Forgotten Verses #9: Hark! The Herald Angels Song

During his lifetime, Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns. One of his best-known, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” was composed in 1739. The first three verses are quite familiar:

1. 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 th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Refrain. Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

2. Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

3. Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n 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.

There is plenty of rich theology in those first three verses. But there is even more in verses four and five. How many Christmas carols discuss the protoevangelium—the first proclamation of the Gospel, in Genesis 3:15, where it is promised that the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head?

4. Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Verse 5 continues this thought process:

5. Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine 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,
Formed in each believing heart.

Standing on its own, the verse is strong enough. But how much more deeply it resonates in hearts that treasure this passage, one of the most glorious in all of Scripture:

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly (I Corinthians 15:45-49, KJV).

Now that is delving deeply into the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

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