Did the Baby Jesus Cry?
In the middle of the classic Christmas hymn, “Away in the Manger”, there is this one line that doesn’t quite ring true. The second stanza tells us, “The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes, But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.” Did baby Jesus really not cry? The hymn author was likely thinking that Jesus did not cry because He was perfect and divine. But does a crying baby Jesus detract from Jesus’ divinity? I think not, but a non-crying baby Jesus detracts from his humanity.
I see no inherent conflict between Jesus being God and Jesus crying as a baby. Crying is not necessarily sinful. If a child cries when it is hungry, tired, or just plain uncomfortable, is that wrong? No, that is just the way that God made us. However, there is also selfish, sinful crying, which does manifest itself from infanthood because we are sinful from birth (Psalm 51:5, Eph. 2:3).
Now Jesus never sinned, so he never cried in a sinful way. So that means that four year old Jesus never collapsed in a heap of whining and crying because he didn’t get his way like my four year old does sometimes. But if toddler Jesus was running around Mary and Joseph’s home and tripped and bonked his head on the corner of a table, did he cry? I bet he did. And after the shepherds went home and Mary and Joseph tried to get some sleep, did newborn Jesus wake multiple times during the night and cry to be fed? I’m sure he did.
A crying baby Jesus is a human baby Jesus. If Jesus was anything less than truly human, then he would have been disqualified from dying on the cross to redeem us from God’s wrath against our sin. Why is that? Because just as Adam represented the whole human race in the Garden of Eden and led us all into death, Jesus Christ (the Second Adam - Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinth 15:45) represented all those who would trust in Him, leading us into eternal life. He had to be human in order to be humanity's representative before the Father at the cross. Jesus’ divinity kept him free from sin that would have disqualified Him from being the perfect sacrifice that God required, and Jesus’ humanity made him truly able to stand in for those of us whose feet are made of clay.
Let us rejoice in the birth of Jesus as a little child but remember that he was a crying baby. It is a crying baby Jesus that we need. Anything less and he would not be the Savior.