Oh yeah, we’re going back to a classic! Hymn #119 in Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
This hymn was written by the one and only Charles Wesley in 1739. Felix Mendelssohn composed the music in 1840, and the version we know now was arranged by William Hayman Cummings in 1855. The hymn was most recently copyrighted in…I actually can’t find copyright information for it. No worries. Let’s sing!
(Also this is another one of those songs where you just HAVE to hear the soprano descant.)
1 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 the angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn king!”
2 Christ, by highest heaven 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 in flesh with us to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel. [Refrain]
3 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 we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth. [Refrain]
This hymn starts with the sweet baby Jesus and immediately launches into a listing of all of his redemptive characteristics. Now that we have established that the Messiah is born, here are all the things he is meant to do:
- Restore the relationship between God and humanity (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
- Embody God (John 1:1-2, 14)
- Reign as Lord (Philippians 2:10-11)
- Be the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
- Be a humble servant (Philippians 2:6-8)
- Resurrect us to eternal life with God (Romans 6:5)
In this hymn, the angels are rejoicing, because finally, the promised Messiah–the child who will grow up to quite literally save the world–has been born. This child embodies the paradox of ruler and servant. He has come to make the world right again. And most importantly, he is God with us.