Christmas songs are wonderful and they are also fraught with danger. Christmas has become a sentimental time for many people including Christians where they toss aside what is true for what makes them feel good. One good example of this is the well know Christmas hymn, “Away in a Manger.”
In that carol there is this line in verse 2: “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Why would baby Jesus not cry? There are two possible reasons I could think of. First, he was not fully human or was at the very least a different kind of human. Second, that crying is a sin.
Both of these are refuted by Scripture. Let’s take the second one first. Is crying a sin? The Scriptures are clear that Christ did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). The Bible is also clear that Jesus wept (Luke 19:41, John 11:35). The logic here is airtight. Jesus cried. Jesus never sinned. Crying is not automatically a sin. Why would a baby cry? He needs food. He is dependent on his mother like all humans are. Until a child talk crying is the way a child says, “I am hungry.” Christ was fully human and therefore as a baby completely dependent upon those around him to feed him. If he need to eat or if something caused him pain he would have cried and in crying he would not have sinned.
The other option is that Jesus was some sort of super human that did not feel the same things we feel or did not experience the same things we do. Again this is refuted over and over again in Scripture. Hebrews 2:17-18 says,
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like his brethern that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest…
Hebrews 4:15 says,
We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathizee with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Philippians 2:1-11 teaches the same thing.
The Heidelberg Catechism says in question 35 that Christ “took upon him the very nature of man.” The Westminster Confession in Chapter VIII.II says that Christ took “upon him man’s nature with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin.” The Belgic Confession in Article 18 says,
The Son took the “form of a servant” and was made in the “likeness of man,” truly assuming a real human nature, with all its weaknesses, except for sin; being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, without male participation. And he not only assumed human nature as far as the body is concerned but also a real human soul, in order that he might be a real human being.
The Definition of Chalcedon says,
Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin.
The point is rooted in Scripture and explained by the church through the ages. Jesus was fully human. In other words, there is no reason to assume that Christ as a baby did not cry.
The goal of the carol is to present a peaceful scene like we see in all the paintings of Christ’s birth. But in doing so the carol takes away one of the more important aspects of Christ’s birth; its reality. Of course, we all believe it happened. But we think it happened differently than normal births. Christ’s birth becomes something mystic and other worldly. We imagine that the manger in Bethlehem was filled with glowing lights, halos, peace, and warm fuzzy feelings. The reality would have been quite different. There would have been blood, pain, and anguish. Mary sat under the curse of Eve like all women do (Genesis 3:16). While Christ’s conception was of the Holy Spirit, there is no reason to assume the birth was anything out of the ordinary. Did Mary scream? Certainly it is possible, even probable. She was giving birth to a child. Did baby Jesus cry? Well of course he did. He was a baby, a fully human baby just like we were.