Saturday, December 09, 2023

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

One of the things that I really love about this time of year is the music. I mean all of it, I love all the songs but particularly the Christmas Carols.

We sing the same songs, year after year, and the words get stuck in our heads; we can often recite the words without even thinking about it. 

Many people attend Carol Services and Concerts and while a wide range of songs are sung the majority are still Carols. The words of the Carols can teach us a lot about the message of Christmas. 

In a blog ( I recently read the writer described his experience in a Carol Concert - ‘As we in the audience belted out the familiar Carols I read the words on the program, trying to make sure I was singing it all correctly. The further we got into the song, the more I began to get distracted from my singing (which I am sure was a relief to those sitting around me!) as the message of the song began to resonate in my soul. I watched as everyone proclaimed in perfectly crafted theology the message of the Gospel! As I looked around the concert hall, I wondered if those who were singing had ever given pause to what they were saying’.

Many of the carols we sing are based firmly on the Bible, and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” is no exception. It was written by Charles Wesley, who was an English Methodist leader and hymn writer. Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns, more than any other male writer (Fanny Crosby wrote 8,000).

It is said that his goal in writing hymns was to teach the poor and illiterate sound doctrine. His brother, John Wesley, a famous theologian and founder of Methodism, said that Charles’ hymnal was the best theological book in existence

Wesley was inspired by the sounds of London church bells while walking to church on Christmas Day and so he wrote the “Hark” poem about a year after his conversion to be read on Christmas Day. The poem first appeared in Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1739 with the opening line of “Hark, how the welkin (heaven) rings.”

The popular version is the result of alterations by various hands, notably by Wesley's co-worker George Whitefield who changed the opening couplet to the familiar one (In 1753, George Whitefield, a student and eventual colleague of Wesley’s, adapted the poem into the song we now know today. It was Whitefield who penned the phrase “newborn King) , and by Felix Mendelssohn, whose melody was used for the lyrics. In 1840—a hundred years after the publication of Hymns and Sacred Poems—Mendelssohn composed a cantata to commemorate Johann Gutenberg's invention of movable type printing, and it is music from this cantata, adapted by the English musician William H. Cummings to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, that propels the carol known today.

The first stanza describes the good news of the Saviour’s birth. God has sent the One who will reconcile the sinner back to Himself. 

The next stanza speaks about Christ’s coming and the good news that comes with it. 

The final stanza tells of the accomplishment of Christ and the power that it brings.

For well over two hundred years, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” has been a Gospel-saturated anthem pointing people to the Savior. This famed carol is loaded with rich theology.

Note the highlights in the carol: 

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled:
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies,
With the angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb!
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings;
Mild, he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth:
Hark! the herald angels sing

Jesus came, because ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ - Romans 3:23

2 Corinthians 5:19 - ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation’.

The Bible teaches clearly that Jesus was God who became man. Check the following references out - 1 Timothy 3:16, Matthew 1:23, Galatians 4:4, 1 John 4:10, 14 and John 3:16. 

This verse clearly predicts that one of Messiah’s descriptions will be ‘Prince of Peace’ - Isaiah 9:6 ‘For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace’.

The Bible teaches we need to born into God’s family to be forgiven, saved and to end up in heaven. The following references highlight this truth - John 1:12,13, John 3:3, John 3:5, John 3:13. 

Sources - Wikipedia and

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