What Child is This?

It's a question that Jesus asked His own disciples: “Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am?” This question gets asked in another way in the beloved Christmas hymn, “What Child is This?” It's a hymn that reminds us as we celebrate Jesus' birth that He was born to die for our sins. For your Christmas meditation, here are some thoughts on the words of this wonderful hymn. 

Stanza 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? 

Who is this Child who is born of Mary and is greeted by angels and shepherds? The details of the night of Christ's birth come to us in St. Luke's Gospel. He records these details to teach us that the birth of the Savior really happened and was seen and heard by eyewitnesses. These things aren't just made up! 

This, this is Christ the king, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud, The babe, the son of Mary! 

Don't miss this! It's a baby in the manger. But it is the Baby who is King. King of the Jews. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Come and bring Him laud (praise) because He is the King. In our day and age, we don't think much of kings, since we elect our leaders. Yet a true King is one who takes care of His subjects. This King cares for you by being your Savior! 

Stanza 2

Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading. 

It is the second stanza of the hymn which makes it such a beautiful Christmas hymn. It reminds us that the birth of Jesus is for sinners. Even in the manger, the silent Word, the “Word-made-flesh” pleads for us before the throne. How can the Son be before the throne and in a manger? It is this mystery of the Son's incarnation that stands as the center of our salvation and Christian faith.  

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! 

There it is! Right to Good Friday! The Son of God is born. But He isn't born just to prove He can become man, like some trick or show. He becomes man so that He can go the way of suffering and death to take your place under God's judgment and bring you forgiveness of sins and eternal life. At the holy celebration of Christ's birth, we are reminded by these words of the holy and saving purpose for which He came into the world for us.  

Stanza 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. 

Here the hymn speaks of our receiving Christ's salvation and our can't-help-it response to God's love for us in Christ. Pointing ahead to the worship of the pagan wise men who brought holy gifts, everyone—poor and rich, low and high alike—are called to give Him praise and thanksgiving. Though not explicit, the means of grace are alluded to in the bringing of salvation by the King of Kings who dwells in our hearts by the Word and faith.  

Raise, raise the song on high, The Virgin sings her lullaby;
Joy, joy for Christ is born, The babe, the son of Mary. 

Christmas truly is about joy. That joy is because the Son of God has come in the flesh to be our Savior. On Christmas night we recognize a certain joy and peace of a mother who has just delivered her baby. Yet the Baby that was delivered on Christmas, really came to deliver us from sin, death, devil, hell and all things that condemn us. Now we, who have been born again from above in the waters of the holy font, sing with Mary and the angels and shepherds and Christians of all times and places. We sing the joy of the birth of Jesus our Savior. A blessed and merry Christmas to each of you as you rejoice in the Good News of What Child this is!

Created: December 22nd, 2010