“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”Luke 1:31
“What Child is This?” is a Christmas carol that has much more significance to me now that I have kids. Like any parent, there’s so much that I want for my little girls. I want them to live a long life, a prosperous life, a life full of meaning and purpose. A life-giving back to others, helping others, putting others above themselves.
I often wonder who they will be and what kind of personalities they will have. Will they be more introverted or extroverted? I think about what they are going to do for a living and if they will like sports (like their daddy), or dance, or the arts. I wonder if they will be gifted in school, like their momma, or terrible at math, like me.
I think about who they will marry and if they will be blessed with kids of their own. I think about the trials that will face them and pray that life’s circumstances would not drive them from Jesus but instead right to His feet. The truth is, what I want for my kids doesn’t really differ from most parents throughout history. Without a doubt, I believe these same questions ran through the mind of Mary as the angel Gabriel came to her at Nazareth and said, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:31).
Mary’s initial response is one of human experience, and the angel assures her that all things are possible with God. Even her cousin Elizabeth, who is beyond the years to give birth, was pregnant, too. Mary responds like a young woman firmly grounded in the Scriptures and one who had heard stories of the God of Israel who worked many miracles to accomplish His will through His people.
Once Jesus was born, the shepherds came to her and told her all that was told to them and it says: “She treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
Eventually Mary would find out just what God’s will for her son was, and it was a mother’s worst nightmare. This song is a reminder that despite what Mary wanted for her son, God’s plan for Him to be the Savior of the world looked quite different. He would be the One who would take the punishment of sin upon Himself, in some inexplicable way becoming sin, and by doing so, making man spiritually alive for those who believe.
One stanza of this carol describes it this way:
Nails, spears shall pierce Him through
The Cross He bore for me, for you
Hail, hail the Word made flesh
The Babe, the Son of Mary
I think about the heartbreak of Mary as she watched her son die on the cross. Not fully understanding why He had to die but rejoicing three days later when she either heard or saw that her son was alive. Though she didn’t fully understand at first, now it was clear. The boy she raised was now the Savior of the world.