What Child is This, Anyway?

I grew up as a nothing.

Most people can say, "I grew up as a Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, etc." But I was unlike so many other kids around me who could make such a declaration. My family didn’t go to church.

Because of that, I didn’t have a clue about the real meaning of Christmas. Oh, yeah, I sang the carols, decorated the trees, watched the Christmas specials - even one that recounted the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth, but none of that stuck with me.

One day when I was in high school, a kid sat across from me in art class and told me something I hadn’t heard before. He said that Jesus was God, and His birth is what we are supposed to celebrate at Christmas.

Whoa, really?

This was totally mind-blowing for me. As I thought about this new information, I had to ask myself, “Just who is this guy Jesus?” When I read the Gospels, I noticed that all through Jesus’ life people asked, “Who is this guy?” Jesus once even asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?"

There’s even a familiar Christmas carol that begins with the same question:

What Child is this
Who laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?

But you know what? It turns out that this question is a part of who Jesus was meant to be.

In John 6, some people wanted Jesus to outdo Moses who gave them manna, the bread from Heaven. Jesus corrected them saying that it wasn’t Moses but God who gave them manna. He then declared that He is the true manna from Heaven.

You know what that word manna literally means? It means “what is it?” It was the name given to the bread which God sent down to the Jews in the wilderness. Why? Because when they took one look at the stuff on the ground, they didn’t know what it was, so they pointed to it and asked, “What is it?"

So here, in John’s Gospel, Jesus was telling them (and us) that He is the “what is it” from Heaven. His words and deeds lead people to ask that vital question. That question has been asked for over 2,000 years until this very day. And the answer to this question has always been the same:

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Jeff Atherholt serves at 95.1 SHINE-FM as Creative Services Director.