ADVENT: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

Advent means “coming”. We get our word from the Latin “adventus” which is a translation of the Greek “parousia”, which is commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. For followers of Jesus, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.

This year, I want to share a few of the hymns that my family sing to help us focus on the season and bring us closer to the King of Kings who humbled himself to save us all from our rebellious hearts.

Although penned by Charles Wesley in in 1737, this carol did not become what it is today without two unwanted changes. Wesley originally wrote the first line to read “Hark! how all the welkin rings, glory to the King of Kings.” Welkin literally means the “vault of heaven makes a long noise.” It was set to one of Wesley’s melodies and gained favor throughout the Methodist movement. However, when published by his friend, George Whitefield, the first lyric was changed to “Hark? the herald angels sing” without his knowledge. Wesley was mortified at the change and refused to sing it to his dying day.

In 1855, William Cummings took a tune written by Felix Mendelssohn in tribute to Johann Gutenberg “Festgesang an die Knustler”, and combined it with the Whitefield rewrite, creating the carol that we love today. Although not exactly what Wesley had wanted it to be, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” still retains his intended Scriptural integrity and deep meaning.

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.”
Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king.”
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 man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king.”

Author: Damon

Disciple, Husband, Father

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