I used to love the Christmas carol, “What Child is This?”  But now I wince every time I have to play it in church from the United Methodist Hymnal.  The reason?  The version used here has lost much of its force due the elimination of the second half of verses 2 and 3 in favor of repeating the innocuous second half of verse 1 as a refrain after all verses.  Did someone on the editorial board feel a twinge of nausea at the thought of the destiny of this little baby being crucifixion?  But, then, isn’t that really the whole point of Christmas?  And if we forget this core fact at Christmas, we end up trivializing the holiday.  It’s not about the warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we think about a newborn baby; it’s about the love of God shown in what would befall this particular baby.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne 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.

Or, in the words of a stunning anthem by J. Martin,

Forgive us Lord, and grant us eyes to see
in every Christmas, Calvary;
Implant it in our hearts.
Help us recall amid trees of red and gold
on another tree raised long ago
we hung God’s brightest star.

I do so wish the United Methodist Hymnal contained the original, more profound version of this Christmas hymn.

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