Sharing the Light • Devotion #5: “What Child Is This?”

William Chatterton Dix wrote the lyrics to the Christmas carol “What Child Is This?” in 1865. It is only three verses long, but it is unique in how boldly he describes Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth in verse two:

Why lies He in such mean estate

Where ox and ass are feeding?

Good Christian, 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!

Most Christmas carols celebrate the birth of Jesus. That is obvious and makes sense. However, this carol talks about nails and a spear piercing Him. It references the cross! Jesus came to earth to die for our sins. He was born to die. Seldom do Christmas carols associate Jesus’ birth and death together.

Peter and Noble (a couple of my former students who are now pastors) made some interesting observations between Jesus’ “start and finish.”

Birth                                      Death

Womb                                    Tomb

Mary                                      Marys

Virgin                                    Unused burial

Joseph                                   Joseph of Arimathea

Linen                                     Linens

Angels                                   Angels

Frankincense, Myrrh         Ointments, spices

Wooden manger                  Wooden cross

Matthew 1:21 tells us why Jesus came to earth, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus was born to die in our place. He came to “save his people from their sins.”

In 1 Timothy 1:15, this concept is repeated, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Jesus’ birth is so special because it was the start of a life that would make for a perfect sacrifice in death. He died so we can live – forever.

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