I've always liked "Coventry Carol," and I was already planning on writing about it when someone suggested I wrote about the song "Lullay Lullay." I like that one, too, so I added it to the list, only to find that they're two tunes to the same song. Who knew?
"Coventry Carol" comes from a play called The Pageant of the Shearman and Tailors. The scene depicted as "Coventry Carol" is sung is the Massacre of the Innocents--the order given by King Herod to kill all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem in order to prevent the prophesied King from usurping his throne. We don't often sing about this, and at least in my experience, this isn't often something we discuss at Christmastime, either. It's a haunting story, one in which violence is inflicted on those who are wholly innocent and utterly unaware of why they are being attacked.
The tune is haunting, too, at least the one I've chosen:
It's a song of grief and anguish, both for the children slaughtered in Bethlehem and for the little Lord Jesus, forced to flee to Egypt at such a young age to escape the wrath of a tyrant. The injustice of the situation, to me, is heightened by the song's description as not just a child, not just a little child, but a "little tiny child." It's a strange contrast to the usual feelings of joy and peace that we have as we sing about the Nativity.
It's no less an important part of the Christmas story, though. It happened, it was prophesied of in advance, and the Father provided a way for the Child to be protected and out of harm's way. It's a testament to us that the Father is perfectly aware of us. He knew how Herod would react when he heard about the newborn King, so He prepared a solution. He knows how we will react when we face heartache, suffering, pain, and trials, and He can prepare a solution. It doesn't always take the form we're looking for--I can't imagine Joseph and Mary were wild about the idea of leaving friends, family, and livelihood in Palestine to go to Egypt--but it does always take the form that is best for us.
It's a different Christmas song, but a really good one. Enjoy it today, friends.
Previously in this series
The Holly and the Ivy
Do You Hear What I Hear?
I Saw Three Ships
We Three Kings
Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
In the Bleak Midwinter
Little Drummer Boy