Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 16: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley
These are the notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/16/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.
While we hold so much in common, each portion of the Christian family tree celebrates a different aspect of the greatness of God. What does the Methodist branch bring to the party?
- An emphasis on the Journey of Faith, not just the moment of decision
- An emphasis on God’s grace at work in every part of the journey of faith
- Singing the faith
John and Charles Wesley were brilliant at helping persons understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They had a massive publishing business which catered to those who could read. For the uneducated, working poor, they helped them learn the faith by singing it. (It helped those who could read as well!)
The one who put the faith to music was Charles Wesley, John’s younger brother. We had the chance to tour his home in Bristol England. The bottom floor contains a sunny music room. Charles’ children were accomplished musicians. The attic space was Charles’ study where he wrote his sermons and hymn texts. It wasn’t uncommon for Charles to come running into the house asking for his quill and parchment so he wouldn’t lose an idea.
Charles Wesley wrote between 6,000 – 7000 hymn texts, many of which we still sing today.
- O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
- Christ the Lord is Risen Today
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, which was written less than a year after his conversion.
Conversion? Wait a minute.
- The Wesley boys grew up in a parsonage. Their father was a pastor and their mother homeschooled them in both academics and faith.
- They studied theology at Oxford and started a holy club to try to live what Jesus taught.
- They were ordained pastors and served as missionaries in Georgia.
And yet, both men experienced a conversion. Their head knowledge born of studying who God is, the Word of God, and ways of God, turned into a heart and soul relationship.
In 131 Christians Everyone Should Know, Mark Galli reports:
After returning to England, Charles taught English to Moravian Peter Böhler, who prompted Charles to look at the state of his soul more deeply. During May 1738, Charles began reading Martin Luther’s volume on Galatians while ill. He wrote in his diary, “I labored, waited, and prayed to feel ‘who loved me, and gave himself for me.'” He shortly found himself convinced, and journaled, “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoice in hope of loving Christ.” Two days later he began writing a hymn celebrating his conversion.
And Charles kept on writing.
Below you will find the verses of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing with some of the scripture references. Some thoughts…
- The text begins with an invitation for all people, all nations to join the angels in joyous and enthusiastic praise of the birth of Jesus Christ.
- Notice the recurrence of the theme “rise”
- Instead of describing the rest of the Christmas story, Wesley then begins to praise Jesus Christ by naming who He is. This is what praise is at it’s simplest. God you are… Christ, you are…
- At the end of verse 2, Wesley describes both the Incarnation and the dual nature of Christ in just a few words
- In verse 3, the repetition of the word “born” builds momentum while proclaiming what Christ accomplished
- Born that we no more may die
- Born to raise us from the earth (Christ descends that we may rise, death and resurrection, buried with Christ and raised to new life in baptism)
- Born to give us second birth
- Verse 4 is not often included in modern hymnals. The theme shifts from praising Christ to a prayer of response. Come Jesus. Make your home in me. Deliver me from the influence of evil. Let everyone who sees me see the image of God in me. Save me by your love.
There’s an old saying. If you stand in the middle of the garage, that doesn’t make you a car. Examine your heart and soul. Say yes to a real relationship with Jesus Christ.
|Verse 1: Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King; Peace on earth, and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled.”||Luke 2:8-14 (13-14) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”|
|Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.” Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King”||Psalm 67:4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.|
|Verse 2: Christ, by highest heaven adored.||Matthew 3:17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”|
|Christ, the everlasting Lord:||Colossians 1:15-17 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.|
|Late in time behold Him come. Offspring of a virgin’s womb.||Isaiah 7:14 NKJ Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.|
|Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate Deity! Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King.”||John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.|
|Verse 3: Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!||Isaiah 9:6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.|
|Hail the Sun of righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings:||Malachi 4:2 But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
John 1:4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
|Mild He lays His glory by,||Philippians 2:5-7 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.|
|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, “Glory to the new-born King.”||John 3:3 NKJ Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
1 Corinthians 6:14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.
|Verse 4: Come, Desire of nations, come! Fix in us Thy humble home:||Haggai 2:7 NKJ I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.|
|Rise, the woman’s conquering seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head;||Genesis 3:14-15 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”|
|Adam’s likeness now efface, Stamp Thine image in its place: Final Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King.”||1 Corinthians 15:45-49 Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.|
Hallelujah to Jesus!
Born of a woman that we might be born again
Hallelujah to Jesus!
Struck by the full force of evil yet rising victorious,
that we might rise with him.
Hallelujah to Jesus!
Crushing Satan, sin, and death,
that we might know peace and the fullness of life.
Guard us, Anointed One, from every warring way
Deliver us, Liberating King, from every enticing falsehood
Lead us, Lord, to your wisdom and truth
May this grace birth faithfulness and innocence within us
May our new life delight you and honor you
May it better your world and draw many to your saving love. Amen
CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.
The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.
This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.
Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:
- Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
- Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
- Ask yourself:
- What is the big idea?
- Why is it important?
- How does this truth connect with my life?
- Have a conversation with God about this truth.
- Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.
- Journal your reflections
- Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
- Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
- Sing or listen to the song
- Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face
I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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