FAITH & REFLECTION — What Child Is This was written by an insurance company manager by the name of William Chatterton Dix (1817-1898).
Dix, at the age of 29, was afflicted with an illness that nearly took his life. He was confined to bed for many months, leading to a severe depression. However, these hardships in turn, led him to a spiritual renewal and the spiritual renewal inspired him to write several hymns. What Child Is This was one of them. The lyrics are sung to the tune of Greensleeves, which was a popular English folk song at the time.
The title poses a question that is both legitimate and intriguing. What Child is this? Dix answers the question by saying that “this is Christ the King.” His answer is spiritually astute and biblically accurate. However, it is far from comprehensive. In the space that remains, I would like to make a few theological additions (also far from comprehensive). Who is that baby in the manger?
That baby in the manger, according to Hebrews 1:2 is “…appointed heir of all things.” This means that God has given everything to His Son. From the depths of the ocean to the highest peak of the mountains, to the farthest reaches of the cosmos – it is all His!
Why wouldn’t everything belong to Him? For in the very next phrase, in the same verse, we read that, “…He (Jesus) made the universe”. John, 1:3 reiterates the same truth saying, “Through Him all things were made…nothing was made without Him”. The baby in the manger, as the Creator of all, entered His creation.
Moving a little further along in the Hebrews 1 passage, to the third verse, we read that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” In addition to Jesus being the sustainer of all that is, He is also the visible manifestation of God on this earth. If we want to know what God looks like, we look at Jesus (best accomplished by reading about Him in the Bible).
In the following verse, we discover that the child in the manger became the Savior on the cross. It states that, “After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3). This alludes not only to His finished work, but His current work, for we read in 1 John 2:1 that with Jesus on the right hand of God “…we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ…”
The next time you hear Dix’s popular hymn, try shifting the emphasis to a different word. Instead of saying, “WHAT child is this?” try, “What child IS this?”