Yesterday I preached from John 1:11-18 as we celebrate the birth of King Jesus together as a church.  William Dix penned the familiar hymn What Child Is This in the 19th century.  We sing it during advent with a fresh passion each year, because of the foundational gospel truths it spotlights.  The words are as follows:

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?

Refrain:
This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud,
the babe, the son of Mary.

2. Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.

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.

A couple of weeks ago, President Obama gave a speech at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.  In his speech, he referenced Jesus as the “prince born in a stable.”  President Obama went on to identify the bedrock principles of Christianity as synonymous with other religious.  Rather than focusing on what Christmas was all about, he took that opportunity to talk about faith in a generic manner.

The problem with the President’s statements are numerous.  However, he misidentified Jesus as a “prince born in a stable” rather than the King of kings who was born in a stable.  There is a profound difference between a prince and the sovereign King of the universe.  What child is this, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap who was sleeping?  The child born in a stable was King Jesus.

Jesus is the Source of Saving Grace (Vs. 11-13)

The foundational truth of life is that every person on planet earth needs Jesus.  The sovereignty of God in salvation is an often debated subject, but the facts are clearly laid out in John 1:12-13.  Man cannot receive Jesus by faith based on blood relationship, the will of another person, or based on what is often referred to as “free will.”  According to John’s Gospel, there is no such thing as the freedom to choose Jesus.  If left to our own schemes and depraved desires, we would choose to rebel against God and go straight to hell.  If when we arrived in hell, if there was a “reset” or “do over” button we could press to try it all again, upon a second opportunity we would rebel and go straight to hell again.  Suppose that process continued for one million chances, each and every time we would rebel against God and go straight to hell.  We are born again by God’s initiative, God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s love for fallen sinners.  We receive faith so that we can receive Jesus by faith.  God’s grace is efficacious only because God is gracious to save sinners.

Jesus is God Who Became Man (Vs. 14)

Picking back up from his first verse, John identifies Jesus as the Word who became flesh.  It’s worth noting that when a governor become the president, he ceases to be governor.  However, when the Word became flesh, He never ceased to be the Word.  Jesus retained His divine nature as He added to Himself human nature.  Although some of our Christmas music insists that Jesus was a baby who never cried, J.I. Packer reminds us,“The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.”  As a real human being, Jesus needed food, the touch and comfort of His mother, and had to grow and learn just as all humans.  The distinction between Jesus’ humanity and us is not that He never cried as a baby, but that He never sinned as a human.

As a man, He “dwelt among us…” The word translated “dwelt” is the Greek term σκηνόω which means to pitch a tent.  Unlike the Tabernacle, a tent that could not be openly approached, Jesus fulfilled the Tabernacle structure and the Tabernacle worship in the tent of His flesh that was readily approachable by whosoever would come.  In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Jesus is God Who is Worth of Worship (Vs. 15)

Just as Jesus once said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), John the apostle takes this opportunity to remind his readers that Jesus predated John the Baptist.  The point is clear, Jesus is God in human flesh and He deserves all praise, honor, and glory.  As a man, Jesus fulfilled the offices of prophet, priest, and king.  He was the Prophet greater than Moses, the Priest greater than Melchizedek, and the King greater than David.  He predated Abraham and John the Baptist – and as the totality of Scripture reflects, He is worthy to be worshipped.

Jesus Came with a Saving Purpose (Vs. 16-18)

Jesus fulfilled the Law of God as recorded in Matthew 5:17 and the mission of God as recorded in Matthew 1:21.  In short, Jesus lived a life that we could not live and died a death that we could not die.  His life perfectly upheld and kept the Law of God.  His death perfectly satisfied the holy justice of God.  His resurrection perfectly secured the salvation of His people for whom He died.  Jesus has provided both grace and truth.

One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).  Jesus was no mere prince, and He remains no mere prince today.  Remember, Jesus was King before He was born in a stable.  He was born a King and today He remains the King of kings.  For all of eternity Jesus will be King.

As we consider what child Jesus was at birth, we must consider the words of the hymn writer William Dix in his final verse:

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh, 
come, peasant, king, to own him; 
the King of kings salvation brings, 
let loving hearts enthrone him.