What Child Is This?

Christmas day continues to approach as the mix of anticipation and excitement continue to build. Yet, Christmas is not always a time that is filled with excitement and happiness for everyone. For some, it is a time that revisits grief. For others, it is a season in which people have old wounds reopened, whether that is with family, friends, or past memories. In some cases, people can experience depression during the holidays, regardless of how many Christmas carols they might hear.

One song that you may be familiar with during Christmas time is “What Child is This?” It was originally written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865. He began writing many of the hymns which bear his name at age 29, when he was struck with a sudden near-fatal illness and confined to bed rest for several months, during which he went into a deep depression. Much of his best and most renowned work came from the worst season of his life.

Dix wrote these lines of inquiry,

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 would God enter into the world as a fragile child? It would seem that God is not afraid of modesty and vulnerability. He is not afraid to descend to the lowest and most humble estate to meet humanity where they are. This is something that Dix encountered himself. At the depths of his depression, he found that Jesus had no reservations about drawing near to him. There is no point so low that is beyond the reach of Christ.

Dix follows with this refrain,

This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing

The meek and lowly child in the manger is the God of the universe, the King of cosmos, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the One who upholds everything by the power of His word. Yet He accommodates Himself to our weakness by becoming a man. It is as if God stooped down to look us in the eye. He comes to us to communicate forgiveness of sins and the call to repentance in a way that we can fathom in our finitude.

The psalmist writes,

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

Psalm 40:2

In order for God to pull us out of the muck and the mire, He goes in after us. This is the incarnation, God becoming man. That is what Christmas is all about. It is the declaration that there is hope for each person, wherever they might be.

To continue diving further into “What Child Is This?” check out the sermon from this week of Advent.