What Child Is This? The Blessing of Christmas

by Eric Dunbar

Christmas is the time of year that we celebrate the birth of a baby named Jesus; but what child is this? In the midst of all the celebration—Christmas trees and colorful lights, Santa Claus, reindeer, jingle bells, sleigh rides, family exchanging gifts and singing Christmas Carols—we find the Nativity Scene. In the center of this glorious and magnificent scene lies a child, the baby Jesus, wrapped in rags, lying in a manger, surrounded by cattle for warmth. Of all the people in the whole world, only His parents and a few young shepherds in a field keeping watch over their flock know the true identity of this child. Two years later, three men traveling from the east, whom we know today as the “Three Wise Men” brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the young child.

I am reminded of a famous Christmas song, “What Child is This?” The song describes this child as seen through the eyes of everyday people. Like you and me, the writers of this song wanted to know more about this child, so they asked the question: “What Child is this?”

What Child is this?

What child is this?
Who meant to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping
Who angels greet with anthem sweet
While shepherds watch our 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

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh
Come peasant King to own him
The King of kings, salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone Him

This, this is Christ, the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring Him laud
The babe, the Son of Mary

Nails fierce shall pierce him through
The cross be borne for me, for you
Hail, hail, the word made flesh
Obeyed the Son of Mary

This, this is Christ, the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring Him laud
The babe, the Son of Mary

Praise Him, Son of joy
Joy to the risen Lord
Praise Him, Son of joy
Joy to the risen Lord

This, this is Christ the king
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring Him laud
The babe, the Son of Mary

(Written by David Bryan Benoit, Richard C. Braun, David S. Koz, Brenda Gordon Russell, Peter Harry White • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Peermusic Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group)

Do we really know this Child?

Today, the world has changed quite a bit, and we no longer ask the question What Child is this? We assume that we know who He is, as we go about the celebration of His birth, largely without even mentioning Him. It makes me wonder do we really know for sure, What Child is this?

I believe people want to know the answer to this question. Christmas is the one day that churches are packed to capacity with people who sincerely want to know What Child is this? The difficulty to understanding “What child is this?” is in trying to understand the answer intellectually. Though this Child was innocent and being cared for by His young teenaged mother, yet He, through His existence held all things together. The greatest intellectual mind could never understand this.

“What child is this? Who meant to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping, who angels greet with anthem sweet, while shepherds watch our keeping.”

“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). This Child who slept on His mother Mary’s lap was greeted into the world—the same world which He made—by a host of angels—who served Him before the world began.

Christ is born

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

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’

“So it was when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:8-18).

Wise men bring gifts to the Child

“So bring him incense, gold and myrrh; come peasant King to own him, the King of kings, salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him. This, this is Christ, the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing. Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the babe, the Son of Mary.”

“Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.’

“When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:7-11).

This Child was born to die

“Nails fierce shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you. Hail, hail, the word made flesh, obeyed the Son of Mary. This, this is Christ, the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing. Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the babe, the Son of Mary”

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

What Child is this? One thing is certain, according to Scripture this Child was born to die. The story of the birth of Christ only has significance in relation to His sacrificial death. Hebrews 10:5-7 reveals the purpose of this particular Child: “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come — In the volume of the book it is written of Me — to do Your will, O God.’” Simply put, Christ was born to die for our sins, to make us right with God. “For He (God) made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Let your Christmas celebration be sincere

We no longer have to ask the question: “What Child is this?” Although customarily we celebrate Christmas with gift giving, food and partying, I urge you to seriously contemplate the real reason for the blessed day we call Christmas. It cost our heavenly Father everything to redeem you. Christmas is a sacred day that has nothing to do with the commercialism of Santa Claus, reindeer and snowmen. So when you celebrate Christmas, be sincerely thankful for the birth of this Child we call Christ.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas Season. It is my prayer that you take time to reflect on the profound gift of the Christ child, who emptied Himself of all His glory and power to become flesh that He might sacrifice Himself as a sin offering to the Father on our behalf.

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