This, this was Christ the King. This Child I was singing about was no ordinary baby. It was God in flesh, worthy of every ounce of honor and worship I had to give.
I found out later, that my simple act of kneeling “stole the show.” People, their voices laden with emotion, talked about it for weeks.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
No, I don’t think that older boy in the flash mob staged that kneeling. I’ve been there. It was real. The realization of who that Baby was – and is – compels us to worship.