Written by Yvonne Nannette.
READ: Luke 2.1-20; Phil. 2.5-11
As a manager of an insurance company, you would not think that William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) would have written one of our favorite Christmas Carols.
Born in Bristol, England, his father was a surgeon who had also written a biography on Thomas Chatterton, the poet, and also the reason for William’s middle name.
Dix became very sick and was in bed for a long time recovering. He had plenty of time to pray and read the Word of God and from this experience his life was truly changed for the better. He began to write hymns, three we may be familiar with today: As with Gladness, Men of Old, Alleluia! Sing to Jesus and What Child is This?
What Child is This? was written as The Manger Song, first published in 1865.
The tune is to the ever-popular Greensleeves, written a full century before Dix’s hymn.
In the beginning of the hymn, Mary is in the manger with the Christ-child on her lap, surrounded by angels and shepherds. We do not sing the second verse much around Christmas time but maybe we should. Here we discover Jesus’ purpose for coming to that manger!
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkeys 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.
Nails and spears will pierce Him, the cross be borne for me, for you. The true purpose of Christmas, of Christ coming to the manger as a baby, growing up to experience LIFE as we know it so He could understand our suffering. What a Savior!
The third verse tells us that this Gift is for everyone. Peasants, kings, it doesn’t matter, HE belongs to us all. Let loving hearts enthrone Him!
And don’t forget the unfamiliar word, laud, in the chorus. Ever wonder what in the world it means?
PRAISE! Hurry to bring Him praise…He is worthy!
What child IS this? This is Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Who loved us so much that HE gave that we might have life eternal. Again, looking behind but not forgetting the purpose of the birth of Jesus Christ: Ultimate salvation when He conquers the grave!