What Child is This?

Next in the Christmas carol series, I’d like to look at “What Child is This?” (To read about other carols, click here.)

One thing I notice about this song is how much of it is composed of questions. What Child is this? Whom Angels greet? Why lies He in such mean estate? I’m reminded of the attitude new believers bring to Jesus, one with lots of questions, awe, and a strong desire to know him more. It’s a childlike wonder. How can I reclaim this attitude this Christmas season?

I do find that it’s interesting that the “ass” gets replaced by “ram” in contemporary versions. I admit, I edit out the “ass” parts in Lizzy’s old school children’s bible too.

And a lot of versions get rid of the “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through” verse. Maybe they don’t want to focus on the Easter part, since it’s the wrong holiday. Or, most likely, it’s more comfortable to sing about the baby Jesus, just like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights prays to baby Jesus. Nobody but King Herod seems to mind the sweet, innocent baby in the manger. But that guy on the cross is a trouble maker. How can I keep both forms of Jesus in perspective in this holiday season (added to that, the triumphant King Jesus in Revelation)?

Okay, it’s your turn, what’s special for you about this song? Are there any words that are particularly meaningful?

To read my thoughts on “Oh Holy Night,” follow this link.

What Child is This?

Lyrics by William Chatterton Dix, 1865. Music “Greensleeves,” 16th century melody

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 Christians, 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 a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I love the third verse, but had never seen it before. That is the power of the birth, His purpose in coming in flesh. I love these old hymns that have such deep spiritual truths. What a great way to blog us through the holiday season. Thanks, Amy!

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