home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > 24th December > WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

One of the reasons every Christian who deeply loves Jesus the Christ should be thrilled around Advent and Christmas is that the songs that are sung and heard at this time – in churches and shopping malls – are among the most profound theological statements and descriptions of the glorious Christ ever penned! While we sing Hark! The Herald angels sing! as a Christmas carol, when Charles Wesley wrote it in 1739, he wrote it as a hymn of worship celebrating the incarnation, and saving work, of Christ. Just one year before he penned this poem, Charles had encountered the Redeemer himself. The joy of his own salvation is very obvious in this carol – “God and sinners reconciled” was a description of his own experience of coming to Christ. In another hymn that he wrote that same year he penned these amazing words:

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?   

Charles Wesley originally sought to follow in his famous brother John’s footsteps. But he failed miserably as a preacher. He was no preacher. Or was he? History now bears witness to Charles Wesley’s greatness as a preacher through hymns. Five years after writing “And Can It Be” and “Hark!” he wrote his masterpiece Carol – “Come Thou Long-Expected Saviour”.

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by Thine own sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

The high Christology in this Carol is impressive. Charles Wesley has captured Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; and Micah 5:2 in this Carol. Chances are that his brother John had preached multiple sermons on these three texts of Scripture. But chances are that no-one today remembers any of them! But chances are remarkably good that there are tens of thousands of people today who could recite – and even sing – every stanza in Charles Wesley’s “Come Thou Long Expected-Saviour”! And by so doing they would again be meditating on these precious and profound Scriptures about the birth of the promised Messiah who was born to rule the world one soul at a time.

THE HEALING POWER OF TRUTH SET TO BEAUTIFUL MUSIC

William Chatterton Dix was blighted by a darkness that flooded his soul. In his despair he turned to the Bible and trained his heart to consider the Saviour and Deliverer who was born that first Christmas night. He was deeply struck by the opening chapters of Luke’s Gospel and as he fixed his heart on the truth contained in those first two chapters he found the darkness that had shrouded his soul gave way to the light of the truth. In 1865 he penned these words that summed up the truth that had set him free as he came to see that Christmas and Easter are not two gospel stories, but are intrinsically part of the one story, “Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
the Cross be borne for me, for you”. Dix realised that the message of Christmas was not an irrelevancy but was the plea to both the lukewarm Christian and the unforgiven sinner from the God of the Universe to be reconciled, “Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading”. It was Dix’s hope that the profound truth expressed in his carol could open the eyes of the blind, whether they be a “peasant” or a “king”.

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!

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!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him!
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!
Raise, raise the song on high!
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy! joy! for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!

William Chatterton Dix, 1865, Glasgow U.K.

There is something powerful about the grace of beautiful music cradling the truth of God’s revelation to mankind in song (Col. 1:6).

¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:14, 17

The grace and the truth expressed in the classic Christmas Carols brings great joy to this preacher who strives to produce biblically and theologically informed followers of Christ. It’s one the reasons why this preacher also serves as a gate-keeper over the songs that use at Legana because I know that most of my sermons are long forgotten soon after they are preached yet what we sing on a Sunday rings in our hearts for years to come. This is no doubt why singing, music, hymns, has always been integral to Christian worship (Eph. 5:19). The consolation that us forgettable preachers have though is that most good song-writers were, and are, biblically/theologically informed by faithful preachers. May the magnitude of what we sing this Advent grip our hearts, enlighten our souls and fill us each with joy inexpressible. Merry Christmas.

 

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

8 Comments

  1. LYDIA

    “There is something powerful about the grace of beautiful music cradling the truth of God’s revelation to mankind in song (Col. 1:6).”
    There is Andrew.

    Without many knowing they are still singing the Truth of Scripture, the Gospel which we rejoice in – The Immanuel, God with us. Michael Card does a splendid job too in singing his Christmas song.

    “It’s one (of) the reasons why this preacher also serves as a gate-keeper over the songs…”. Thank you Andrew!

    This was THE first thing that hit me when I sat on the Legana Christian Church’s seat…no pews:)…that the music was as I had been used to for 12 years back in NSW, where we also had a preacher who was a faithful gate-keeper of the music used in the church services there. So this meant I knew I was at ‘home’ here. I knew that if the music was sound, theologically sound, then all would be well, irrespective of whether I knew anyone at all in the congregation itself. It was indicative of what I heard and would eventually listen to every single Sunday, the Truth of God’s Word. I guess one could say they go hand in glove. This gives or has given to me anyway security and trust.

    God is good indeed! Praise God for faithful preachers everywhere who use the songs written in love towards Him and have done throughout the ages, coupled with the preaching, to feed their sheep and honour and adore Him!

    Thanks for the Pastor’s Desk writings this year!

    Reply
    • Wendy Williams

      Beautifully and sincerely written Lydia, and God has blessed all at Legana with your presence in our community.

      Reply
      • LYDIA

        Thank you Wendy:)

        Reply
      • LYDIA

        Thank you Andrew. God is good…

        Reply
  2. Alan

    Totally agree with these excellent thoughts, Andrew. Well done. It will be no surprise to you that I am a big advocate of keeping the great hymns of the faith alive by using them in worship not just at special seasons, but throughout the year. Their words are rich in meaning and they were written to be very suitable for congregational singing without needing complex musical backing.

    Reply
  3. Wendy Williams

    Andrew, thank you to you and the whole Corbett family for such dedication to Christ. And for the sacrifices you all make to enable the Legana community to access Jesus teachings and the excellent biblical knowledge transfer via Andrew’s Spirit filled gift of the truthful, outpouring of God’s love.

    Not an easy gig, but one undertaken by you Andrew, with grace filled commitment, proving how our present reality is supported, day after relentless day, with Jesus gift to us of the Holy Spirit. For Christians, nothing is “happenstance” or “coincidence”. Our lives are daily impacted by the Holy Spirit. It’s only a matter of saying Yes to Christ.

    Picked that up from some bloke standing at a gate, spruking the love of God😁👍.

    Reply
    • Legana Christian Church

      Thank you Wendy. That’s very gracious of you. You are a great encouragement to me and to many in our church family.
      -A.

      Reply

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