Monday, December 7, 2009

Truth In The Songs Of Christmas


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 or
Christianity is beneath 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.

Angels We Have Heard On High

Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the
plains, and the mountains, in reply, echo back their joyous strains. Gloria in
excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains
prolong? Say what may the tidings be which inspire your heavenly song? Gloria
in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels
sing. Come, adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn King. Gloria in
excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

See within a manger laid Jesus, Lord of heav’n and
earth! Mary, Joseph, lend your aid. With us sing our Savior’s birth. Gloria in
excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

An ancient tradition of shepherds in southern France was
to call to one another from the hilltops during the Christmas season, singing
the angelic phrase “Gloria in excelsis Deo!”, which translated from Latin
means, “Glory to God in the highest!” Although they used the same tune we now
sing, the verses were added years after this tradition began.

The word Jubilee is commonly accepted today as a term for
celebration. In Leviticus 25, it is a time during which property is given back
to its original owner. Although probably unintentional in the author's writing
of this text, it is interesting to note that Christ came to give us back the
life we threw away by sinning.

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 understandable. 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. As
a man, Christ was still part of the Godhead, but “veiled in flesh”. He was
content to live as a man among men; To be Emmanuel, “God with

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

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. My 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.

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. O come
ye, o come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, born the King of angels. O
come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ
the Lord.

God of God, and Light of Light begotten. Lo, He abhors
not the virgin’s womb. Very God, begotten, not created. O come let us adore
Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels. Sing in exultation! O sing all
ye citizens of heav’n above. Glory to God, all glory in the highest. O come let
us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning.
Jesus to Thee be all glory giv’n. Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. O
come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ
the Lord.

If you are one of the faithful, or one “full of faith” in
the Lord, you can come into the Christmas season full of Joy, because Christ
has made it possible for you to know God personally. You can also celebrate the
season with a sense of triumph, because you know that Christ has given you
victory over death. For this reason, we begin this song singing “Come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant.

This song is a call to worship for all believers. We’re to
come and “adore” Him. To worship and honor Him, recognizing that he is God.
We’re to focus our minds on the baby who, amazingly, was born a King. And not
just any king, but the King of angels. Angels.... terrifying, awe-inspiring
cosmic creatures with power beyond our ability to imagine, trembled and
worshiped in the presence of this baby Jesus.

The second verse attempts to describe the eternal nature
of Christ, along with His complete humanity. He is God and He is Light, yet he
was willing to sit inside a womb. Like us, He was “begotten” or “caused by an
effect”. Unlike us, He was not created. Simply wrestling with that paradox
reminds me of the incomprehensible nature of Christ’s being.

In the third verse, it is unclear exactly who is implied
by the “citizens of heaven”, but is exciting to think that those we have lost
that are now with Christ are worshiping Him with us whenever we express our
love and adoration for Jesus. In that way, whenever we have a worship service,
ALL believers are joined together.

In John 1, we are told that “The Word” created everything
that is. Everything that exists anywhere was made by “The Word”. The final
verse of this song reminds us that the creator of reality itself became flesh
and bone. Even if He had done nothing else but that, He would deserve our
unending praise. This song doesn’t even call attention to what He has done, but
calls us to adore Him simply for who He is.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel that
morns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!

O come Thou Rod of Jesse. Free Thine own from satan’s
tyranny. From depths of hell Thy people save and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.
Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by
Thine advent here, and drive away the shades of night and pierce the clouds and
bring us light! Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!

O come Thou Key of David, come and open wide our
heav’nly home. Make safe the way that leads on high and close the path to
misery. Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!

O come, Desire of nations. Bind all peoples in one
heart and mind. Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease. Fill all the world with
heaven’s peace. Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!

O come Thou Wisdom from on high and order all things
far and nigh. To us the path of knowledge show and cause us in Thy way to go.
Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!

This song finds its origins in medieval monasteries, where
the numerous verses were originally sung by specific monks, during specific
days before Christmas, without the refrain “Rejoice, rejoice…” which was added
later. It highlights various prophecies about Jesus from the Old Testament:

The first verse remembers Israel's prayer that the Messiah
would come and “ransom” them from their captivity to Babylon.

The "Rod of Jesse" reference is from Isaiah
11:1.  A rod or a shoot would grow from
the line of Jesse, and He would be filled with the Holy Spirit and rule with
fairness and righteousness.

"Dayspring" comes from Zechariah’s prophecy in
Luke 1:78-79. Zechariah said that because of God’s mercy, a light from heaven
would come to show us the path to peace. Light from heaven is translated as
Dayspring in the King James, a reference to the sunrise.

"Key of David" is first referenced in Isaiah
22:22. The Key was a symbol of authority, allowing you to grant or block
access, and the one who had the Key of David had the highest authority. This
verse reminds us that Christ has the power and authority to grant access to

The phrase “Desire of Nations” comes from Haggai 2:7,
where God speaks of both the temple and the Messiah who would be present on
earth with us.

In 1 Corinthians 1:30, it’s said that “For our benefit God
made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God.
He made us pure and holy, and He gave Himself to purchase our freedom.”

As I sing this song, I think of Israel today, and how as a
whole, they have rejected Christ and are still waiting for the Messiah. When we
think of this song now, we can change the word “shall” to “has”, and pray that
God’s chosen nation would recognize their Savior, and that He has ransomed
their lives with His own.

Silent Night! Holy Night!

Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright
‘round yon virgin mother and Child. Holy Infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly

Silent night! Holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight:
Glories stream from heaven afar, heav’nly hosts sing “Alleluia! Christ the
Savior is born!”

Silent night! Holy night! Son of God, love pure light,
radiant, beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus, Lord
at Thy birth.


night, holy night. All is dark, save the light shining where the mother mild
watches over the holy child. Sleep in heavenly peace.

night, holy night. Shepherds first saw the sight, heard the angels song,
“alleluia”, loud proclaiming near and far. “Christ our savior is here.”

night, holy night, God's own son, oh, how bright shines the love in thy holy
face, shines the light of redemption and grace. Christ the incarnate God.

This text is translated from the original German text of
“Stille Nacht”. I believe this song has been misunderstood, as many Hymns have,
because the musical phrasing does not lend itself to comprehension of the
sentence structure.  I have included
another translation from the same German text. To better understand the
traditional translation, I would also humbly offer this paraphrase, which will
hopefully express what I believe to be the original meaning of the traditional

Paeter's Paraphrase:

Silent night, holy night. Everything is calm, and yet
everything is bright around this virgin mother and her Child.

Tender, holy and mild Infant, Sleep. Sleep with a peace
that is like the peace experienced in heaven.

Shepherds shake with fear at the sight of glorious beams
of light from heaven. Meanwhile, angels sing “Alleluia! Christ the savior has
been born!”

Son of God, the pure light of love is beaming radiantly
from your holy face. It’s beaming with the beginning of grace that will be
given to redeem the world. From the moment you were born, Jesus, You were Lord
over everything.

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