WHAT CHILD IS THIS? LUKE 2:16 Pastor Stephen Muncherian December 23, 2007
This morning I’d like to have us focus on one verse of
Scripture - Luke
2:16 - which
says, “So they - the shepherds - So theycame in a hurry and found their way
to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the
The carols we’ve been singing this morning have helped
us to visualize thatfamiliar scene - helped us capture the mystery - the
beauty - the emotion of Christmas - the incarnation - to recreate in our
imaginations the scenes of the first Christmas.The crowded inn.The sleeping city.The lonely shepherds in the fields.The blazing, sudden glory of the heavenly hosts
breaking through the darkness - praising God.Then the contrast of the stable
with the sleeping baby and the wondering hearts that
come to worship and kneel before Him - Immanuel - God
One carol - which we’re
going to sing together in just a few minutes - one
carol asks the
What child is this, who, laid to
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
When the Shepherds came to the
stable - on that first Christmas - they came with the
same question, “What Child is this?What will His birth mean for our
lives?”Gazing at the Child their answer
We read in Luke 2:19 that even Mary "treasured all these things,
pondering them in her heart.”She didn’t know what the answer was.
Even today - do you ever get the sense that there’s
some confusion as to the answer to the question?
On this morning while we’re celebrating and
worshipping together - answering the question -
considering the implications - its important for us to
be clear on the answer to the question.“Who is this Child and what
significance does His coming have for our lives?”
Chuck Swindol, in his sermon, “Since Christ Has
Come…What’s Happening” shares the
poem:“’Twas The Day After
Christmas”.Some of you
have heard this before.But, its worth hearing again.It hits
where most of us end up about this time of year.
’Twas the day after Christmas,
When all through the place
There were arguments and depression -
Even Mom had a long face.
The stockings hung empty,
And the house was a mess;
The new clothes didn’t fit…
And Dad was under stress.
The family was irritable,
And the children - no one could please;
Because the instructions for the swing set
Were written in Chinese!
The bells no longer jingled,
And no carolers came around;
The sink was stacked with dishes,
And the tree was turning brown.
The stores were full of people
Returning things that fizzled and failed,
And shoppers were discouraged
Because everything they’d bought was now on half-price
’Twas the day after Christmas -
The spirit of joy had disappeared;
The only hope on the horizon
Was twelve bowl games the first day of the New Year! (1)
(cartoon) A really really really bad
answer:“Don’t you just hate the
stress of the holidays?”“What stress?”
Today the celebration of Deity
Incarnate has become “X”mas.X is the Greek letter “chi” -
the first letter in “Christos” - Christ.But - X in
math is what? an unknown.
We celebrate the holiday season - Christmas has become
a religious tradition among others - Kwanzaa -
“Christmas Story” is placed alongside other Christmas
Stories - Rudolph and Frosty - “It’s A Wonderful
told that, “The magic of Christmas lies in your heart.”
Richard Dawkins - this man - who’s a British
evolutionist, antireligionist, atheist, secular
humanist, skeptic - who among other things has written
this book - “The God Delusion” - you get the idea
of where he’s coming from?Right?
Richard Dawkins told the New York Times that he
celebrates Christmas.Quote:“I detest Jingle Bells,
White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and
the obscene spending bonanza that nowadays seems to
occupy not just December, but November and much of
divorced has Christmas become from religion that I
find no necessity to bother with euphemisms such as,
‘Happy holiday season.’” (2)
The true account of Nicholas - Bishop of Myra -
defender of our faith - is lost in the economic engine
that’s Santa Clause.
We celebrate at family gatherings - celebrating God’s
love by stuffing ourselves with food that could feed
We send cards to people who may or may not send us
cards just in case they do.We try to keep up with buying
gifts for people who give us gifts - spending huge
sums of money for stuff nobody wants or needs - money
that could reach thousands with the news of Jesus’
We get so wrapped up in all this.So many
Christians are just going along with the routine.Like
shepherds out in a dark and lonely field - in the
midst of everything that we’re suppose to joyously
take part in - is anyone thinking that X is Jesus -
There’s value to our traditions.But, we may
be missing something profound that God may want to
show us - or do in us - or through us - if we fail to
answer the question “What Child is this?” “What significance does
this Child born in a manger have for me?”
Googling through the internet searching Christmas I
ran across this. What would Jesus do?Probably
not the politically correct happy holidays version of
There are only 2 shopping days ’til Christmas.Its like a
finish line that we have to get to.Along the
way we’re suppose to be enjoying ourselves - eating a
lot - having warm fuzzy feelings - taking time to
celebrate Jesus’ birth and doing all the church stuff.So many of us feel that - like outside we’re supposed to be one way - and inside we’re
tired - rushed - empty - and trying to keep our
feelings in check.We keep
telling ourselves, “You can get through this.”
Joseph Bayly has written a poem “A Psalm in a Hotel Room.”Listen to these words and see if you can relate
to where Joseph’s at.
I’m alone Lord
a thousand miles from home.
There’s no one here who knows my name
except the clerk
and he spelled it wrong
no one to eat dinner with
laugh at my jokes
listen to my gripes
be happy with me about what happened today
and say that’s great.
No one cares.
There’s just this lousy bed
and slush in the street outside
between the buildings.
I feel sorry for myself
and I’ve plenty of reason to.
Maybe I ought to say
I’m on top of it
praise the Lord
things are great
but they’re not.
gray slush (3)
Ever feel that way?Know someone
who does?“What Child is this?What
significance does He hold for my life?”
Its impossible to answer the
question until we see the full record of Jesus’ life unfolded in the gospel -
accounts of Jesus’ early years and His coming of age - His baptism by
John - the trudging up and down the hills of Galilee
and Judea with his disciples - His teaching - the miracles - and
finally, the last crowded dramatic week in Jerusalem
that culminated in His crucifixion - and then His resurrection.
Then the moment
in Jerusalem when the Spirit was poured out upon the
waiting disciples - the sound of a rushing wind in the
wonder of Pentecost.Its only then - after seeing these events -
that we begin to get a full answer to this question, "What
Child is this?"
In 1646, the great Dutch painter, Rembrandt completed
his work, The Adoration of The Shepherds - Have you seen this?It's Rembrandt's interpretation of
the visit of the shepherds to the Child in Bethlehem.Its kind of hard to see this but walk with me
through the painting.
It's a simple scene in a stable.In the foreground are Mary and Jesus.Joseph is
over into the manger where the Child Jesus is laying are the shepherds.
Behind the manger Rembrandt has painted a ladder -
leaning against a beam.In the shadows it casts there’s the form of a cross.On the beam against which the ladder rests - over by what looks like a
loft - is a
rooster - the
symbol of betrayal.
illuminating the whole scene is not coming from
outside - or
a nearby lantern - but from the manger.The faces
of those looking in are put into sharp relief as they
look down.The light is coming from the
way of saying that the story of Christmas is the story
of salvation.By means of the crushing inner
agony of betrayal and the outer agony of crucifixion -
that the Child in the manger would become the world's
Deliverer and Redeemer.This Child is not just a baby lying in a
manger.He’s the hope of mankind.
The prophet Isaiah said,“The people who walk in
darkness shall see a great Light - a light that will
shine on all those who live in the land of the shadow
of death… For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is
given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder.These will
be His royal titles:“Wonderful Counselor,” “The Mighty God,” “The
Everlasting Father,” “The Prince of
Peace.” His ever-expanding, peaceful
government will never end.He will rule with perfect
fairness and justice from the throne of His father
will bring true justice and peace to all the nations
of the world.This
is going to happen because the Lord of heaven’s armies
has determined to do all this.”(Isaiah 9:2,6,7 NASB, TLB, GNB)
We ask,"Why this
is there hope?What's
wrong with humanity?What's wrong with life?Why is the
world in a continual mess?Why is the news always of murder
and violence and hate and corruption and darkness?What
relevancy does this Child have for my life?"
The Bible gives the answer:"sin."We’re
hopelessly bound by our sin.That’s what lies at the root of it all.The terrible taint that all of us possess that
can never be washed away by our own efforts.Jesus is
the light that shines in this darkness.In Jesus,
God has solved the deepest problem in human life - the problem of our sin.(Romans
This child lying in the manger in Bethlehem is the
answer to our greatest need. He’s our Savior - the one true hope of mankind.The good
news of Christmas is that every one of us who has
found Jesus - who has come to Him and who follows Him
- who is trusting in Him as our
Savior - we find
again and again that He has the power to cleanse us -
to put away the guilt of the past - whether the last
50 years or the last 5 minutes - to set us free with a
clean slate - to heal us - to
renew us - to restore us - to do the work in our lives
that each of us is so desperate for.And to empower us to live life in the
power and grace of the living God.
A number of years ago I had lunch with a group of pastors that a friend of mine had
brought together to meet this man - Pastor
Hananiah Zoe - who had come from Liberia.Pastor Zoe
is an interesting man - on fire for God.Years ago
he founded DONE - Discipling Our Nations Effectively.In 2005 he
ran for the presidency of Liberia.Didn’t win.But, God is
using him in that country.
From his tribe - Pastor Zoe’s parents were among the
first few believers in Jesus Christ.When he was
5 years old a persecution arose and a tribal mob
attacked the missionaries and native believers in his
village - killing one Christian - burning their
property - and imprisoning Pastor Zoe’s father.Pastor Zoe
was taken into the home of a missionary couple.Through them he came to know Jesus as his Savior.
Something else you need to know.Pastor Zoe has been involved in church planting
and discipleship in Liberia and west Africa - a ministry that’s been primarily among those who are
Animists and Muslims.As people turn to Jesus they bring them into
their home and disciple them for 10 weeks - train them
- ground them in the word - help them to understand
their spiritual gift - and then send them out into the mission field.
During that time - as thousands were coming to trust
Jesus as their Savior - there was also a tremendous amount of
persecution - especially from the Muslims and animists
- who were against anyone coming to
of the persecutors was Commander Mohammed - a member
of the Liberian Army - who had literally killed
thousands of Christians - often by very cruel means.Commander
Mohammed had also killed Pastor Zoe’s brother.
One day Commander Mohammed - who claimed to be a descendant of the Mohammed -
and was a Muslim religious leader -
went to a mosque to call the faithful Muslims to
went up the minaret and began to call them to prayer.As he was calling out - Mohammed’s own words - as he
was calling out Jesus
appeared to him and said, “I am
Jesus whom you are persecuting.”And this Commander Mohammed -
who had killed so many Christians - came to believe
and trust Jesus as his Savior.
When he came down from the minaret - down to the Muslims who had
gathered for prayer - he told them, “Jesus is
Him.He’s alive.He’s God.”
It's miraculous that they didn’t kill Mohammed.They
dragged him out of the mosque and striped him of all
his military medals - his uniform - and sent him off in
no where to go he ended up at the church.Where he’s
brought into the house of Pastor Zoe - whose brother
brought into Pastor Zoe’s house for discipleship and training.And now,
all Mohammed wants to do tell people about Jesus!
I asked Pastor Zoe, “There’s been so much
persecution - do your people struggle with
forgiveness?”He told me
that Mohammed came to his house with nothing.He shared his clothes.He slept in his house.He shared everything for this
time of discipleship.This is something only Jesus can do- to bring this type of
healing and love - in the
lives of those who are surrendered to Him.Today,
these two are brothers in Jesus Christ.Their love for each other is a testimony to
others of what Jesus can do in our lives.
This is the living reality of who this Child is.This is Jesus - our Savior - the light in our
darkness - the Wonderful Counselor - Mighty God -
Eternal Father - Prince of Peace.
The Child we adore is not a religious idea - a pioneer
of some kind of new type of religious life - not just
some historical figure to search for - an example to
follow - a teacher of righteousness. This
Child is the Divine answer to the deepest of our
To adore the Child is to bow before the Savior.Its to bow
in simple reverence before a holiness which in
comparison to the impurity of our lives is like white
light piercing utter darkness.
Jesus came and died because - at the core of who we
are apart from Jesus - we’re bound in sin and
condemned before God.Jesus came and died because each of us has a
serious sin issue which separates us from the life God
- according to His good pleasure - desires for us to
question is this: Who is Jesus in your life?A baby
lying in a manger?Or, the Savior who has come to
take away your sins and lead you in life with God.
1. Charles R. Swindol, from the sermon, Since Christ
Has Come...What’s Happening
2. Quoted by Tom Krattenmaker, USA TODAY 12.17.07 - 11A
3. Joseph Bayly, Psalms of My Life - quoted from
Charles R. Swindol, Swindol’s Ultimate Book of
Illustrations and Quotes