Hark the Herald Angels Sing: Part II
Charles Wesley’s Christmas Hymn Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, is so rich that we only managed to get through the first verse last time, so let’s take another swing at it.
Christ by highest heav’n adored
When we left off last week we were joining in with heaven in triumph, praising Jesus. Wesley continues that theme in the next verse by reminding us that Christ is adored by highest heaven. When we read Revelation’s worship passages we see some of that adoration at work with saints and angels worshiping, praising and casting crowns before Him. This is a wonderful scene to contemplate and even emulate down here. It would serve to enhance our worship. But I would also posit that Wesley’s phrasing could also express that the adoration of highest heaven includes the love of the Father. Jesus talked repeatedly about how much His Father loved Him. Since God is love, the Trinity has existed in a state of perfect mutual love forever. No one could look upon the Son with more affection than the Father. It is important remember that scripture tells us if we love the Father we will love His children, particularly His Son. This is why those who profess to love God, but do not love the Son are doomed. We cannot truly love God if we don’t love Jesus.
Late in time behold Him come
When we think about how long humanity waited for His first coming, it doesn’t appear we’ve waited all that long yet for His return. God’s fullness of time is not ours. We are so finite and He is Ancient of Days. But His words are true, and He kept His promise about the first coming, so we hold on in faith for His promised return. While we don’t know much about the coming event, we can look back at the first one and know it will be as filled with the unexpected as the first. Yet the one who came as a vulnerable baby will return as a conquering king. The one who came in obscurity will return in a way that every eye will behold Him. He whose glory was veiled in flesh back then will be radiant with glory when He returns. Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess He is Lord.
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel
Here Wesley shifts a bit from the exalted to the humble, reminding us once again that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us—pleased as man with men to dwell. He not only came down to us, as a God walking among us, but as a man—incarnated in our flesh, taking on our form and bearing our sin, bearing it away from us. The humility of God to stoop to this! Can we grasp the wonder? This is exactly why God hates pride, because it is the antithesis of who He is, and what He has done for us.
Hail the heav’n born prince of peace! Hail the Son of righteousness! Light and life to all He brings
Wesley goes on to the next verse with more praises of some of Christ’s other names—Prince of Peace and Son of Righteousness. The many names and characteristics of Jesus are well worth our contemplation and worship. They help us see the many facets of Him to adore. He is the bringer of light and life. Apart from Him we would be dead and in the dark. He is not just a light—one among many. He is the light. We should work to not take for granted that we have been given His light—not just for ourselves, but have been entrusted with His light in a dark world. He is, likewise, the only source of life. “He that has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life.” The majority of people in the world are dead men walking. It is a tremendous mercy of God that we have been given life.
There is so much more left in this hymn to contemplate, I encourage you to find an old hymnal or go on line and search for the lyrics of this carol, and spend some time just soaking in the rich truths in these lyrics. I believe it will refresh your heart and the way you sing this old, familiar hymn.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries