We would give up everything we've ever written to have penned this one verse, a stanza that comes as close as is humanly possible to capturing the splendor of who Jesus is.Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ, by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola, p. 173-174
What is that one verse? that one stanza? Authors Sweet & Viola are referring to the last stanza of the well-known carol, Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.
In my opinion, however, it isn't just the last stanza that is all glorious with the splendor of Christ...it's the entire song. In fact, even the stanzas that were removed* from the older version are splendid indeed. But I'm getting ahead of the story.
The creation of this classic hymn was not without some conflict and "cut and paste." Apparently, according to my sources (Wikipedia and Christianity Today), there were at least four people involved in its composition:
- Charles Wesley (the original writer, 1739, and founder of Methodism),
- George Whitfield (a fellow student and colleague with Wesley and a Calvinist, who did some of the "cutting and pasting," much to Wesley's chagrin),
- Felix Mendelssohn (a composer who didn't think this piece of music fit for sacred lyrics),
- William H. Cummings (an English musician who in 1855 put the lyrics to Mendelssohn's piece).
But despite all that this piece of sacred music had gone through in its 100+ years of "evolution," it was regarded as one of the Great Four Anglican Hymns and was published in The Church Hymn Book in 1872.
Gordon Giles in his excerpt in Christianity Today, Dec 2007 asserts,
"Hark! the herald angels sing" has become part of the institution of Christmas, and ... it also sounds out some wonderful theology, musically reminding us that Jesus, the "newborn King," is "Prince of Peace," "Sun of Righteousness," "Everlasting Lord," "Incarnate Deity," and, best of all, "Emmanuel" — "God with us." Whatever its creators would have thought about the hymn as it currently stands, it endures as a reminder of the great gift that our Father God has given us in his Son Jesus Christ... Excerpted from O Come Emmanuel: A Musical Tour of Daily Readings for Advent and Christmas. Copyright ©2006 Gordon Giles.
Take a look at this hymn from the Biblical/theological viewpoint. The following is a Bible study my husband, John, developed a few years ago for a small group study. May you be blessed as you meditate and rejoice in Jesus, our Emmanuel, God Incarnate.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!
Hark! The herald angels sing, Luke 2:13 “Glory to the newborn King! Luke 2:14 Peace on earth and mercy mild, Luke 2:14 God and sinners reconciled.” Luke 2 :14; Rom 5:8-11; II Cor 5:18-19 Joyful, all ye nations rise, Luke 2:10; Luke 2:32 Join the triumph of the skies; With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem. Luke 2:11 Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
Christ by highest heaven adored; John 17:23-26; 15:9; 3:35; Matthew 3:17 Christ the everlasting Lord! Luke 2:11 Late in time behold Him come, Galatians 4:4 Offspring of a Virgin’s womb. Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:34,35; Galatians 4:4 Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hebrews 10:20; Romans 8:3; John 1:14 Hail the incarnate Deity. Colossians 2:9 Pleased as man with man to dwell, Philippians 2:5-8 Jesus, our Emmanuel Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Matthew 1:21,25 Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! John 1:14; Isaiah 9:6 Hail the Son of Righteousness! Malachi 4:2 Light and life to all He brings, John 6:35, 8:12, 10:2, 10:11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:5 Ris’n with healing in His wings. Malachi 4:2 Mild He lays His glory by, Philippians 2:5-8 Born that man no more may die John 3:16; 1John 4:9, 3:2 Born to raise the sons of earth; I Corinthians 15:20-28, 35-49; Philippians 3:20-21 Born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
Words: Charles Wesley (1707-88), George Whitfield (1714-70), Music: Mendelssohn, from a chorus by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47), adapted by William H. Cummings
Two versions of this glorious carol...take your pick or enjoy both :)
*Stanzas removed by George Whitfield:
Come, desire of nations, come, Fix in us thy humble home; Rise, the woman's conquering seed, Bruise in us the serpent's head.
Now display thy saving power, Ruin'd nature now restore; Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to thine.
Adam's likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp thy image in its place. Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in thy love.
Let us thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the life, the inner man: O, to all thyself impart, Form'd in each believing heart.
An added tidbit:
George Whitfield changed Wesley's line, "Hark, the herald angels sing! Glory to the King of Kings!" to the current "...Glory to the Newborn King!" What do you think of the change as well as the removed verses (above)?