What Child Is This

What Child Is This

When we look at a little baby we see its sweetness and vulnerability, we have no idea who he or she will grow up to be. They are so full of potential—for greatness, but also, sadly, for evil. Does any parent look into the precious little face of their child and think they would become an ax murderer or child molester? Do you wonder what Mrs. Hitler saw as she looked into the face of tiny Adolf?

Certainly the parentage and environment can give some hint at what the potential might be. A child born to a family of status, wealth, or power has a leg up on the competition from the start, but potential does not mean they are actually going to achieve it. I went to high school with some classmates from very wealthy families. They held the prom at the Fontainebleu in Miami, with KC and the Sunshine Band booked for the live music (younger folks can google it). Needless to say, most of my 750 classmates couldn’t afford to attend. One of these wealthy kids, who drove a sports car to school every day, sat beside me in English class. Most days he was stoned out of his head. I graded papers for that teacher, so I know that this kid copied his test answers form the people sitting around him—I know this because he copied the name of that person on the “name” line at the top of the page. Somehow he managed to graduate with me, and his diploma was worth the same as mine, but I have wondered if his parent’s wealth and influence were able to buy him “potential” or if he ended up in further self-destruction. Had they looked into his little face the day he was born and imagine what a wasted drug addict he would become?

No, we can’t look at a tiny baby and know for certain what the rest of their lives will hold. That was even true with Jesus. While Mary and Joseph could stare down at Him in wonder and amazement at what they had been told about His identity, they still had no true understanding of all that entailed. Mary couldn’t know what Simeon meant about the sword that would pierce her heart, or that one day she would see her sweet little baby battered, bruised, bleeding, and hanging on a cross, bearing the sins of the world.

Still, whether was Mary or Joseph, Anna or Simeon, Shepherds or Wisemen, each of them, gazing at this little face must have felt a thrill of wonder, an amazed sense of potential, a hope of prophecies finally fulfilled, and an expectation of the power of God to be displayed. What child was this, indeed? Many of them responded with expressions of praise to the One who had ordained this Child and all He represented. Whether or not they had any concept of incarnation, they knew this was a Child destined to do great things for God and for His people—things promised from long ago.

Even though from our perspective we know that more complete story of Jesus’ mission and accomplishment in His life and death on this earth, and His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, we would do well to continue to wonder what child is this. This is because to contemplate this infant is to glimpse into the heart of God. When we gaze at this infant we should be startled that God would choose this method to save us—that He would allow Himself to be so vulnerable and helpless— that He would confine Himself—He, the eternal and infinite would become a cell, and then an embryo, and then a powerless newborn. It is stunning that God would entrust the Messiah to a young, basically homeless girl, and send Him to obscure low-brow places to live and grow. To ponder that God would subject Himself to all of this is to grow in awe at His ways and His love for us. To ponder this is also to then become one of the loving hearts to enfold Him, as the lyrics bid us do.

In closing, it is good to remember that, of these adults mentioned above, most of them were fairly aged at the time of Jesus’ birth, so it was quite possible that Mary alone was alive to witness Jesus death and resurrection, and to finally see what Child this was, indeed. Many died with just the merest of glimmers of what God’s promise would mean—the promise all tied up in the person of this little Child. It should make us feel blessed that we can look on Him with more understanding, but it should also remind us that there are still promises yet to be fulfilled—promises that we, too, have the merest glimmers of understanding about how He will fulfill them. But we can see from the example of His birth that what will unfold will bring further amazement of and glory to the Lord.

by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries