Advent: Understanding Lully Lullay (Coventry Carol)

Did you know that not all Christmas carols are happy? One sad carol is the "Coventry Carol," also known as "Lully Lullay." You may not remember it, but this is one of my favorites. The words and music are sad, but they point to the hope we have in Jesus Christ. NOTE TO PARENTS: Please read this blog yourself before sharing it with your child(ren). You are the best judge of what is appropriate for your family. You might choose instead the meditation on "Go Tell It On the Mountain."

A New King Is Born

When Jesus was born, a special star appeared in the sky. Astronomers (sometimes called "wise men") saw that star from where they lived and studied East of Israel. Knowing this was a special sign from God, these men followed the star to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. There they met with King Herod. The wise men might have though that King Herod would be as excited about the work God was going as they were. But that was not the case. Look what happened.

They asked, “Where is the child who has been born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose. Now we have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard about it, he was very upset. Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled too. So Herod called together all the chief priests of the people. He also called the teachers of the law. He asked them where the Messiah was going to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied. “This is what the prophet has written. He said,

“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are certainly not the least important among the towns of Judah. A ruler will come out of you. He will rule my people Israel like a shepherd.’ ” (Micah 5:2)

Then Herod secretly called for the Wise Men. He found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem. He said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report it to me. Then I can go and worship him too.”

Matthew 2:2-8 (NIRV)

  • Why were the wise men excitedly traveling far from home?
  • What did they call Jesus?
  • How did King Herod feel about this news? Why do you think he might have felt this way?
  • Who else felt the same way? Why do you think they felt that way?
  • What did King Herod tell the wise men?
  • Did he mean what he said?
  • What do you think King Herod really planned to do?
The wise men found the baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Bethlehem. When they arrived, they bowed down to worship the new King of the Jews and offered their gifts.

A Jealous Old King

The wise men did not go back to tell Herod where to find the child, though. God warned them in a dream to go back home a different way, avoiding Jerusalem completely. Joseph also had a dream warning him to take Mary and baby Jesus to Egypt where they would be safe. King Herod was about to do something nasty. When King Herod realized that the wise men were not coming back to tell him exactly who this rival king was and where to find him, Herod became "very enraged," which means extremely angry (Matthew 2:16 NASB). First he figured out when the star had appeared to the wise men. Using that information, he figured out that the baby he wanted was two years old or younger. He also knew that a king must be a boy and that he was born in Bethlehem. Then he put this knowledge and his extreme anger into action. Herod ordered all the baby boys in Bethlehem killed who were two years old or younger. The whole city grieved for these little boys.
“A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more.” Matthew 2:18 (NASB) quoting Jeremiah 31:15

A Victorious King

After the evil King Herod died, an angel appeared again to Joseph in a dream, telling him that it was ok to come back to Israel. The family settled in Nazareth where Jesus grew up. When He became a man, Jesus spent three years praying, working miracles, helping people, and teaching people about how to be right with God. In those three years, Jesus made the chief priests and teachers of the law more and more angry. He was teaching the truth and it didn't match what these religious leaders were telling people (Matthew 28). Finally, the chief priests and teachers of the law grew extremely angry and ordered that Jesus be arrested and put to death (Matthew 26:3-4).
  • What are two things that are the same between what happened when Jesus was a baby and just before Jesus death?
  • What are two things that are different?
The good news is that this is not the end of the story. Jesus died on the cross to take our punishment for sin (Romans 6:23), but Jesus didn't stay dead. When Jesus rose from the dead (came back to life again), He proved that He had conquered not only sin, but death itself! Let's put this another way. Jesus death on the cross paid for our sin. It also means we don't have to be afraid of death anymore. Those who confess their sins (agree with God that we've messed up and it was wrong) and trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior have nothing to fear. We become children of God (John 1:12). We get to live with God in heaven when we die (Luke 23:43). AND, when this world is over and Jesus comes back to earth, we will get new bodies. We will live with God in the new heaven and earth for eternity, forever and ever (Revelation 20:11-22:7).

Hope In A Sad Situation

It is because of what Jesus did that we can have hope, even when we are in extremely sad or difficult situations. God loves us. Jesus died for us and came back to life again. Jesus is coming back again to get rid of all the bad things. We have God's promise that those who believe will live with Him forever. Jesus told His disciples, His close followers:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
Yes, "Lully Lullay" talks about a very sad part of history, but it points to a time when Jesus would conquer sin and death forever. Praise God! For more about how to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, please see this video.

The Song

Songwriters Julian Smith


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