and you will sleep (satb)
Intrigued by the parallel images of a mother embracing her child at birth and again at death, Phil asked his mother, Laurie, to write a Christmas text that was equal parts lullaby and funeral dirge. The result was a reflection on the physical articles present at both events in Jesus’ life.
The crux of the piece lies in the repeated lines:
Though you must lie
on this rough, unforgiving wood, you will be wrapped in lengths of linen, and you will sleep.
At first the “rough, unforgiving wood” is the manger holding the slumbering Christ-child. Later, it is the cross bearing the dying Savior. Philippians 2:8 unites these two iterations, expressing the beautiful purpose of the incarnation: that Christ took on human form and humbly gave himself to a human death for us.
Though Mary and Joseph could not have comprehended the trials this child would experience, they did know that he was the promised Messiah, “borne on the songs of angels, the echoes of the prophets, and the light of a strange star,” and that “these walls”—the walls of the stable, the walls of the whole world—were not worthy of him.
Laurie F. Gauger & Philip Biedenbender
Sound clip is The St. Olaf Choir under the direction of Dr. Anton Armstrong.