Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

By Charles Johnston:

I love Christmas music, but I don’t love modern Christmas music. I don’t have anything against secular Christmas songs like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer or Santa Claus is coming to town but they are far from being my favorites. Their biggest drawback being that they are about Christmas without Christ.

I have several songs that I’d list among my favorites, but only one has the ability to give me goosebumps every time I hear it, and I can’t help but to sing along.

Silent Night, What Child is This?, Adeste Fideles, these are all great songs, but in my opinion they aren’t as great as Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

One of the reasons I love this song is for its moving composition. I think, when performed well, it has the ability to stir the soul of anyone, even non believers. But the main reason that this is my favorite song, and not just Christmas song, is how deeply theological the lyrics are.

Written by the co-founder of the Methodist denomination, Charles Wesley, who was himself a great lover of scripture, this song is steeped in scriptural references.

If we took a few moments and slowly read through the lyrics we can see a miniaturized gospel, and a great tool for evangelization.

Here’s the lyrics with my scripture and catechism references inserted in parentheses. Take a few moments to look up each one, and you’ll appreciate this song for the masterpiece that it truly is:

Hark! the herald angels sing,

(Luke 2:13-14)

“Glory to the newborn King!”

(Matthew 2:2 & CCC 560)

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

(Luke 2:14)

God and sinners reconciled

(John 3:17 & CCC 517)

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

Join the triumph of the skies;

(Philippians 2:10 & CCC 446-450)

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:

Christ, the everlasting Lord;

(Luke 2:11, Mark 1:1, Rev 4:8-11)

Late in time behold him come,

(Galatians 4:4 & CCC 422, 484)

Offspring of a Virgin’ womb.

(Matthew 1:23-25, Luke 1:34 & CCC 497)

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;

Hail, the incarnate Deity:

Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,

(John 1:14 & CCC 423, 463)

Jesus, our Emmanuel!

(Matthew 1:23 & CCC 744

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail! the heavenly born Prince of peace!

(Isaiah 9:6)

Hail! the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all he brings,

Risen with healing in his wings

(Malachi 4:2)

Mild he lays his glory by,

(Philippians 2:6-7 & CCC 470)

Born that man no more may die:

Born to raise the sons of earth,

(John 11:24-25 & CCC 1002)

Born to give them second birth.

(John 3:3 & CCC 526)

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King!”

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