Saturday, January 5, 2008

On the last day of Christmas

Jan. 5th is Twelfth Night, and (under most calendars) the final day of the Christmas season.

The Dec. 30 episode of the LCMS radio show Issues Etc. featured a great interview focusing on a particular Christmas hymn, “What Child is This?” The interview was with Dr. Arthur Just, Professor of “Exegetical Theology” at Concordia Theological Seminary (the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod seminary).

The show examined the theology of the words to the hymn by William Chatterton Dix:
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.
To paraphrase, Dr. Just said the words remind us of the reality of Christ’s physical birth as an infant, despite being true God.

By extension, these words emphasize Christ’s presence as true man, and thus stand as a rebuttal to the many heresies that claim Jesus was divine but not human.

I have always enjoyed the hymn because it is quite singable, due to the reuse of the 16th century tune Greensleeves. In fact, we sang it last Sunday for the first sunday after Christmas. However, I had not previously appreciated its potential for Christian apologetics.

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