Summary: Examines "Come All Ye Faithful" and Hebrews 1. Hymn speaks of much more than birth of Jesus, it calls us to worship Jesus because He is divine. YES, THE INTRO STORY IS ALL TRUE.
Christmas Eve 1990. I came this close to being physically thrown out of church.
We were new to town and we heard that a certain church in town had a fantastic Christmas Eve service. So, we went with some friends, about ten of us total, to this church in downtown Princeton, New Jersey. The church was packed and we were looking forward to a wonderful night.
Our first clue that something was a little off was when the usher gave us the night’s bulletin and warned us that there would be absolutely no talking before, during or after the service. Huh, we thought.
We were chided several times by an usher to quit whispering, and this was before the service started.
Just before the service started, an associate pastor came out and requested that those in the congregation please refrain from singing, for the paid professional choir found it difficult to perform with unprofessional singing.
I am not making this up.
Well, the service started with the hymn “Come All Ye Faithful”. Who can resist singing “Come All Ye Faithful”? The now familiar usher appeared and hushed our unprofessional row right up. He was quite menacing.
The second hymn was “Hark The Herald Angels Sing”. I have to admit, the choir was quite good, but unlike the rest of the congregation our row couldn’t resist singing and we jumped in on the second verse. Immediately our usher was upon us, this time giving us our final warning. “One more time, and you are out”, he quietly scolded us.
It was miserable. This usher would stroll by our pew every few minutes and give us a piercing glare. Christmas hymn, after Christmas hymn, and we couldn’t sing a word. We were like prisoners in our pew. Did we really sing that poorly? Finally, the service was ending, our candles were lit and the hymn “Silent Night” was just beginning. Well, I ask you, who can resist singing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve? It is irresistible.
Soon a heavy hand fell upon my shoulder, “You have to leave, son, your singing again”. It was our ever vigilant usher. I didn’t move. Again, I heard, “You have to leave, son, your singing again”. At this point we were on the last verse of “Silent Night” and in unified Christmas Eve defiance, our whole row started to sing. We sang the hymn with ever increasing gusto. Would the usher make a scene? Would we be physically dragged out of church for our clearly unprofessional singing? Would we be banned from Christmas Eve Service forever?
Perhaps it dawned on the usher that this was Christmas Eve; Perhaps the usher’s bark was worse than his bite, or perhaps the joy of Christmas came upon the usher that at that very moment, I’ll never know – but our usher relented and returned to his post.
We finished the hymn, extinguished our candles, and headed for the door, where we were met by the usher who had pestered us all evening, he shook our hands and exclaimed, “Merry Christmas, please join us for Sunday Service this next week”.
We went to the church across the street the next Sunday.
We have been looking at some of the favorite Christmas hymns this Advent season and today we are taking a look at the theology expressed in the hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful”. This morning we will be looking at what the hymn is really saying. Some of you may find it helpful to have both your hymnal open to “Come All Ye Faithful” and your bible open to our Scripture from Hebrews chapter 1.
“O Come All Ye Faithful” was originally written in Latin by John Wade, but was mercifully translated into English by the good reverend Fredrick Oakley in 1841. John Reading composed the music for the hymn in 1751 and we have it in its present form today.
One of the great ironies of our day is that even people who are adamantly against Jesus Christ and all He stands for, can’t resist singing “O Come All Ye Faithful”. Even if under duress from a menacing usher, people cannot resist singing, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, and in so singing, they offer worship to Jesus Christ.
This great hymn speaks not only of the birth of Jesus but also the divinity of Jesus. This hymn describes the birth of Jesus that is described in Luke Chapter 2 which was read at our Advent candle lighting earlier. If you look at the first part of the hymn, you’ll see that we are invited to worship Jesus Christ. Why are we invited to worship? Not for all that Jesus promises, not for Jesus’ great teaching, but for His divinity.
We see that Jesus is God of God, light of light, begotten and not created, Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing – all references to the divinity of Jesus Christ, all references to the fact that Jesus is God himself. Right up front in the hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful” it is declared that Jesus is “born the king of angels” - another reference to His divinity. If you will turn with me to our Scripture in the book of Hebrews chapter one we’ll see what it means to be born king of angels.