"What Child Is This?" preference....

With “Nails” or without?

To me, any other version just wimps out. He didn’t stay a baby. He grew up. He had a beard! :wink:

I wouldn’t have known what the OP was asking about until a few years ago, so for everyone else’s reference: There are two versions of “What Child is This”. One version uses the same chorus for the first and second verses:

There’s also another version, which I had never heard growing up, that changes the chorus the second time around to

Personally, I think it’s a nice touch, to remind everyone that we’re celebrating the same dude at both Christmas and Easter. But I can understand how others think it’s kind of morbid for Christmas.

While we’re at it, I also get annoyed when folks skip the myrrh verse of “We Three Kings”. It’s one thing if you’re going to just sing the first verse due to time constraints or not knowing the words to the others, but it’s just silly to sing about the gold and frankincense but not the myrrh. The three gifts are a reference to Jesus as King, God, and Sacrifice, and all three aspects are important.

I never knew there was a bowlderized version. I’ve been in a few choirs / madrigal groups and we always did all three verses. I mean c’mon, that’s the bittersweet dichotomy of Christmas–the elation of Jesus’ birth coupled with the foreknowledge of the fate awaiting Him.

Actually most of my favorite carols are those that acknowledge this, including another much less known carol called “The Infant King.” IIRC, the third verse goes:

“Sing lullabye,
lullabye Baby,
Now a-dozing
Sing lullabye,
Hush do not stir
the Infant King;
Soon comes the Cross,
the nails, the piercing,
and in the grave, at last reposing…”

Pretty grim stuff but it’s freakin’ gorgeous. (Admittedly I’m Jewish and we’re kinda big on the whole joy/sorrow mixture–heaven forbid we should just enjoy pure happiness without remembering the price paid for it!) :slight_smile:

George, the Prince Regent sums up my opinion on thisfrom Blackadder’s Christmas Carol: "…as long as it’s not that terribly depressing one about the chap who gets born on Christmas Day, shoots his mouth off about everything under the sun, and then comes a cropper with a couple of rum coves on top of a hill in Johnny Arab land. "

The Coventry Carol is another one that is both stunningly beautiful and seriously grim in subject matter - it’s about the Slaughter of the Innocents (King Herod having all the boy babies in the area murdered in hopes of killing the newborn King.) Most people only ever hear “lulay, luly”, and never think about the words.

I don’t care one way or the other about the nails. Just came in to say that “What Child Is This” has always been one of my favorite carols, but I can’t stand “Greensleeves.” I’ve never quite figured that out.

The second. The great thing about that song is the juxtaposition of the images. A little child as the savior. The idea of that child being tortured and crucified is shocking, but I think that’s the point.

I like the baby version best! I work too hard for your bull.

Actually, I don’t. The ‘pierce him through’ line is good to have, and I think a little echoic of Luke 2:35. (This is at the Presentation aka Candlemas, which is early on in Jesus’s life as well).

Going the other way, it really bothers me that Handel’s Messiah is universally a Christmas oratorio. It seems so much an Easter one to me (reportedly the original intention as well).

I never heard about the “Nails” verse until this thread.

Me neither. I thought maybe it was referencing a Trent Reznor version of the song!..TRM

I never heard the “Nails” version until I was an adult (wasn’t in the hymnal, the “Myrrh” verse of “We Three Kings,”) but I like it now.

Then I like minor key Christmas carols. (“O Come, O Come,” “I Wonder as I Wander” (which puts out death right there in line 2))

I always imagine that the song was inspired by Joseph (after being told that he is going to be a father even though he has never slept with this wife) asking Mary “Whose Child Is This?”

I’ve never heard the version mentioning nails and spear. Can anyone recommend a Xmas album that has that version? Or maybe it is on one of my albums and I never noticed!

Grew up in the church, and love church music, and love Christmas hymns, and love Whose Child Is This, and never heard of the nails verse. I don’t think I like it, but it may be just because I’m not used to it.

My favorite Christmas hymn changes from year to year, but right now I’m digging “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming.”

Yeah, “Unto Us a Child is Born” has a pretty strong case for being a Christmas song, but all the rest are either prophetic, or about Easter (the Alleluia Chorus in particular is for the Resurrection itself).

Never heard the Nails verse in over 50 years of faithful church attendance and choir singing.

Track 27, “Songs of Angels”, Robert Shaw Chamber Singers. That portion is sung by the men only. Buy the CD. All wonderful, a capella performances.


Me too. There’s another, the “Seven Joys of Mary”, can’t remember all the words but it’s recounting the Christ story from Mary;s point of view, all the events she witnessed, and the “joy of six” is to see her Son upon the Crucifix.

Messiah is in three parts: The Birth, The Passion, The Second Coming. Often, for Christmas, the first part is sung, and the Hallelujah Chorus is added, or substituted for one of the other choruses, such as “His Yoke is Easy.” Sometimes, parts one and two are sung at Christmas; Part two concludes with the Hallelujah Chorus, the most popular piece of the oratorio. But, of course, the second part is all about Eastertime, so if you are looking for that to make any sense, well, it doesn’t. :smack:

Usually, when performed during Holy Week, or Lent, all three parts are sung, including the lovely “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” and the stirring “Worthy is the Lamb.” I much prefer listening to performances then, for this reason. But the tradition of a Messiah sing-a-long performance during Advent is getting quite entrenched. Who am I to complain? :wink:

[quote=“DSYoungEsq, post:18, topic:520190”]

Usually, when performed during Holy Week, or Lent, all three parts are sung, including the lovely “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” and the stirring “Worthy is the Lamb.”

“I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” is what my mother wants sung at her memorial service. The verses from Job mention how “though worms destroy my body yet in my flesh shall I see God” Mom is donating her body to a medical school, so there won’t be much left when they’re done with her. Besides liking the music, she feels a point will be made that it’s not the body that’s important.

Oh, and as to the OP, definitely I prefer the Nails version. Also the myrrh version from We Three Kings.

Nails, nails, nails.

I was actually shocked to discover that our church’s hymnal omits it. The song is much richer and more powerful with the three different refrains than with the first refrain repeated.

By the way, if anyone knows the history of having the two different versions, I’m seeking an answer in this thread.