When I was a child attending Bethlehem Elementary in Barrow County, I learned an ancient English carol. These are the words I remember: “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, won’t you please put a penny in the old man’s hat. If you haven’t got a penny, a ha-penny will do, If you haven’t got a ha-penny, then God bless you!” I sang it with classmates so much that it is deep within my heart and the song pops out of my soul every Christmas. Think with me how this song describes experiences that are similar to ours today and experiences that are very different from our’s today.
In our present circumstances we have in common with this ancient song an excited anticipation of Christmas coming, we certainly all enjoy both delicious, special foods that are made at Christmas and opportunities to help out those less fortunate with donations.
In contrast, what do you see in this ancient song that is very different from our experiences today? “The goose is getting fat,” is one phrase most of us don’t identify with. Note that families at this time had only one goose that was fattened for Christmas feasting. We on the other hand have a variety of grocery stores where we can purchase all sorts of meats, including not only goose and duck, but also all types of hams, roasts, and even artificial meat products that look like meat, but are enjoyed by vegetarians. How blessed we are to be surrounded by so much abundance. Another verse I noticed in the ancient song that is far removed from our experience is giving a “penny to help someone in need.” Today a single penny, or even a half-penny, purchases nothing. We more appropriately today give 1,000 pennies ($10) or more to make a difference in someone’s life. That would take quite a huge hat to contain, wouldn’t it? Even more interesting is to consider that the beggar has his hat open in a public place to receive donations. During this plague of Covid, there are few beggars on the streets because none of us are walking down the street; rather, we drive up in cars, put on masks, slip into stores and get what we need and slip back into the safety of our cars. We seldom interact with the poor on the street.
But, stepping back from the song, and stepping back in time, we pause to think about the king of all kings, stepping out of his comfort zone and entering ours as a poor baby, helpless and vulnerable. He joins all of us, especially those of us who forget our true condition. Without Jesus we are just like the old man with his hat out; we are beggars in need of a Savior. For too long we have sought help from random passers by while the Lord of life holds out his hand to give us abundant lives.
Do you have a song that is deep within your heart and stirs you during the Christmas season? This Christmas allow your heart to be stirred to consider your true condition. Let this be the Christmas when the Lord of all puts a new song in your heart, and changes you from a beggar to a wealthy provider. “Joy to the World, the Lord has Come!”