"What Child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary's lap was sleeping? Who angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherd's watch are keeping."What a good question. What child is this? Who is this child born 2,000 years ago in an obscure village in a forgotten part of the world? Who is this baby whose birth we celebrate each year with parties and gifts and Christmas trees, who almost gets lost in the tinsel and wrapping paper? That might be the greatest question of the ages.
But even in Jesus day, the multitudes got it wrong. In Luke 9:18, Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" The answer given in the next verse was, "John the Baptist, but some say Elijah, and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again." They knew that Jesus was someone special, but they didn't have a clue who He really was.
Then, Jesus asked His closest disciples, His apostles, in Luke 9:20, "But who do you say that I am?" Their answer was right on. Peter, answering on behalf of them all, said, "The Christ of God."
Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah. Wrapped up in this title are all the meanings from Scripture. Peter is saying You are the One we've been waiting for. You are the One the prophets have proclaimed. You are the One God anointed to bring salvation. Peter got it right, while the multitudes got it wrong.
The multitudes still get it wrong. They say all kinds of things about Jesus, but few get it right. some call Him just a good teacher, but good teachers don't claim to be God. Others call Him just a good moral example, but good examples don't hang around prostitutes and sinners, and they don't get executed as a common criminal. Some call Him a madman, but madmen don't speak with the penetrating clarity of the Sermon on the Mount. Others call Him a fake, but people don't die for a lie. Some call Him a phantom, but phantoms don;t have flesh to crucify or blood to spill. Some call Him a myth, but we don't set our calendars by a myth. This is 2011 A.D. - anno domini in Latin - translated the year of our Lord. All those answers are wrong, even though all of Scripture gives us the correct answer.
Even at Christmas time, if the masses give any thought at all to the reason for the season, they think only of a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying on a manger with angels, shepherds, and wise men gathered around. The un-churched can't be blamed too much for this. All they ever see in the midst of the Santa Clauses at every mall is an occasional nativity scene set up in front of a church or somebody's house. And the baby Jesus is forever a baby, forever a cute little cherub that lies so peacefully.
But to end the story there is a colossal tragedy, because a baby Jesus could do nothing for anyone. Not like an adult Jesus can. So to leave Jesus in the manger is a greater tragedy, say, than to leave George Washington in a crib, and never have him lead our country to independence from Britain. Or to leave Abraham Lincoln in the cradle, and never have him sign the emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves.
Leaving Jesus in the manger is infinitely worse. We celebrate Christmas precisely because Jesus grew up, proved He was the Son of God by His miracles and teaching, and precisely because He went to the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. Had He remained in the manger, we would remain in our sins awaiting the wrath of God and our eventual judgment. Praise God, Jesus didn't stay in the manger.
But I believe the real reason people get the question wrong is they don't like the answer - they don't like Jesus' answer. That can be the only explanation for the animosity so many people have for the baby Jesus at Christmas time. It is because Jesus said this of Himself: John 14:6, "Jesus said. . . 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" That is a claim to exclusivity. No other way to God, claims Jesus, will get you there. That claim is offensive to the broad minded and to anyone that concocts a different way, but it is exactly what Jesus said.
But what if Jesus is right? What if His claim is true? Truth is not broadminded. This Christmas season, I urge you to look beyond the babe in the manger, and take a good look at the man Jesus became. Examine His many answers in Scripture to that question, "What child is this?" See if His claims are true. Do so because the answers are eternally critical.