December 20, 2022

Christmas and Advent Hymns and their Story

“What Child is This”

The author of this hymn is still debated to this day. Some claim William Chatterly Dix, and other researchers claim it as “author unknown”. This is a hymn, along with a few others, that can be used for Christmas and Epiphany, as it contains echoes of the Holy Gospel according St. Matthew 2:1-12. It asks the question, more than once, “What Child is This?”, and answers it – it is Jesus. The answer comes from a survey of His nativity as He is greeted by angels with “anthems sweet” and by the shepherds. Jesus is identified as Christ, King, and “Son of Mary.”
What should we do – it answers that question – we are to “bring Him laud”, an uncommon, but understandable word for “praise”. We are asked, “why lies He is such mean estate”? The Christian ought to observe this child in reverent awe, for the Word made flesh is coming to us. He lies among the lowly animals, as He will one day come in lowliness to death on a lowly cross.
We are attacked by sin, death and the power of the devil. The wise men bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh. God is Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus is Prophet, Priest and King. Jesus spent three days in the tomb. This hymn has three verses – it is not a coincidence – it is a gift of God.

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!

LSB 370

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