Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Does "Away In A Manger" Communicate Docetism?

Its Christmas time, which means you have Christmas music going in your house. You might have already started singing some Christmas songs in worship. There have been many Christmas songs sung in church. Some of them are great while others might be questionable.

For the past few years, I have been hearing different Bible teachers saying that the second verse of the popular Christmas song, "Away in a Manger," may not be accurate. In fact, some have said it promotes Docetism. What is Docetism? Simply put, it is the belief that Jesus only appeared human but was not actually human.

You might be asking how does "Away in a Manger" promote this idea, if it is true. Many have gotten that idea from the second verse:

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.

Think about it. As the baby Jesus was lying in a manger with a bunch of animals, he did not make a sound. As the animals make noise, He is silent. My question is, if this is true, how did Jesus communicate to his mother and father? Did he speak like the e-trade baby? Did he communicate telepathically?

The Bible does not say if he cried during His time in the manger, but the Bible does say Jesus was fully man and fully God. The Bible says, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Colossians 2:9). The fullness of deity dwelt within a human body. From the beginning, Jesus was God in the flesh as the gospel of John tells us, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

Jesus had to become a man so that He might bore our sins:

Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
so shall he sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 52:13-53:6).

Jesus had to become a man to be our mediator:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Back to the question at hand, does "Away in a Manger" communicate Docetism? I don't have a concrete answer. I know personally for me, I have not sung the second verse to this song for the past few years because I believe Jesus was human and if He is our Great High Priest who suffered like us, then I think the second verse to the song is inaccurate. I am not saying you should or should not sing the second verse, but I ask you to think about what you singing in corporate worship. As Christians, we need to be thinking people including the Christmas songs we have loved over the years.

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