What Child is This?

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What Child Is This?

William Chatterton Dix, published ca. 1865

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.

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

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!

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

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.

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Raise, raise, the song on high,

The Virgin sings her lullaby:

Joy joy for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Jesus could’ve been born at any time, under any circumstances. Really?? A barn in the Middle East? “Why lies He in such mean estate?” Surely He could’ve come up with a plan that didn’t include taking on a feeble body, capable of exhaustion, hunger, pain, and death. It doesn’t make any sense. Martin Luther said, “He sunk Himself into our flesh” and that it is, “beyond all human understanding.”

I’ve always loved the carol, What Child is This? because it asks the question in so many words, “Who would do this?”

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“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14

“The Word” is another name for God, and this short verse tells the story of Christmas. It’s describes the unthinkable moment when God came down to live in the harshness of earth. Karl Barth called it the, “climbing down of God.”

This is Christ our King.” He wasn’t born in a palace and he didn’t live a life of comfort. Jesus could’ve surrounded himself with the most powerful and influential people living in that day but chose to hang out with beggars, and outcasts instead. From the way he was born and all the way through his death, Jesus’ entire life was the continual giving up of power, prestige, and well-being.

Quite frankly, Jesus lived his life in the opposite direction I normally try to live mine. He went downward, while I feel a constant desire to move upward. I want to hold on to comfort, safety, and pleasure when those are the exact things he let go of on Christmas. And why did he do this? As the carol says, “Good Christian, fear: for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading.” Even as a baby, God was earning our forgiveness.

I heard a great sermon this morning (by my dad:) that touched on the inn keeper in the Christmas story who didn’t have time to deal with Mary and Joseph when they showed up on his doorstep. Can you imagine being that guy? God has literally given up heaven to come to earth and you can’t give up a bed for his pregnant mother. Sadly, I do this kind of thing all the time. Even at Christmas, right when I should be thinking about all Jesus gave up to be here, I find myself too busy with my own agenda to spend quality time with Him. If you’re like me, then it’s time to make it happen- pray, attend a Christmas Eve service, or read the story. However you do it, I pray God meets you in a powerful way this Christmas.

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