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This week, I had the opportunity to read the Christmas story from the book of Luke to our Transitional Kindergarten class.  It was such a fun occasion with these kids, who are so wide-eyed about the world anyway, and especially during Christmas.  Their enthusiasm and inquisitive minds about Jesus got me thinking about this old, old story that continues to stay forefront in our world and culture today. 

As you are familiar, the passage transports us into a dark, cold night outside the village of Bethlehem, where shepherds are watching their flocks, when suddenly, out of nowhere, an angel appears to tell them that a child has been born to be their savior, followed by thousands of other angels loudly proclaiming the glory of the situation.  What an incredible sight that must have been!  The initial, and obvious, response from the shepherds is stated in Luke 2:15-16, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.  So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.”  After what they had seen, they had no choice but to run to the stable to find out who this child was.

Some time later, we see wise men, or Magi, from the east receiving news of this new baby in a different way.  “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matt. 2:2).  Their announcement led the political king and the people to also wonder about the situation.  “And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” (Matt. 2:8).  This began an intense search, by powerful, wealthy people for a poor peasant couple with a newborn; too poor to have been able to afford a more suitable place for a birth.  When has this ever happened before or since, where the powerful and wealthy seek out the poor to “worship”?

Through these stories, we clearly see that Jerusalem and Bethlehem were all abuzz during this time.  It had become apparent that a very special baby had been born; one who was recognized as king by the wise, and as savior to the lowly.  As a side note, the fact that the angel chose to specifically call Jesus “Savior” indicates that he came to “save” the people, to whom he was sent, from something.  What was he saving them from?  How did he have the power and authority to provide this salvation?  What would have happened to the people if this “savior” had not been provided them?  As we inquire about these things today, they are not new questions.  No doubt they were being asked 2000 years ago in the stable as well. 

As Jesus grew into adulthood, and began His ministry, there was even more interest in Him.  Matt. 4:24-25 tells us, “The news about Him spread throughout all of Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them.  Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.” 

Even at his death, we see the interest in Jesus at fever pitch, with hundreds of people clamoring to get a glimpse of Him, and to see who this person really is.  Matt. 27:20, says, “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death.”  Throughout his life, Jesus was followed and surrounded by crowds of people.  Some followed Him faithfully.  Others wanted Him to just go away.  Some loved Him.  Some hated Him.  Some received Him.  Others rejected Him. 

Amazingly, 2000 years later, Jesus is still being discussed and argued about.  A simple Google search on “Jesus” produces about 600 million websites, dramatically more than modern iconic figures like Barak Obama, Michael Jordan, and Donald Trump.  Why is He still the most popular topic of discussion after all these years?  Some praise Him.  Some ridicule Him.  Some follow him faithfully.  Others just want Him to go away.  Some love Him.  Some hate Him.  But, what is true of all 600 million of the website creators is that they are still being forced to address the question, “What Child is this?” 

Wars have been waged, and lives have been lost over this little baby, born in a dark stable outside a tiny village.  Why isn’t the mainstream media arguing about the significance of historical figures such as Alexander the Great, or Isaac Newton, or even George Washington on an almost 24/7 basis?  What is it about Jesus that makes each of us have to face the question at some point in our lives, regardless of where we live, who we are, or what we have? 

What Child is this?

If you are stressed, He is your Prince of Peace.  If you are lost or frightened, He is the Good Shepherd.  If you need someone to fight on your behalf, He is the Lion of Judah.  If you are sad or lonely, He is the Rose of Sharon.  If you are sick, He is your great physician.  If you need advice, He is a Wonderful Counselor.  If you have gotten lost in sin, He is your Redeemer.  If you wonder about the meaning and brevity of life, He is the Everlasting Father.  If you need spiritual advice or atonement for sin, He is your High Priest.  If life is too difficult to bear, He is a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief. 

In short, He is your Savior.  Without Him, you can do nothing, but you can do all things through Him who strengthens you.  He is Emmanuel, God with us. 

I am as excited as anyone about the upcoming season of trees, lights, and presents.  I love the music, parties, and traditions.  But, through it all, we must keep asking ourselves, our children, and our neighbors, “what Child is this?”  Through the noise and glitter that has become the modern American Christmas, there still lies this tiny baby in a manger, with all eyes being directed toward Him.  2000 years later, it is still quite apparent that He must be something very special.

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

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.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkeys are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
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.
 
Merry Christmas!