What Child is This?

The Christmas carol by William Dix asks,

“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?”

Since the Christmas season claims to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the question of His identity and mission deserves our informed consideration.

Biblical prophecies give significant information about the promised deliverer. For example, Isaiah prophesied in the eighth century B.C. “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”(Isaiah 9:6). The prophet indicated that this child would be more than a religious or political leader; He would be divine.

The New Testament writer, Matthew, quotes from another prophecy of Isaiah and identifies its fulfillment with the virgin birth of Christ: “‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us'” (Matt. 1:23).

When the Wise Men arrived in Israel looking for the newborn king they inquired in Jerusalem regarding His whereabouts. King Herod consulted the Bible scholars who replied that the messiah would be born in Bethlehem. They quoted from the prophecy of Micah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting” (Micah 5:2). The unique star in the sky brought them to Israel; the Biblical prophecy brought them to Bethlehem. The famous gifts of the wise men revealed their faith and reverence for the Christ child.

“What child is this”? How we answer this foundational question determines whether this season will be a cultural holiday or a spiritual celebration! The writer of the carol declared the joyful faith of all who receive Christ as personal Lord and Savior by faith:

“This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud–
the babe, the Son of Mary.”


Words: William C. Dix (1837-1898), The Manger Throne, 1865.

Music: “Greensleeves,” 16th Century English melody

Copyright  by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use.  Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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