What Child Is This?
In 1865, an Englishman named William Chatterton Dix penned the words to a poem entitled “The Manger Throne.” A few years later the first three stanzas of that poem were set to the music of an English traditional folk song called “Greensleeves” that soon became known as the beloved Christmas carol “What Child Is This?” This combination of poetry and music first was published in the United Kingdom in 1871 as a new song when it debuted in a prestigious compilation of Christmas music called Christmas Carols Old and New. For close to a century and a half the question found in the title of this carol has become an annual reminder that something significant happened on that night in Bethlehem as someone significant lay wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. This child would change the world forever; but what child is this?
The title of the carol, “What Child Is This?”, is intended to be the primary question the shepherds must have asked on the night they visited the baby Jesus. After their angelic encounter and receiving the startling news while they tended their sheep on the outskirts of Bethlehem, their heads must have been spinning rapidly. They tried to comprehend all they experienced on that first Christmas night.
While at times the shepherds in the Christmas story have been labeled as the ones who were
a bit rough around the edges and living on the lowest rung of society’s ladder, Jesus describes
Himself as being a shepherd who has great responsibility. There is no greater responsibility than holding the life of another in the control of one’s own hands. Protecting the life of others was the responsibility and calling of the shepherd.
What child is this?
- He is the one who came to lay down His life.
- He is the one who came to provide for and protect His flock.
- He is the one blessed beyond measure with ones He would call His own and who would come to know His voice.
- He is the one who is the good shepherd.
His name is Jesus, the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger, just as the angel said he would be. Now go and tell everyone what has been heard, seen and experienced concerning who this child is, just as the shepherds did on that first Christmas in Bethlehem. What child is this?
Join us throughout Advent as we try and recapture the wonder and awe of Christmas by focusing on some of those very first reactions people had of Jesus and how that first Christmas changed their lives.
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