Summary: Christmas Carol Series #1 Hark the Herald Angels Sing teaches theology, Christology, and soterology in its stanzas.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Christmas Carol Series #1
(adapted from Michael Luke & Bob Russell)
SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 2:8-20
The TEXT from Luke chapter 2 is a very familiar passage. Even people who never crack open the Bible had a chance to hear it in the Charley Brown Christmas Special where Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas by reading those verses.
The Christmas Carols we sang today are also very familiar to most people. Most of us sing Carols at least once a year --- usually in December for some reason… In fact, a lot of the Christmas Carols become so familiar that we sing them without really hearing what we’re singing. So for the next few weeks, I’m going to focus on the theology of a few familiar Christmas Carols. Today, we’ll look at HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING.
The tune for this classic song was written by Felix Mendelssohn in 1840. The words were written by Charles Wesley. Charles and his brother John Wesley were pioneers in the Methodist Church. In his life time Charles Wesley wrote over 6,500 hymns. This text, --- along with “Jesus, Lover of my Soul” --- are considered to be the finest hymn lyrics Wesley wrote.
And, in fact, HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING has sometimes been named the most popular hymn in the English language.
This hymn is based on the scripture from Luke chapter 2 where the Angels appeared to the shepherds. The first verse focuses on this unique BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT.
1. The 1st Stanza Focuses On THE BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT
--“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 hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King.”
Consider with me, the two participants that are featured in the first stanza: The angels and the shepherds.
It is fitting that this most important birth was proclaimed by Supernatural Beings. I’ve seen a lot of depictions of the Angelic Host, but I doubt any of them are quite accurate. Only the Shepherds could have painted an accurate portrait … but they were Shepherds, not Artists.
The Bible has a lot to say about Angels. In fact, Angels are mentioned 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament. --- The way the Bible portrays Angels is very different from popular conceptions of feminine creatures with sweet faces, shining halos, and fragile wings.
Here is a Biblical Portrait of Angels:
o They are Spirit beings, created before mankind. They are a little higher than human beings with powers beyond human powers. They can appear and disappear in a moment.
o These beings serve and worship God voluntarily. We know this because one of the most beautiful and powerful angels --- Lucifer --- rebelled against God and led a Host of Angels who became what we call Demons.
o Angels can appear to human beings in many different forms.
Isaiah described them as having six wings and flying.
On some occasions, they appeared as Beings of overwhelming light. In fact, they almost always inspired awe and fear so that their first words had to be “Fear not…”
They sometimes appeared like ordinary men. In fact, the book of Hebrews describes Angels who look so much like normal human beings that people have entertained them without recognizing their supernatural identity.
Angels are most often sent as God’s Messengers, and the News they give is usually Good. In this case it was better than good. It was the best news that has ever been proclaimed. We don’t know how many Angels were in the choir that night. But the Bible says the Angels number, “Ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands.” Revelation 5:11 And Luke said this was a great company of the Heavenly Hosts.
To the Shepherds, it must have been an astounding sight. But the Angels may have felt like this BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT was vastly understated. After all, this was the most significant event in all of human history. Like the 1st Stanza says, this Child had come to bring Peace on earth, and mercy mild. At last, it would be possible for God and sinners to be reconciled. It is no wonder that Wesley exclaimed: Joyful all Ye Nations rise. Join the triumph of the skies. With angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem.
The Angels must have wondered why this Great News was not proclaimed to all Nations of the World. Why didn’t God accompany the announcement with world-wide spectacles like thunder and lightening, meteor showers --- maybe a lunar eclipse and a few erupting volcanoes … anything to make the whole world take notice!