What Child Is This?

If you have had children, you know that they can ask a million questions. Questions. All day long. Endless. Contiuous. Relentless.
One study has shown that kids can ask 390 questions a day. That’s one question every one minute 56 seconds.
They are sponges for knowledge. They will keep asking and asking until they get the answer they want. Sometimes you will know the answer and feel really smart that you know more than your Kindergartner. Other times, you won’t have a clue and start making things up to cover for your lack of knowledge.
Perhaps they will ask deeply scientific questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” Then you have to decide, are you going to answer, “Because God painted it that color,” or, “There are molecules in the atmosphere that scatter blue light from the sun”?
Sometimes they will ask truly silly questions like, “What is the name of the space between the bits that stick out of a comb?” Good luck with that one.
Imagine that your child is looking at the nativity in your house and sees the baby Jesus in the manger. She asks you, “What child is this?” That sounds like such an easy question, doesn’t it?
But who exactly is this child? That’s what the hymn, “What Child Is This” sets out to ask and answer.  
1  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!

What child is this who is asleep on Mary’s lap? This is no ordinary baby. It is a child that angels fill the night sky to sing about. It is a child that shepherds leave their flocks to run and see. Why? Because this is no ordinary baby. This, this is Christ the King. It is certainly the Son of Mary … but it is so much more.

2  Why lies he in such mean estate
Where oxen now are feeding?
Good Christians, fear; For sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through;
The cross he’ll bear for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The babe, the Son of Mary!

If this Child is more than just the Son of Mary, why does He lie in such mean estate – such lowly conditions, where the oxen are feeding? We were made poor by our sins. We are dead in our sins. All we can do is evil – in our thoughts, in our words, in our actions. On this most holy of evenings, we will feel regrets, guilt, anger, greed, spite, jealousy, bitterness, and ugliness.

Good Christians, that’s exactly why the baby was born!

This divine Child was made poor for people made poor by their sins. He grew up to die so that we who are dead in our sins might be made alive in His death and resurrection. For 33 years of His life, the perfect, sinless Son of God never sinned one time. So when Jesus shed His blood on the cross, that perfect, holy, sinless blood covered the multitude of our sins. On this most holy of evenings, we are forgiven for our regrets, guilt, anger, greed, spite, jealous, bitterness, and ugliness.

This happens because this Child is the One who is the Word incarnate – God in human flesh. That divinely human flesh would one day grow up to be pierced. The rough wood of the manger foreshadowed the rougher wood of the cross.

This Child is the second person of the Trinity. He is the eternal Son of God who comes in the darkness to die in the darkness. He is praised by the angels at His birth, but dies amidst the shouts of His enemies. He comes pure and undefiled, but dies dirty and defiled by humanity’s sins. He is born as a human baby so that He can die as humanity’s Savior.

3  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 the song on high;
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The babe, the Son of Mary!

How do you respond to the question, “What Child is this?” In faith, you respond by bringing Him your treasures – incense, gold, and myrrh – money, prayers, works, and worship. As the Virgin Mary gently sings her lullaby, so we gently sing our praises to Christ on this Christmas Eve.

How do you answer your child when she points to the baby Jesus in the manger and asks, “What Child is this?” You don’t have to make up an answer. Open your Bible. Speak your faith. You don’t have to make up an answer. Open your hymnal. Sing your faith. Answer, “He is the babe, the Son of Mary … and so much more.” Amen. 


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