I have always considered this carol to be a little fanciful, maybe not quite accurate.
It was written in protest during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Some of you are old enough to remember those days when tension ran high between the United States government and the Russian leader, Khrushchev. Russia was building a missile base in Cuba including missiles enough to blow up a few major cites in United States. Never mind the fact that United States already had missiles trained on Russia over in Europe somewhere. The United States decided what was happening in Cuba was unacceptable. So we had a situation where two strong nations showed their muscles to each other and hoped the other one would back down first. Russia did, thankfully, and all the truck for missiles down in Cuba was shipped back home. A year later the US followed suit and got rid of the offending missiles over in Europe. That’s how I understand the history. Anyway, people here at home were very concerned about what could have happened. The author of this carol watching babies in strollers along the streets of New York city, came up with these words to say how he was feeling about the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was written in October 1962 for the Christmas season coming up.
Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite.”
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
“Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea,
With a voice as big as the sea.”
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold–
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.”
Said the king to the people everywhere,
“Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people, everywhere,
Listen to what I say!
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light,
He will bring us goodness and light.”
Noel Regney and Gloria Shane Baker
Which lamb was Regney referring to? Was it the little lamb out there in fields by night? or the one in the manger? or was it just all those babies in prams he noticed? At any rate, Christmas is about that Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.
A voice as big as the sea? According to Revelations 1:15 Jesus has the voice of many waters. The author was making poetry out of the angels’ message to the shepherds, but still…
Please listen to the words of the carols this Christmas and try not to pass them off as simply fanciful as I have done in the past. May the songs we hear remind us that what happened in Bethlehem has to be reckoned with someday. Better now than later, my friends.