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The Meaning Behind Classic Christmas Carols - Hark the Herald Angels Sing



If you've read the previous post in this series, where I broke down the classic Christmas song, "Joy to the World". I learned so much, and it's my prayer that you would be encouraged by it as well.


Today, I'm going to be diving into the song, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing".


John Wesley wrote this Christmas song, along with over 6,000 other hymns. His mission in all of the songs he wrote was to teach theology to those who couldn't read, and that message is incredibly clear in all of the lyrics. This song explains the birth of Jesus, while also containing a similar reminder as "Joy to the World": the eternal impact of His entrance into the world.


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 angelic host proclaim "Christ is born in Bethlehem" Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn king"


This first verse illustrates the angels worshipping the birth of this Savior in Bethlehem, but there are a few things that really, really stick out to me.


First off, I want to clarify that "herald" means a messenger or an indicator that something major is about to happen. The angels that Wesley describes throughout this song are actually both: messengers of the good news of Jesus' birth, and an indicator of who Jesus will become and what He will do for all of humanity.


Jesus is repeatedly called the "newborn king", a reminder of who He truly is - the Savior of the world, Immanuel, God with us. Even at His birth, He is the king, and even as a newborn, He deserves to be (and is) worshipped as the king.


Because Jesus is the King, that means that as Christians, we can have the "peace on earth" that Wesley describes. We know that He is in control, that He reigns, and that He is walking alongside us in every moment, we can have peace despite our situation. Because Jesus is the King, God and sinners are reconciled. Jesus' birth is the first step in a huge, huge plan for us to have the opportunity to have a relationship with God, the creator of the universe.


Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings Risen 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 verse of the song points to what Jesus will do later on in His ministry. It's honestly so beautiful, the way that Wesley ties in Jesus's death and resurrection with His birth, and how that transforms everything for us.


The song describes how Jesus was born so no man would die, so that we would have a second birth. He died so that we could have hope in eternity, where death doesn't have the final word, and where we have an opportunity to have a second birth through the Holy Spirit and become a new creation (1 Corinthians 5:17). It also talks about how He is "risen with healing in His wings", reminding us of His resurrection and how that offers healing and redemption to all of us who believe and accept it.


Jesus' entire story is intertwined with purpose and intentionality. His birth occurs with the intention of His death, His death occurs with the intention of His resurrection, and His resurrection occurs with the intention of a relationship with Him. All of it weaves together so carefully, a grand plan to reconcile God with all of humanity. That is what this verse of the song illustrates so beautifully.


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 angelic host proclaim "Christ is born in Bethlehem" Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn king" "Glory to the newborn king"


This final verse is identical to the first one, with the same message, but I really want to highlight the praise and joy. There is such awe and wonder towards this baby king, such hope and triumph. When I first discussed this verse, I broke down specific parts of what it was saying, but right now, I want to recognize the emotion around these lyrics.


Note the "tone" words, as my English teacher would call it, that indicate all of the feeling behind this verse. Sing, glory, peace, mercy, reconcilled, joyful, rise, triumph, proclaim.


Those words, I think they say a lot for themselves. The birth of Jesus is miraculous, an answered prayer, a renewed hope for all of the Jews who had been waiting on God for so long. This birth was a reason for loud, triumphant praise, because the redemption that they were waiting on had finally come - not in a way they expected, but in a perfectly intentional and beautiful way.


This verse moves us to approach the Lord with the same passionate, grateful praise, because of all that Christ has done for us and the ways that our lives have been transformed into images of His love. When I read these lyrics, I can feel the joy and excitement that the angels and Jewish people must have had when they received the news that Jesus was born, and it makes me want to walk into worship with the same renewed energy.

 

This is the second post in the series, "The Meaning Behind Classic Christmas Carols", and I'm learning so much! If you haven't already, go ahead and check out the first post on "Joy to the World". There are two more posts coming up, leading to Christmas, and I can't wait to share what the Lord has been teaching me lately!


What did you learn from this post? Do you have any post recommendations for the new year? Let me know down in the comments below!

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