I'd always kind of assumed that the answer to this question would involve something high-flown and theological about the incarnation of Christ, but that's not really the case. This text, which has been set to some of the most sublime music ever written, is all about the earthy details of the Christmas story. Does that surprise you? It did me, when I actually took the time to look at the translation.
Seek not in Courts or Palaces;
Nor Royal curtains draw;
But search the Stable, see your God
Extended on the straw.
The other earthy detail that's emphasized in our text (which comes from ancient Roman Catholic chant and is probably 1,000 years old) concerns Mary and her womb, which is considered worthy to have carried the Christ child. Only the word that's used is viscera. I don't know why this wording didn't strike me when we sang Ola Gjeilo's version (titled “Serenity”) in 2014; I wrote something very brief back then about the overall meaning of the text. But we all know that “viscera” doesn't specifically mean “womb.” It refers generally to internal organs; we use the word today almost exclusively as an adjective, “visceral”--”I had a visceral reaction to the story.” Isn't it strange to our modern ears to have Mary's insides, as it were, held up as worthy of praise? She's seen as a sacred vessel without ever being dehumanized into a symbol. John Donne used this same imagery in his poem “Nativity”:
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov'd imprisonment.
So the sublime and the mundane exist simultaneously there in the stable. I can't do better than to end this post, and the notes on this concert as a whole, with the example of how Mary reacted to these events: “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19 KJV).