Hymn 118, What Child is This?
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. Luke 2:17-18
This popular Christmas carol was written by an Englishman, William Dix, in 1865 after a time of serious illness when he immersed himself in reading the Bible. During that time, he became a believer in Jesus and wrote several poems urging others to turn to Christ. This poem was set to the ancient English folk tune “Greensleeves” and became quite popular, especially in America.
The carol opens with the question— “What child is this?” What is the big deal about a baby sleeping on its mother’s lap that would bring angels from heaven? The question is answered later in the verse: “This is Christ the King!” Then the carol urges us, peasant or king, to bring Him gifts and own Him as our Savior; to confess that He is the King of Kings, who brings us salvation when we place Him on the throne of our hearts.
Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus features shepherds who receive the good news of a Savior born in Bethlehem from angels. They rush to the village and find the baby just as the angels had told them. The shepherds did not just remain at the manger, nor did they just return to their sheep. Rather, they went through the village and countryside telling anyone who would listen the wonderful news they had received from the angels. Everyone who heard that story was amazed by it.
Like Mr. Dix and the shepherds, when we are touched by the truth of God’s Son born in a stable and laid in a manger, we need to spread the Good News to anyone who will listen. Singing this carol this Christmas season should urge us to share the story.
Dr. David Strawn
Retired Min. of Education