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Deep Songs of Christmas: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

It’s that time of year where deep theological songs about Jesus are allowed full access. If we pause and listen we just might allow the music at the mall to take us deep into our Jesus.

christmas

Background

Hark the Herald Angels Sing was written by Charles Wesley. It first appeared in a 1739 collection of hymns. Wesley had desired for the hymn to be accompanied by slow and solemn music. Wesley’s co-laborer, friend and also theological nemesis, George Whitefield, got hold of the hymn and changed some of the lyrics.

A hundred years later the composer Felix Mendelssohn wrote a cantata to commemorate Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. English musician William H. Cummings took Mendelssohn’s cantata and fit it to the old lyrics of Wesley and Whitefield. Cummings’ form of the hymn is the popular one we love and hear today.

Theological Meditations

A great deal of deep theological meditation can happen through the following lyrics. Nearly every major field of systematic theology is covered in the lyrics.

The first stanza reminds us of the excited participation of the angels seeing God and sinners reconciled. We forget so many times that angels are not humans. Jesus did not become an angel to redeem fallen angels, he became a human to redeem humans. Yet angels are singing triumphantly of the world-wide power of the reconciliation started by the arrival of Jesus.

That’s just the first stanza. This is a hymn capable of taking us through many deep theological aspects of Christmas.

Pause. Relax. Please take just a few minutes to slowly read through the following lyrics. Please comment on stanzas that jump out to you reminding you of the glorious depths of Christmas. It will be great to see everyone’s observations in the comments section from this simple Christmas hymn.

Lyrics

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 th’ 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 the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

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.
Risen with healing in his wings,
Light and life to all he brings,
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace.

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

Come, Desire of nations come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the Woman’s conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent’s head.
Adam’s likeness now efface:
Stamp Thine image in its place;
Second Adam, from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

As you comment with your theological observations from this hymn please let us know what stanza you are referring to (1st, 2nd, …)

10 Responses to “Deep Songs of Christmas: Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

  1. “Son, sun, Christ, the everlasting Lord, pleased as man with man to dwell, Light and Life to all”

    “the glorious depths of Christmas” —things into which angels longed to look, given to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of our God with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace;… for those who fear His name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall; then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father… Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased; it has pleased You to bless the house of Your servant, David’s throne and descendants,his throne as the sun before You established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful;
    the LORD for an everlasting light; the Lamb it’s lamp; God for our glory.
    1 Pet 1:12b; Luke 1:77-79;Ps 89:36“Luke 2:14 1 Cor 1:21b;1 Chron 17:27;Mal 4:2;Matt 13:43; Rev 21;22:4-5

  2. Wow. I have never just read those words like that, without singing them. they are actually, amazing.
    Now we’re stuck with D.C.Talk and Hillsong.

  3. Hi William. interesting. wouldn’t have thought a lovely prompt to glorify God by meditating, together, on song thoughts which speak of God’s glory, grace, grandeur would have prompted disrespect. Pretty sure the Lord loves all types of music which glorifies Him; also thinking He would have enjoyed responses to this opportunity.

  4. Robert Armistead Jr December 20, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    My church sang this this past Sunday. I was surprised how good the words were in describing our relationship, our praise if of God! I look forward to songs like Hark the herald Angels Sing. It surprised me.
    Rob.

  5. Hi a.
    You are right. I stand corrected and I apologize for causing offense to you or anyone else who read my comment.
    Regards,
    William

  6. peace William, and prayer for us all (from this am’s reading)…these are the things which we should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in our gates; also let none of us devise evil in our heart against another, nor love perjury; for all these are what I hate,’ declares the LORD.” Zech 8:16-17

  7. Hi a,
    Thank you for your kind words. I am just a work in progress like everyone else, just with a little more work to do than perhaps most other people ;-)
    Regards,
    William

  8. …not certain about ‘heaven-born’ or ‘late in time’, but looking up verses about….

    creatures: herald angels; angelic host; sinners; all ye nations

    creature response: hark; herald; sing; proclaim; hail; behold; join; joyful

    Christ: King; everlasting Lord; incarnate deity, Emmanuel, Godhead veiled in flesh, Man; virgin’s offspring born in Bethlehem; Prince of peace; sun of righteousness; by highest heaven adored; peace on earth; mercy; mild; lays his glory by; light; life; reconcile; man no more may die; raise sons of earth to second birth; healing; triumphs

  9. “Mild he lays his glory by,
    Born that man no more may die.”

    What I find both humbling and sad about these two verses, is that many people today just don’t get it. Pride goes on deceiving many, both believers and non believers alike.

    It’s not about religion, or your opinion, or mine, it is about objective truth. Jesus Christ was born, a verifiable person in history, so much so, that His birth split time and history into BC/AD. If He were not real in history, then why the split in our history? Yet pride deludes us into thinking that we are all that, and know more that the Creator of the universe.

    If it were not for this thing called sin, there would be no reason for God to humble himself, before those created in His image, to redeem mankind from The Law. The Angles don’t have the luxury of a redeemer and are not created in His image, yet we struggle with simple concepts and really think that we are all that.

    How do you deal with a Risen Savior and an empty tomb?

    Where are all of the leaders of other religions? What gift do they offer, what assurance of everlasting life to they bring to the table as a free gift? Will you ever be good, or do, or justify enough to be worthy of forgiveness in this life?

    Jesus Christ is not about religion.

    He came to make a way of having peace with God, and judgment under His Holy Wrath. Jesus Christ is the reason for Christmas, a holiday that we have celebrated thorough history to this day. “Born that man no more may die.” It’s not about religion, it’s about a timeless gift of eternal life. God gives you the gift of choice, “Mild He lays His glory by,” Jesus Christ forces Himself on nobody, rather He went to the cross to save us from the penalty of The Law, yet while we are sinners, Christ died for us.

    God provided a way to life.

    Do you still think that Jesus Christ is about religion? What do you believe, and more importantly, why do you believe what you believe?…

  10. “Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace.”
    I always thought he was born in Bethlehem.

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