What Child Is This?
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?
This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring Him laud,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.
Why lies He in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through,
the cross be borne for me, for you:
hail, hail, the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
come peasant, king to own Him;
the King of kings, salvation brings,
let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
the virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born, the Babe, the Son of Mary.
I like to be asked questions. It makes me think I might just know something. And I like to ask questions of other people. It may engage them in a conversation. And it is sometimes a good way to find out what they think or believe.
The question in the title of this hymn, “What child is this?” is a compelling one. It begs an answer. And it is a wonderful question to ask at the beginning of Advent. For what is Advent, but the coming of Jesus Christ into this world as a baby, a boy, a son, a child.
The word “child” (referring to Jesus) occurs 21 times in the first couple of chapters of the four Gospels. The words son, boy, and baby total another 25 similar names. The Gospel writers were obviously emphasizing this name of Jesus.
This question must have been uppermost in the minds of those present at the birth of “the Babe, the Son of Mary.” It must have been difficult for them to understand that the child who lay “in such mean estate” was truly the Messiah. But how could He be born of a virgin and save His people? The long-awaited salvation had been prophesied throughout history.
Look at their responses in this hymn:
~the “shepherds guard and angels sing”
~animals nearby peacefully eating
~a call to repent from sin and to worship with praise and wealth
~and joyfully raise their voices in adoration, as the virgin mother Mary “sings her lullaby.”
And later on in Luke the shepherds “spread the word” concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed…But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God…” And later on “Joseph and Mary marveled at what was said about Him” (by Simeon).
This was no ordinary child.
Fast forward to Luke 8:25, when Jesus instantly calmed the storm assailing the boat in which He and some of His disciples were sitting. Look at their response: “In fear and amazement they asked one another,
“Who is this?’ (or, “What manner of man is this!”)
Many still ask “Who is this Jesus?
Is He really who He says He is?
What is your response?
I pray this Advent you may give the triumphant answer to this question as it burst forth in the refrain,
“This, this is Christ the King!”
Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King.
~This hymn was written by William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) in 1865. At the age of 29, he was stricken with a sudden serious illness, confined to bed for an extended period, and suffered a deep depression until he called out to God. Out of this spiritual experience, this is one of the hymns he penned. It was taken from a longer Christmas poem, “The Manger Throne.” The melody “Green Sleeves” is a traditional English folk tune.