Here’s the text from the Cookies & Carols 2018 message I gave.
Friends, thank you all for coming out tonight. My name is Tom, and I am the pastor of Cross of Christ Fellowship. We are a church that rents space here at the DuPage Children’s Museum on Sunday mornings at 9:30. We are glad to have you all with us tonight as we sing carols and later on enjoy some cookies. Thank you also to all who brought books or grocery store gift cards for victims of domestic violence, if you haven’t yet, please place them in the boxes in the back. We are thankful for Family Shelter Service and the opportunity to partner with them as they help individuals and families impacted by domestic violence.
Before we continue singing, I wanted us to pause and take a few minutes to think about our next song: “WHAT CHILD IS THIS.” This wonderful Christmas carol was written by a British Christian named William Chatterton Dix in 1865. Dix was the manager of an insurance company in England. The story goes that he went through time of a severe illness and was bedridden for months. He became depressed and reached rock bottom. Yet, during this hard and dark period, he experienced a spiritual renewal. He came to know in a fresh way the truth and wonder of gospel and the glory of Christ. It was also during this time that he wrote many carols, including “What Child is This?”
As we think about the lyrics of this carol, we are invited to consider the person of Jesus. I don’t know what you think about Jesus or the Christian faith, but I hope tonight you’ll consider what this carol and the Bible teaches about him. As we look at the carol together, notice with me two questions and an invitation.
I. QUESTION #1: A QUESTION ABOUT THE IDENTITY OF JESUS
Verse 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? Chorus 1: This, this is Christ, the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste to bring Him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary!
Maybe you have a nativity scene in your home or your yard, with little figurines of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in a manger surrounded by farm animals. ‘What Child is This’ brings us back to this scene, as it really happened 2000 years ago, with Jesus as baby resting on his mother’s lap. The question put before us is this: WHAT CHILD IS THIS? In other words, WHO IS THIS BABY? Such a question is something we should all consider. And, I would argue that how we respond to this question may be one of the most important things we ever do.
When our firstborn child came into the world, we sent out a birth announcement telling our friends and family of her arrival. We purchased cards for our second child, but were to busy to send them out. By our third child we didn’t even make announcements. But how different was an announcement was Jesus’ birth! In our carol we see the line “whom angels greet with angels sweet.” The Bible teaches that at Jesus; birth a multitude of angels showed up joyfully singing to announce his birth! This tells us that someone VERY important was born and arrived on the scene and we OUGHT to pay attention.
When the angels showed up and announced the birth of Jesus, they announced the arrival of not merely a cute baby, but of a person our carol describes as CHRIST, the KING. This is the answer the Bible gives to question, ‘Who is Jesus?’ The answer is he is the CHRIST, that is, the promised one that God said would come and save His people. He is also the King that God’s people have been waiting for, who will bring in justice and peace to the ends of the earth. But the Bible goes beyond this, it says that Jesus was not only the promised one and a king, he was also IMMANUEL, which means God with us. Jesus was truly human but also truly GOD. Do you see Jesus in this way? Might this be the truth of who he really is? As we move to our second verse and chorus we see a second question to consider.
II. QUESTION #2: WHY IS THIS KING IN SUCH A LOWLY AND HUMBLE ESTATE?
Verse 2: Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear: for sinners here, The silent Word is pleading. Chorus 2: 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.
My three children were born in wonderfully clean, pristine hospital room. When we took them home, we placed them a clean bassinet with a new blanket. But this was not the case for baby Jesus. Jesus spent his early moments in a very lowly and humble position. The second question leads us to ask why this is the case: ‘Why lies He is such mean estate?’ In modern vernacular it asking this, ‘Why is baby Jesus, who is KING AND CHRIST, lying in such humble lowly position?’ This is a great question to consider. If Jesus was really the Christ, really the King, really God in the flesh, why was he lying in such a humble or “mean” condition? A good way to answer this question is to look at what his closest followers said about him. When we look at the writing of the Apostle John, who was one Jesus’ eye-witnesses and was one of the 12 disciples, we get a better understanding of Jesus. In his account of Jesus’ life and ministry, John described Jesus as the Word who is God and was with God at the beginning of creation and through whom everything came to exist. More precisely, Jesus is God the Son who came and took on human flesh (John 1:14). Now this is an amazing wonder: God entered into our world as a human! And the way he did this was in a VERY humbling manner: the Creator came and served the creature. And as we read about Jesus’ life we see that his whole life was marked by this humility and love. He did not come to make much of Himself, but He came in to love to rescue us. Thus, entering the world in a lowly estate was in line with the rest of his ministry.
Our carol then invites us, who are Christians to fear. It says, ‘Good Christian, fear.’ Now, fear here does not mean we are to fear in the way of being scared of being hurt. Rather, we are to fear in the sense of recognizing the absolute power and majesty of Christ. We are to remember that He is a glorious king who does amazing and wonderful things. This feeling of “fear” or AWE is kind of like the feeling you have when you are the presence of what you consider to be greatness in musicians or leaders you look up. It is this feeling but taken to the ultimate level.
We are in awe of Jesus not only because of his identity, but also by what he has done. We see this in the lyrics “for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading.” Now as Christians we believe the Bible is God’s Word which tells us the truth about God and reality. It tells us truth about God, who He is and what He is like. The Bible tells us that God is HOLY; He is utterly different from us and in Him is absolute purity and goodness. It also teaches that we all have turned from God’s law and wisdom for our lives, this is what the Bible calls SIN. We all are sinners (Rom 3:23). Religious and irreligious people alike, young and old, rich and poor: we all have this in common that we are sinners. Sin is the GREAT tragedy and humanity’s GREATEST problem. Every other problem flows of this. Sin alienates us and estranges us from God and each other. It makes us selfish. It ruins everything and causes heartache. If we’re honest, we all see this see within us: something is wrong; we don’t love God the way we should; we don’t love others the way we should; we are SINNERS in need of God’s grace and mercy. And if don’t have our sin dealt with, the Bible warns that we will continue to experience its effects now and into eternity. Thus, we need a Savior, and this is what we have in Jesus. God in His kindness comes to us, even when we don’t want anything to do with Him, and He invites us to turn from our rebellion against God and to receive Jesus who is the king. This leads us who are Christians to be in AWE, because God is pleading with the world to turn from sin and behold Jesus. What astonishing love, mercy and grace that God would come to sinners who want nothing to do with Him.
The carol reminds us how Jesus saved us from our sin in the lyrics: “Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross he borne for me and for you.” This is an excellent summary of the gospel message: Jesus died on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins and bring us back to God! On that cross, where the nails and spear pierced him through, was DIVINE LOVE. The love of a God who John 3:16 says, ‘gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.’ In LOVE, Jesus died in our place. And in this he was defeating sin and death, he was defeating it for us. The Bible teaches that all who turn from their sin and trust in him are given forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Now that we’ve looked at the 2 questions we consider the invitation in the 3rd verse.
III. AN INVITATION: TO RECEIVE JESUS AS THE TREASURE OF YOUR HEART AND YOUR KING
Verse 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. CHORUS 3: Raise, raise the song on high, The virgin sings her lullaby. Joy, joy for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary.
The invitation to worship Jesus comes in the opening line of the third verse: “So bring him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, king, to own him.” When the wise men from the East came and worshipped Jesus, this was what they brought to him (Matt 2:11). These were their “treasures” (Matt 2:11). So, we bring to Jesus our treasures, we bring to him our heart, our lives, our devotion. We do this as we “raise our songs on high” and recognize Jesus for who he is: “The KING OF KINGS.” He is exalted above every ruler and teacher and sage over all of history. He DESERVES our worship and our devotion. And what a king he is: he is the one whom our carols says “salvation brings.” Jesus saves us from our sin, from alienation from God, from hell. He makes us a new creation, children of God, heirs of eternal life who will live forever with God and God’s people on the new earth. No wonder the angels were singing on the day of his birth, and no wonder Christians have been singing ever since. Such marvelous truth lead to the conclusion of the carol, ‘Joy, joy for Christ is born,’ YES! What joy is there for us, for the promised who came to save us was born. It is the joy of knowing and loving God. It a joy that far surpassing anything we could ever have in this world: it better than the joy of any pleasure, of any accomplishment, of any job, of any relationships, of any wealth or health.
Augustine, the great theologian and church father, said this, ‘Our hearts are restless until they find rest in God.’ NOTHING can give us the joy and rest and peace our hearts were made for except Jesus.
If you have not become a Christian, we invite you receive him as your Lord and King, the one who alone can save you from sin. Behold him in your hearts. So in conclusion we answer the question, What child is this Jesus? By saying, “He is my God and King, my heart’s great joy and delight.” May that be your response tonight.