What Child Is This?
William Chatterton Dix
Who is that child asleep in Mary’s lap? That’s the question asked by our beloved hymn this week, as the poet, William Chatterton Dix, gently invites us to think about who Jesus is, who we are, and why his birth is good news indeed.
Many of our most beautiful hymns assume that Jesus was born in the night, and that’s reasonable enough, since the shepherds were keeping night watch over their flocks when the angel of the Lord appeared to them and spoke to them, heralding the astonishing news. And they went into the town to see the event for themselves, and they found the baby lying in a manger, with Mary and Joseph and the animals roundabout. The old masters too were fond of portraying that lowly and glorious birth, and they especially loved to present to us those good animals, as Giotto does in his Nativity, in his famous series of frescoes on the life of Jesus, in Padua. You’ll see the ox and the ass eagerly looking toward the child, and you may think of the humility of each of those…
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