HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING
Charles Wesley, 1707–1788
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)
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 17th and early 18th centuries. Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” 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 6,500 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 verses 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 200 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 new-born 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!” Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born 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 God-head see; hail th’ incarnate Deity, pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born 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 new-born King.”
For Today: Matthew 2:1–12; Luke 2:1–7, 14
Be so in tune with the exultant song of the angels during this Christmas time that others may see and hear that Christ dwells with you.
Osbeck, K. W.
- When Jesus then was born at Bethlehem in Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Wise men from the East to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is the King of the Jews that is born? for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him. When king Herod heard this he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And gathering together all the chief Priests and Scribes of the people, he asked of them, where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, At Bethlehem in Judea: for so it is written by the Prophet, And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah, art not the least among the Princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come the governor that feed my people Israel. Then Herod privily called the Wise men, and diligently inquired of them the time of the star that appeared, And sent them to Bethlehem, saying, Go, and search diligently for the babe: and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come also, and worship him. So when they had heard the king, they departed: and lo, the star which they had seen in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over the place where the babe was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with an exceeding great joy. And went into the house, and found the babe with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him, and opened their treasures, and presented unto him gifts, even gold, and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1–12)
- And it came to pass in those days, that there came a decree from Augustus Caesar, that all the world should be taxed. (This first taxing was made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) Therefore went all to be taxed, every man to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of a city called Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David,) To be taxed with Mary that was given him to wife, which was with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first begotten son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a cratch, because there was no room for them in the inn. Glory be to God in the high heavens, and peace in earth, and toward men good will. (Luke 2 :1–7, 14)