What Child Is This? (an advent meditation)

Christmas in our culture seems a mix of the sacred and the secular. As much as some people lament the idea of a “holiday tree” being sold in stores they frequent, let’s not forget that Santa Claus, songs that have nothing to do with Jesus’ birth, and Christmas movies about family get togethers and little else have been around for decades if not centuries.

No Christian should get uptight when the world fails to see the meaning of Christmas. Instead, our love and our grace, and our return of the greeting Happy Holidays with a Thank you should help others see the greater reality. Quite simply, we as followers of Jesus are to be the heralds of Christ, not the store greeters or the items they sale.

Part of our task is to help people understand that our answer to one particular question is eternally important. In the 1800s, William Dix penned the words to a song with this question in the title: What Child Is This? How we answer this question, frankly, determines: do we belong to God and stand as recipients of salvation, or do we belong to our sin and stand as recipients of condemnation?

Jesus asked the question at hand to his early followers in his own way: “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” His followers replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:13-14). And so the world says about Jesus today: He is a good example, or a prophet, or a myth, or a story to control people so they behave a certain way.

But then Jesus turned the question around on his followers: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter, in a moment of spiritual brilliance granted him by God, replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:15-16). Jesus, they realized, was the long expected Savior-King who would judge the enemies of God and set the world right. Jesus went on to say that with this truth he would build his church, his people (16:18).

And then he charged his followers to be the ones to take this message to the nations that others might follow him and become his disciple as well (28:18-20).

Dix’s song asks the same question, gives the same answer, and provides the same charge.

What Child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

So it is in these words: Who is Jesus?—he is the Savior, the King, and the One worthy of all praise. He is the one whom heavenly choirs praise and exalt. And he is the one that we who have enthroned him within our hearts are to call out to others, “Haste, haste to bring him laud,” or “Hurry, hurry, come and join to worship him!”

What child is this? He is Christ our Savior-King.

(advent) What Child is This

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