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Hark the Herald Angels Sing

EDITOR’S NOTE: As the Christmas/Advent season is in full bloom, BaptistMessenger.com is sharing this article series by Keith Getty to help readers learn more about the great carols that are being sung this time of year. From Dec. 2 through Dec. 12, an article will be published each day. The Baptist Messenger hopes this series will enrich the holiday season for you, as you celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

 

Charles Wesley’s vision for “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” was, ironically, to be a somber carol. Yet the wonderfully triumphant melody written by Felix Mendelssohn, a German-Jewish composer, turns it into a celebration.

Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled

In this Christmas carol, the lyrics don’t just focus on the birth of Jesus but weave in the foundational purpose behind the incarnation—to reconcile people to God and bring them back into relationship with Him.

George Whitfield may have done an edit to this carol later on, but in essence, it is Wesley’s brilliant lyrics that impart such timeless truths so powerfully. Wesley displays such skill in his lyric writing and achieves something that not many modern worship songs achieve. Everything sings off the tongue so perfectly, and the way in which he constructs each line, and his very exacting choice of words, appeal to all the senses.

The other thing that Wesley does brilliantly—and this is something that modern hymn writer Stuart Townsend does brilliantly too—he knows when to hit his home run; the last verses are always so climatic and take you up to a new level of adoration and wonder.

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!

It’s amazing to think how many millions of people over the last 280 years have sung the Gospel and understood it on some level, thanks to the brilliant artistry of Charles Wesley.

It’s a hymn that, in just three verses, presents the Gospel succinctly yet very effectively. First, we exalt at Christ’s birth and join with the angels as they worship the Christ-child, the One through whom God is reconciling all people to Himself.

Then we are reminded of Jesus’ heavenly glory and His divinity. The precious incarnation—the one who ‘laid His glory by’ in order to rescue and redeem.

Christ by highest Heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!

And finally, to His resurrection.

Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings

And we are drawn to focusing our minds on what His birth, death and resurrection has achieved—new birth, new life and an eternal destination that is available to all.

The carol really does encompass a simple and engaging presentation of the Gospel that makes it such a crucial part of our witness and declaration of God’s plan of salvation at Christmas time. It’s an invitation to anyone who will accept it to see beyond the baby in a manger and accept the new life and hope that, through Jesus, we can experience every day.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Baptist Messenger of OklahomaTo get tickets for Sing! An Irish Christmas tour head over to: https://www.gettymusic.com/christmas

Author: Keith Getty

Keith and Kristyn Getty occupy a unique space in the world of music today as preeminent modern hymn writers. In re-inventing the traditional hymn form, they are creating and cultivating a catalogue of songs teaching Christian doctrine and crossing the genres of traditional, classical, folk and contemporary composition which are sung the world over. In 2017, Keith Getty was made an “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to "music and modern hymn writing," marking the first time the award had been given to an individual involved in the world of contemporary church music.

View more articles by Keith Getty.

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