Challenging those who may not know Him
Chapter one of the gospel of John introduces us to Jesus being the word of God. He says this word was with God since the beginning and this word was God. Yet John declares that this word became flesh and dwelt among us and we knew him not. He came unto his own and his own received him not.
Perhaps the composer Robert MacGimsey was inspired by these words when he composed the little known Christmas Spiritual, Sweet Little Jesus Boy. Born in Pineville, Louisiana, of white parents, Robert MacGimsey spent most of his formative years in the company of blacks who lived and worked for and with his family. Due to their influence he wrote in an “African American” style, and he is often mistakenly assumed to be a black composer.
Mr. MacGimsey takes us to the manger bearing the Christ child many years ago. This sweet baby was made to be born in a manger among farm animals. This was God’s plan as foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament. All those gathered summoned by one lone star, and an angelic choir, came to adore someone they did not know. Unwed teenagers for parents, a selfish innkeeper, and smelly shepherds, wealthy wise men from afar all knelt adoring a baby they did not know. Their eyes were blind they could not see that this tiny baby would grow to become the savior of the world. This borrowed manger carried the King of Kings and the Lord of Lord.Perhaps Mr. MacGimsey understood the struggle of those he called friends when he confesses the mean treatment from the world to this sweet little Jesus boy.
Although it was the plan of God that this baby would give His life for the sins of the world, watching Him suffer was unbelievable.
He showed us how and we tried, but we just did not understand God’s plan. The same crowd that adored him also crucified him. Even while He was dying we just didn’t know the price this sweet little Jesus boy paid for our lives. The somber tune pleads “But please suh, fuhgive us Lawd, we didn’t know ‘twas you.”
This little known Christmas carol stirs our heart, bringing us back to the manger in the final refrain.
This little boy being God in the flesh is a holy child who came to save the world. Mr. MacGimsey concludes the spiritual with a pondering thought: “We don’t know who you is.” Maybe even today many grope in darkness never knowing the sweet little Jesus boy.
Don’t know if Mr. MacGimsey went back to the gospel of John, but reading further he would have discovered John declaring that to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12) Just as there were believers in the days of the Bible, there are believers today.
It has been my joy to sing this questioning carol every year to challenge those who may not know him.
Amid the tears, are hearts that are touched and changed responding to the question: “Do you know who He is?”
By Gwen “Chocolate” Williams
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