The Twelve Days of Christmas Carols
Christmastide Reflections on Songs of the Season
What Child is This?
One of the ways that I hope to keep the Christmas season fresh each year for myself is to intentionally only listen to the wonderful songs of Christmas during the Christmas season. I start my immersion into Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, and put my beloved Christmas CD’s away for another year right after Epiphany (January 6). In worship this year, we started with a couple of Sundays of Advent hymns (Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates ….) and then with a couple of weeks left before Christmas Eve, moved into Christmas carols. With only twelve days now left for my enjoyment of the songs of the season, I would like for us to remember how this incredible seasonal music helps us to focus God’s gift to us in the Christ-child.
The story that we long to hear first focuses on the Holy Family (Mary and Joseph) and their baby. Isn’t this what this whole season has been building toward? That birth of that babe who was placed in the manger is the reason for the season.
The Christmas Carol “What Child Is This?” asks and answers this important question for us. It is found as selection 145 in our Glory to God Presbyterian Hymnal. The editor of this collection gives us an interesting note about the text: This Victorian text gains scope and power by having the original second halves of stanzas two and three restored. They give a stark forward glimpse of what lies ahead for this “babe, the son of Mary!” The tune is much older, dating from Tudor England.
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, one and all, 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!
Let us rest in the knowledge that we are loved and saved by the grace of the Babe of Bethlehem, in whose name we pray. Amen.