Look! The angels of the Lord are singing!

We sang “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” at church tonight, and I love the text, but it’s particularly not easy to understand. Charles Wesley wrote this text in 1739, during the time of his brother’s Moravian period, so they both were writing with Moravian influences. This specifically meant that their hymn texts that expressed theology, and their tunes were meant to be very singable by congregations, while being melodic and tuneful.

Since there’s so much theology packed into this hymn, let’s take a minute and look at it translated into layman’s terms.

Hark! The herald angels sing,        Look! The angels, messengers of the Lord, are singing,
“Glory to the newborn king.            “Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,     They sing of the coming peace on earth, and mercy to the mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”         And the coming reconciliation between sinners on earth and the Lord!”
Joyful all ye nations, rise;               Nations, rise up in joy at this news!
join the triumph of the skies;          join the triumph of these singing angels, whose song fills the skies.
with the angelic host proclaim,       with the Lord’s angels proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”        “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! The herald angels sing,        Look! The angels, messengers of the Lord, are singing,
“Glory to the newborn king.”           “Glory to the newborn King!

Christ, by highest heaven adored,   Christ is adored by the highest heaven,
Christ the everlasting Lord,             Christ is the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,          The world has been waiting for him for a long time, so check him out-
offspring of the virgin’s womb.         offspring of the virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;    See God’s presence within this baby;
hail the incarnate deity,                   Praise God embodied in this human form,
pleased in flesh with us to dwell,     He is glad that he can dwell with us in flesh,
Jesus, our Emmanuel. [Refrain]      Jesus, our God is with us. 

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!  Praise to the Prince of Peace who was born of heaven and sent to earth.
Hail the son of righteousness!        Praise to the son of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,         He brings light and life to all,
risen with healing in his wings.       He has the power to heal the world.
Mild he lays his glory by,                He is not flashy about the glory that he has,
born that we no more may die,       Even though he’s been born so we will no longer die, so it’s a pretty big deal.
born to raise us from the earth,      born so that we will be resurrected with him when he comes again,
born to give us second birth. [Refrain]    born so we can be born again in him.

The text is very poetic, and more helpfully, the poetic text rhymes, but it’s often easy to just sing words that we don’t quite understand and lose sight of what we’re singing about. The message in this hymn is pretty awesome, so the next time you get to sing this hymn, stop and think about what you’re singing!

Merry Christmas 🙂


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