Little-known Christmas tune offers consolation after Newtown tragedy

Alyce McKenzie

By Alyce McKenzie, Special Contributor…

I just got back from a family road trip to Austin, Texas to visit our oldest daughter Melissa. My husband brought his extensive collection of Christmas music. I debated writing a lighthearted blog about all the people who have made Christmas albums through the years who shouldn’t have. Examples might include N Sync’s “Christmas at Home” Album, John Tesh’s “Romantic Christmas Album,” Mariah Carey’s “Merry (kinda screamy on the high notes) Christmas” Album, and Ally McBeal’s “A Very Ally Christmas” album.

I thought about writing a humorous blog about all the Christmas songs that are more about sexual innuendo than incarnation. These would include, just to name three, “Santa, Baby,” “It’s Christmas Time Pretty Baby,” and “Back Door Santa.” The blog would be part titillation, part cultural critique. I’d call it “Dirty Santa,” and probably lots of people would read it. But that will have to wait for next year. It doesn’t seem appropriate today.

I thought about writing a blog about my favorite Christmas albums that we listened to in the 8 hours on the road this weekend. They would include Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” album, Al Green’s “Christmas” album, Baroque Christmas Concerti, “Boogie Woogie Christmas” with the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Manhattan Transfer’s Christmas album, “A Michael Bublé Christmas,” “Gotta Have Gospel Christmas! Christmas” album and “In the Christmas Mood” with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. But musical taste is so subjective, I thought that might not be relevant to anyone but me.

And then I realized that even after we got home last night I was still humming one particular song from one particular Christmas album by one particular artist. He would be James Taylor from the album “James Taylor at Christmas.” It is a great album, even taking into account the somewhat creepy track of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” where James seems to be trying to lure a young woman who still lives at home to spend the night with him by plying her with drink. But it also contains uplifting renditions of “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” “River,” “Who Comes This Night” and “In the Bleak Midwinter.“

None of those, however, was lingering my mind once we got out of the car. The one that lingered was “Some Children See Him.”  The unassuming, little known lyricist Wihla Hut wrote the lyrics to “Some Children See Him” in 1951 reflecting on the violence in the world that led to the Korean War so close on the heels of World War II. She meant it as an affirmation that children of all nationalities could imagine Jesus to be like them, with the underlying message that love is more important than any claim of race or nationality. Amid the horror of the slaughter of 20 children, we struggle with the questions “Why?” and “How can this be prevented in the future?” These are crucial questions that need to be asked and acted on.

But let us pause for a moment, parents, and all who love children, and receive the assurance that, while these children have been snatched from us by violent hands, they are now in loving and soothing hands.

Some children see Him lily white,

the baby Jesus born this night.

Some children see Him lily white,

with tresses soft and fair.

Some children see Him bronzed and brown,

The Lord of heav’n to earth come down.

Some children see Him bronzed and brown,

with dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,

this Savior whom we kneel beside.

some children see Him almond-eyed,

with skin of yellow hue.

Some children see Him dark as they,

sweet Mary’s Son to whom we pray.

Some children see him dark as they,

and, ah! they love Him, too!

The children in each different place

will see the baby Jesus’ face

like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,

and filled with holy light.

O lay aside each earthly thing

and with thy heart as offering

come worship now the infant King.

‘Tis love that’s born tonight!

Twenty children and six heroic adults died on Friday:  26 children of God. I don’t know if they saw the face of their shooter or not in the moment before their death. But I believe that they saw the face of their Savior in moment that followed. I believe that the children of God who died that day met the child who was born on Christmas day. That means the sweet and haunting song may need to be renamed: “All children see him.”

The Rev. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology. This column is adapted by permission from a post at her blog, Knack for Noticing,

Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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