“This Is Christ The King…”

Nativity PaintingMerry Christmas from Gazette665!

Since Christmas happens to be on a Friday this year (2015), I’ve decided to go ahead and publish the next blog post in our holiday series “You’re Singing History.” (Don’t worry – I wrote this ahead of time, not early on Christmas morning.)

Here in America, we are used to seeing nativity scenes during the Christmas season. Some people might not be too fond of them, but they are still part of the holidays. (I’m glad!) But sometimes I think we get used to seeing images of Baby Jesus in the manger, and we don’t stop to think about what really happened at that night in Bethlehem. God came to earth in human form. God laid in a manger.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is What Child Is This? It asks questions reflecting on the real importance of Christ’s first coming. Oh, and the music seems to have been written especially for harp – so I really like that too.

The Music

The tune of What Child Is This? is actually the old English song Greensleeves. And – here’s the fun part for historians – nobody seems to know exactly how old the melody is. The music dates back at least to the days of King Henry VIII, but likely goes even farther back to the Middle Ages. One legend I’ve read claims that King Richard the Lionhearted’s minstrel wrote the tune. Hmm…

Anyway, it’s a really old song, but it got new lyrics during the Victorian Era…

“The Manger Throne”

William C. Dix was an “unknown” poet in the British Isles – he worked hard at a day job to provide for himself and his family, but he loved writing poetry. He wrote on a variety of subjects until a sudden illness forced him on bed-rest and caused him to reevaluate the meaning of life. Consistent Scripture reading and theological study turned his heart toward God and Dix’s poetry began to have spiritual themes.

Dix wrote a poem entitled “The Manger Throne” which was published in British and American newspapers around 1865. Eventually someone (whose name has been lost to history) joined the poetry to the old tune Greensleeves and the hymn What Child Is This? was created.

Federico_Barocci_-_The_Nativity_-_WGA01293What Child Is This?

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 donkeys are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through,
 The cross he bore 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 a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The babe, the Son of Mary.

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

Enjoy The Music

May the miracle of Christmas fill you with awe and great joy!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah