4 Lyrics From A Classic Carol That Bring the Christmas Story to Life

Steve Mayo
Pastor Steve Mayo, Director of Discipleship, reminds us of the wonder the Christmas Story has to offer each and every one of us.

One thing that makes this time of year so special, to me (and many others, I imagine), is music. You can give me a house fully decked out with lights, a fresh plate of cookies, and hot cocoa, but without music, it just isn’t quite Christmas. Many of the carols we sing each season have been around for well over a hundred years. Perhaps that’s why it’s easy to miss the significance of the story so many of these songs share—we’re just so used to singing them, year after year.
There’s a gift for you in this Christmas story that is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated.
Luke 2:10 says, “Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” When you read this, does it feel like good news, or has the wonder faded? It’s easy to forget to be grateful for things that feel familiar. I’d like to walk you through one of my favorite Christmas carols, "What Child Is This", and let the lyrics paint a picture for us of what this blessed holiday celebrates.

  1. 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?

    Sometimes questions are asked to make a point, and other times they express awe and wonder about something we find almost too good to be true. A lot of times we focus on the gifts God gives and not the Giver, Himself. This time the gift, Jesus, can be celebrated as much as the Giver because the gift is the Giver. There’s a gift for you in this Christmas story that is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated.
  2. Why lies He in such mean estate,
    Where ox and cow are feeding?

    Another question! And it seems, an appropriate one. God chose to dwell among humanity in this way, in such surprising poverty—why? The stanza before this, we can expect: “Angels greet Him with anthems sweet.” That’s the kind of arrival we’d expected. But this is a foreshadowing of the humility of Jesus.

  3. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross be borne for me, for you;

    Christmas commemorates more than His birth. It also presses us forward in history, beyond the lowliness of the manger to a lifetime of lowliness. The shepherds and wise mean are coming to worship a King who won’t just die for them, he will die as them. Some may suspect we are souring the brightness and joy of Christmas when we sing this line, but the cross is what makes Christmas so joyous.

  4. So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
    Come peasant, king to own Him;

    Jesus welcomes the weak and the strong. The wise and the foolish. The low and despised beside nobility and the powerful. The manger is for all sinners because the cross is for all sinners.

This is the time to say, to declare in the awe and wonder of worship, “What child is this?” Or in other words, “What do we do with Jesus?” Throughout the Bible we see many ask this fateful question. Herod, pharisees, disciples, even Pontius Pilate. This is the season we can ask ourselves that same question. As you read the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible and sing songs of old, may the love and nearness of Jesus fill your heart and home.

Questions for Reflection

  • How can you take the focus off the “things” that Christmas brings and focus more on what the Christmas story means for you?
  • Do you struggle to stop and spend time with God? If so, why do you think that is?
  • Do you think God welcomes all people? Why or why not?


Pastor Steve Mayo serves as the Director of Discipleship at CCA. He also collaborates with the Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Six78 and HSM youth ministries, and assists with overseeing the church’s Vision 2023 Education Team. He and his wife Morgan have three children who attend CCA — Titus, Quincy, and Maxwell.
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