Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Saturday, March 21

Ken Hobart

What Child Is This?

Nails, spear shall piece him through; the cross be borne for me, for you.


Over the years, we can find ourselves going down a wide variety of roads. They can be full of twists, turns, straightaways and the occasional full stop or construction detour. It can be slick, dry, foggy, sunny or dark. It can be narrow, or an eight-lane superhighway or a single lane that runs along a steep drop-off on the side of a mountain. (I drove one such road in Colorado – the locals appropriately called it “Oh-My-God Road”.) Moreover, often we don’t know what the road will be like around the turn or down a few miles.


Life is like that. Sometimes it zips by like a fast road, sometimes it is tortuously slow as you wait to get through a bad spell. Sometimes it feels as smooth as a newly paved road; sometimes it is bumpy with strife. Sometimes you wonder how you’ll be able to traverse it. In life, too, we are uncertain about what lies down the road. You are planning a nice weekend, something enjoyable and then… the water heater breaks. Your car is broken into. A phone call with bad news. Or maybe just the onset of a cold. Where would we be, though, if we let the unknown stop us. We might miss a beautiful sunset, a great joke, a tasty ice cream cone, a child’s laugh, maybe even love.


When I hear “What Child Is This?” I have wondered how Mary would have felt had she known what was down the road for her baby. The song sets the beautiful, tranquil scene: the sleeping Jesus, the angels singing anthems. Then, in the middle of the song, the author brilliantly makes a stark contrast to remind us that this is only the opening to a larger, more important picture. Years later, that baby would be a young man who would pay the price for bringing his message to the world with a cruel, violent crucifixion. The song does not stop there, though – the author swings back to triumph, reminding us this baby is “The King of Kings” who “salvation brings,” then closing the song full-circle with Mary singing to her baby.


Such a lovely moment would eventually lead to great moments of inspiration, then to the cross, resurrection and glory. “What Child Is This” draws starkly that line that follows the greatest life ever lived on Earth. The sweep of it and the fullness of its story moves me to tears so often when I hear it. It is one of the things in life worth waiting for, inspired by a life that saved us all.


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