It is Christmas season and we sing many Christmas carols. However, most of the carols we sing are about Santa Claus or worldly love instead of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. In hymnal, we are able to find beautiful songs which contain the true meaning of Christmas – celebrating the Savior’s birth. One of them is “Hark! The Herald Angels sing.” And there is a behind story for this hymn.
Christmas carols as we know them now were abolished by the English Puritan parliament in 1627 because they were a part of a “worldly festival,” which they considered the celebration of Christmas to be. As a result, there was a scarcity of Christmas hymns and carols in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley was one of the few written during this period. Wesley’s fine text and the melody by master composer Felix Mendelssohn have given this hymn its great popularity and its standing as a classic among Christmas songs.
Like many of Charles Wesley’s more than sixty-five hundred hymns, this text clearly presents biblical doctrine in poetic language. The first stanza describes the song of the angels outside Bethlehem with an invitation to join them in praise of Christ. The following stanzas present the truths of the virgin birth, Christ’s deity, the immortality of the soul, the new birth, and a prayer for the transforming power of Christ in our lives.
For more than two hundred years, believers have been enlightened and blessed by the picturesque manner in which Charles Wesley has retold the truths of our Savior’s birth.
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 hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hail the heav’n born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n 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
(Devotional credit: Angela Lee, The Christian Post )