Something a little different today...
All too often, during the Christmas season, we find ourselves breezing through Christmas carols without understanding or stopping to ponder their meanings. Between over-familiarity, archaic language and obscure Biblical and historical references, some Christmas carols may make us "feel good" in a sentimental sort of way, but beyond that their power to penetrate our hearts is lost.
We've done a little historical and biblical research on a few Christmas carols that we thought you might enjoy. Paeter will share his research on seven during next week's podcast, but here are three right now to get your mind working and focused on the Truth, even as you do some last minute "panic shopping". We hope you enjoy!
Hark The Herald Angels Sing
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 heav’n 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 men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel. Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"
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. Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"
This song is filled to the brim with wonderful truth. It is first helpful to understand the old English which can keep us from hearing the message of this song. Ironically, that is the exact opposite effect the author would prefer. The original first line read, "Hark how all the welkin rings", but as the language became dated, Charles Wesley, author of the text, made changes to modernize it and make it more accessable. A few other hands were involved in further modifications in keeping with the times. However at some point, despite previous efforts on the author's part,tradition locked it into its current state.
"Hark" comes from the word harken, which means "listen". A herald is an announcement. So to "Hark the herald angels sing" means to "listen to the announcement" the angels sing. And in this song, the announcement is the Good News in a nutshell: God and sinners are being reconciled. The relationship between them is being repaired. This is news worth getting excited about! It means that mankind, by the power of Christ, can have triumph over death, hence the "triumph of the skies" we are encouraged to join in celebrating. The second verse talks about the mystery and wonder of God becoming man. Christ, who is adored in heaven, who is the eternal, everlasting Lord, was born into flesh. Christ was part of the Godhead, but "veiled in flesh". He was content to live as a man among men; To be Emmanuel, "God with us".
The last verse makes reference to Christ’s coming judgment by quoting Malachi 4:1-2. The Lord warns of the coming judgment where the wicked will be burned up and completely consumed, but for those who fear the name of the Lord, the "Sun of Righteousness" will rise "with healing in his wings", and will set free those who believe in the Lord. How is this possible? It was Christ’s mission, as the rest of the verse explains. Paraphrased, it says:
Mildly, the eternal God laid down his infinite glory, and was born so that man would not have to die anymore. He was born to raise humanity (the sons of earth) from the dead, and give them a second birth. For this reason, listen to the announcement the angels sing, "Glory to the King of the Universe, who has just been born."
Joy To The World! The Lord Is Come
Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing.
Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ while fields and floods, rocks hills and plains repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.
Based on themes in Psalm 98, this is not really a "Christmas" song. Psalm 98 is in anticipation of Christ coming to rule the earth. Our favorite verse is the third. When sin came into the world, death came with it, effecting not just people, but the world in which we live. One day, Christ will make a new earth, where there will be no sin and no corruption in nature, such as the thorns that infest the ground. He will make his blessings flow wherever the curse of sin is found, and death will be eradicated.
Angels From The Realms Of Glory
Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth. Ye who sang creation’s story, now proclaim Messiah’s birth! Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ the newborn king!
Shepherds in the fields abiding, watching o’er your flocks by night, God with man is now residing. Yonder shines the infant light. Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ the newborn king!
Sages, leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar. Seek the great desire of nations. Ye have seen his natal star. Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ the newborn king!
Saints before the altar bending, watching long in hope and fear, suddenly the Lord, descending, in His temple shall appear. Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ the newborn king!
Although the title suggests a song focusing on the angels of Christmas, each verse focuses on a different group from the Christmas story, including present day believers who now anticipate Christ’s coming to judge the world. (Malachi 3:1)
The phrase "desire of nations" comes from Haggai 2:7, where God speaks of both the temple and the Messiah. This song reminds me that the truth of God becoming a man is for all. Cosmic angelic creatures, blue collar workers leading simple lives, philosophers who may think Christ is below their complex contemplations, and believers, who place faith and hope in Christ’s promise to come and remake the world. All are called to come and worship Christ, the King of the Universe.