WHAT CHILD IS THIS?
William C. Dix, 1837–1898
When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child … (Luke 2:17)
The question asked in this well-loved carol must have been uppermost in the minds of those present at Jesus’ birth. We can almost hear the question being asked from one to another as they gazed into the humble manger. How difficult it must have been for them to understand that the babe who lay in “such mean estate” was truly the promised Messiah. And through the centuries men have continued to ponder who Christ really is—how can He be fully God and still fully man? Only through divine faith comes the revealed answer.
He who is the Bread of Life began His ministry hungering. He who is the Water of Life ended His ministry thirsty. Christ hungered as man, yet fed the multitudes as God. He was weary, yet He is our rest. He prayed, yet He hears prayers. He was sold for 30 pieces of silver, yet He redeems sinners. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd. He died, and by dying destroyed death.
How beautifully the triumphant answer to this imposing question bursts forth in the refrain—“This, this is Christ the King.”
This thoughtful text was written by William Dix, one of our finest lay hymn writers. While a successful insurance salesman in Glasgow, Scotland, he was stricken with a sudden serious illness at the age of 29. Dix was confined to bed for an extended period and suffered deep depression until he called out to God and “met Him in a new and real way.” Out of this spiritual experience came many artistic and distinctive hymns, including this delightful carol. It was taken from a longer Christmas poem, “The Manger Throne,” written by William Dix about 1865. The melody “Green Sleeves” is a traditional English folk tune.
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?
Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear—for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh—come, rich and poor, to own Him; the King of kings salvation brings—let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Refrain: This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste to bring Him laud—the Babe, the Son of Mary.
For Today: Matthew 2:1–12; Luke 1:26–28; 2:6–20
As you read and study the gospel account about Christ, begin a study of both His claims and demonstrations that prove that He was truly God—truly deity, the Messiah sent from heaven. Sing this musical truth as you go—
Osbeck, K. W.
- When Jesus then was born at Bethlehem in Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Wise men from the East to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is the King of the Jews that is born? for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him. When king Herod heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And gathering together all the chief Priests and Scribes of the people, he asked of them, where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, At Bethlehem in Judea: for so it is written by the Prophet, And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah, art not the least among the Princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come the governor that shall feed my people Israel. Then Herod privily called the Wise men, and diligently inquired of them the time of the star that appeared, And sent them to Bethlehem, saying, Go, and search diligently for the babe: and whom ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come also, and worship him. So when they had heard the king, they departed: and lo, the star which they had seen in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over the place where the babe was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with an exceeding great joy, And went into the house, and found the babe with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him, and opened their treasures, and presented unto him gifts, even gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And after they were warned of God in a dream, that they should not go again to Herod, they returned into their country another way. Matthew 2:1–12
- And in the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin affianced to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the Angel went in unto her, and said, Hail thou that art freely beloved: the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Luke 1:26–28
- And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first begotten son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a cratch, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over the flock. And lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone about them ,and they were sore afraid. Ten the Angel said unto them, Be not afraid: for behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people, That is, that unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you, Ye shall find the babe swaddled, and laid in a cratch. And straightway there was with the Angel a multitude of heavenly soldiers, praising God, and saying, Glory be to God in the high heavens, and peace in earth, and toward men good will. And it came to pass when the Angels were gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said one to another, Let us go then to Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed unto us. So they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph and the babe laid in the cratch. And when they had seen it, they published abroad the thing that was told them of the child. And all that heard it, wondered at the things which were told them of the shepherds. But Mary kept all those sayings, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God, for all that they had heard and seen, as it was spoken unto them. Luke 2:6–20