Pastor's Corner: What child is this?
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us." ~Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
What is Christmas about? Increasingly, the average person is unable to give an answer. Oh, many have an idea that it has something to do with a baby born under challenging circumstances some time long ago. Some are even able to say that the boy's name was Jesus and that Christmas came from the words Christ Mass (though they probably don't know what Christ means). For most, Christmas is about decorations, lights, parties, seasonal foods and treats, Santa, making retailers profits, and (oh yea) PRESENTS.
The Christ Mass did not come into existence until sometime in the 6th century when it was instituted to supercede the pagan celebration Saturnalia. It was decided that the 25th of December would be designated as the birth day of Jesus the Christ (Messiah--anointed one). So, Christmas is a birthday celebration for Jesus the anointed one, but who is he really.
The prophets spoke of a time when God would send an anointed one into the world to set right what sin had corrupted, and that this Messiah would be called Immanuel. Knowing that many would not know what the word meant, God has the writers define it -- God with us.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~John 1:6-5, 14 (NIV)
God through John makes it even clearer. Jesus is the ever-existing living Word who was with God, is God, and became in Jesus, God in human flesh.
So, Christmas is a birthday celebration for God in human flesh come to redeem us from sin's corruption. Why is it then that, for the most part, we have left Christ out of Christmas? I don't know about you, but I'd be really ticked if I showed up at a party in honor of my birthday-- was ignored-- and everybody was getting gifts except me! Well, I'm a nobody but Christ is God who suffered and died so that I might have eternal life. Are our priorities, perhaps, mixed up?
In 1865 Englishman William Chatterton Dix penned a poem titled The Manger Throne which we know as the carol What Child Is This? May the words remind us of the real meaning of the season.
1. 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.
2. Why lies He in such mean estate, / Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here / The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, / The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, / The Babe, the Son of Mary.
3. So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, / Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings, / Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high, / The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born, / The Babe, the Son of Mary.