The Story Behind What Child is This?
At the time of creating this hymn, Dix served as an insurance company manager and had been struck by a critical illness. While recovering, he experienced a spiritual revival that led him to write several hymns, including lyrics to "What Child is This?" that was subsequently set to the tune of "Greensleeves", a traditional English folk song. Although it was formulated in Great Britain, the hymn is more popular in the United States than in its country of origin today.
The lyrics of the carol are taken from a poem written by Dix called "The Manger Throne". The part of the poem that was utilized as the song's lyrics consist of three stanzas in total. The first verse poses a rhetorical question in the first half, with the response coming in the second half. The second verse contains another question that is answered, while the final verse is a universal appeal to everyone urging them "to accept Christ."
Biblical Inspiration for "What Child Is This?"
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." ~ Isaiah 9:6
"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." ~ Luke 2:7
"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." ~ John 1:14
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel"(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus." ~ Matthew 1:18-25
Our Favorite Performance of "What Child Is This?"
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