Posted by: rcottrill | December 16, 2013

What Child Is This?

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)BOOK ON CHRISTMAS CAROLS!
Do you have favourite carols or Christmas hymns? Then you’ll love this book. In Discovering the Songs of Christmas, I discuss the history and meaning of 63 songs, taking us on a journey that reveals the wonder of God’s love. (The book might make a great gift for someone too!) Order from Amazon

Words: William Chatterton Dix (b. June 14, 1837; d. Sept. 9, 1898)
Music: Greensleeves, a 16th century English melody

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Mr. Dix wrote a poem called “The Manger Throne” around 1865. For some time it was claimed that the three stanzas of the carol were taken from it. But this seems to be a mistake. The carol is nothing like the poem, which says, in part:

Never fell melodies half so sweet
As those which are filling the skies,
And never a palace shone half so fair
As the manger-bed where our Saviour lies;
No night in the year is half so dear
As this which has ended our sighs.

More likely the Christmas hymn is an independent work, written specifically to suit the tune Greensleeves. Greensleeves is mentioned in Shakespeare’s comic play, The Merry Wives of Windsor (published in 1602), where it is called “a new northern dittye.” Some versions of the hymn use the last four lines of CH-1 as a repeated refrain. But notice what is lost by doing this, particularly the last four lines of CH-2.

This lovely carol, enhanced by a haunting tune in a minor key, presents us with the supreme paradox of the lowly birth of Jesus as contrasted with who He actually is. He is “Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing” (CH-1), and He is “the Word made flesh” (CH-2; cf. Jn. 1:1, 14). Yet He lies in “such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding” (CH-2; cf. Lk. 2:7). Not only that, but He is destined for a painful death. In a real sense, Jesus was born to die. “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through” (CH-2).

Two questions naturally arise from this strange juxtaposition of facts. First, why has this happened? And second, what should be our response to these things?

As to the first issue, William Dix says His cross is “borne for me, for you” (CH-2), and “the King of kings salvation brings” (CH-3). That is the message of the gospel. That Christ came to die as our Substitute, as the Sin-bearer, enduring the wrath of God in our place, so that we might be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life (Mk. 10:45; Jn. 3:16; I Cor. 15:1, 3; Phil. 2:8; I Pet. 2:24; 3:18). “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich “ (II Cor. 8:9).

As to the second question, the author urges us to bring Him gifts and tributes, and “let loving hearts enthrone Him” (CH-3). The wise men brought their “incense, gold and myrrh” (CH-3). Christians today can put their time, talents, and treasures at the disposal of the Lord, to be used for His glory. This is the practical outcome of enthroning Him as Lord of our lives.

Dozens of times in the New Testament Christ is declared to be our “Lord.” The Greek word is kurios, which speaks of Christ’s supremacy as our Master. However, a study of the many texts where the word refers to the Son of God will show that it is also an appellation of deity. In many places where “Lord” is used, there is a strong implication that He is, Himself, God (e.g. Matt. 3:3; 12:8; Lk. 1:43; Jn. 14:10; 20:28).

Christ is proclaimed to be both Lord and Saviour (Phil. 3:20; II Pet. 3:18). He is “Jesus our Lord” II Pet. 1:2). James calls Him “the Lord of glory,” which can be translated “our glorious Lord” (Jas. 2:1, NIV, NASB). A similar translation option is appropriate with the phrase “Jesus the Lord,” which may be rendered “Jesus as Lord” (Rom. 10:9; II Cor. 4:5, NIV, NASB). Indeed “every tongue should confess Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11).

CH-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.

CH-2) Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass 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.

Questions:
1) What other Christmas carols do you use that strongly present the deity of Christ?

2) What is the importance of the deity of Christ in the incarnation and the work of redemption? (I.e. Could we be saved if Christ wasn’t God in human flesh? And if not, why not?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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