December 21, 2021

‘What Child Is This’

John 19:28-37

Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear. . . .

—  John 19:34

Though we celebrate Jesus’ birth and the gift of salvation with joy and gladness, it’s important to note that our salvation has come at a terrible cost. God’s grace and salvation are free to us, but these amazing gifts come only through the excruciating death of our Lord, who laid down his own life to pay the price of our sin for us.

As we sing “What Child Is This,” a well-known and loved text set to the old English tune “Greensleeves,” we again review the story of the birth of Jesus.

The first stanza tells the story of Christ the King’s humble birth, as we have noted a lot this month. And the second stanza points directly to the reason why Jesus came. It sings of the salvation this baby would provide, and it describes in detail the suffering he would endure to bring us salvation.

“Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you.” In one stunning line this song describes the suffering that Christ would take on for us all. This is a humbling reminder that Jesus, the “King of kings,” was born in humiliation and had to suffer to save us from our sin. And he did all of this willingly, out of his great love for us.

The song begins with a simple question, to which the answer too is simple—and yet deeply moving. “What child is this?” He is Jesus, born to save us.

Dear Jesus, thank you for suffering to save us from our sin. We thank you for your willingness to come and suffer on our behalf. Amen.

About the author — Brian Kuyper

Brian Kuyper is the lead pastor at a church in Taber, Alberta. He has served in two congregations in southern Alberta over the past 12 years. He is married to Brenda, and they have three school-age children.

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