Hark! The Herald Angel Sings!

Everywhere we go right now, we hear Christmas music. It plays in shopping malls, department stores, and coffee shops as background noise. It’s piped in everywhere, used to sell products, and to spur us to go shopping and give to charities. I find myself singing or humming along with it. I like Christmas music, or at least most of it. A few holiday tunes I could do without. I would like to highlight a few of the carols of the season and reflect on them.

My hope is that these reflections will help you celebrate the reason for the season and have a deeper appreciation for this time of the year.

Today I want to look at My Favorite Christmas Carol. Hark! The Herald Angel Sings!

This Christmas carol first appeared in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, written by Charles Wesley. Not the joyful tune we now expect, a somber man Wesley requested slow and solemn music for his lyrics.

The popular version is the result of alterations by various hands. In 1840, Mendelssohn composed a cantata to commemorate Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, and it is music from this cantata, adapted by the English musician William H. Cummings to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” that propels the carol we know today.

It appears at the end of the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. A triumphant tune is an apt postlude to this film. This carol declares the good news behind Christmas that God became man, humbled himself to be born human and experience human life.  The first section of this carol says it all. Angels sing “Glory to the newborn King! /Peace on earth and mercy mild/God and sinners reconciled”. That tells what the gospel is all about—Jesus became human to reconcile all of creation to God and herald in the Kingdom of God. Jesus the incarnation of the word of God came to show us what it means to really live a human life in communion with God. Jesus does for us what we could never do. He pays our debt and makes a way for us to come to God not as sinners but as children loved by an infinite God.

Joyful, triumph, proclaim, Hail the incarnate Deity—all these words of overwhelming joy declare what is truly good about the good news. God loves us so much to forsake heaven to come down to earth to reconcile all of creation to him. God loves us so much to meet us where we are and guide us to healing, forgiveness, freedom, and blessing. God loves us as we are, but loves us way too much to leave us that way. God graces and blesses us with joy and wonder; God saves us to proclaim the triumph of the incarnate Deity.

This carol succinctly outlines the gospel. Jesus was born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Jesus came so that we may live. Jesus came so that we may live fully, authentic God-honoring lives. Not so that one day we may go to heaven, but that we may have heaven on earth here and now, and later fully enter the Kingdom of God. It starts here and now in the heart and soul of each of us, and our choice to chose the way of Jesus. Jesus is not a ticket to heaven, but a guide to living life as it should be lived. Jesus is not about saving us from this world, but about teaching us to live this life to the full.

When we sing this carol, we are saying that our hope and trust is not in anything of this world, but in our King, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who gives us second birth into eternal life. If this season means anything it means that we are called out of normal life and into eternal lives, that no matter what has happened to us or what we have done Jesus came to bring us eternal life. Jesus calls us away from old life to new life.

I like this carol because it reminds me of who Jesus is and what he brings through his birth, life, death and resurrection.

This is good news!

 Glory to the newborn King!


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