Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | December 20, 2022

Carol Theology

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:14

I can say with confidence that everyone who loves Christmas also loves Christmas carols. Don’t get me wrong, there are different levels of carol loving. Some of my friends literally start cranking holiday tunes in October. (These are the same friends who are ecstatic when carols start playing at Home Depot and Big Lots around the same time, while the rest of us roll our eyes.) My dad would, without fail, start every day after Thanksgiving with classic carols beckoning us out of bed for tree trimming. Others don’t care to hear these familiar tunes until Christmas Day is a just few days away—you know when they’re scrambling to “get into the Christmas spirit” with last-minute shopping and decorating.

And when thinking of those classic carols, who doesn’t love “Hark! The herald angels sing?” Written by Charles Wesley in 1739 and becoming a standard carol about 100 years later (1857), this popular carol is featured in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” No matter your age, its triumphant melody is one of the prevailing undercurrents of this season.

But, friend, did you realize that this song is more than its familiar tune and well-known verses? “Hark! The herald angels sing” is rock-solid theological truth—it is prophecy revealed, from Genesis to Revelation. It is the Biblically sound description of the Person and work of Jesus Christ, and clearly lays out the why behind His birth. If you want to know the real reason for the season, all you have to do is study this amazing hymn. Although I could spend thousands of words underscoring Biblical theology in each turn of phrase, I’ll just give some overview—but I hope it piques your interest to dive into your Bible and drink in the amazing truths in this song. (You’ll see “homework” Scripture for you to reference with each verse!)

The overarching theme of Wesley’s “Hymn for Christmas Day” (its original name) is simple: The redemption of mankind to glorify God. In the Garden, from Genesis 3, God declared His plan to reconcile us back to Him through a God-Man who would declare victory over Satan and death. God gave us clues (prophecy) throughout the Old Testament pointing to Jesus’s birth, life, sacrificial death, and saving resurrection…and Wesley points to many of these while he praises God for it all—and bids us to join along.

Again, there’s so much packed in each verse! But here are some highlights:

  • Verse 1: Praise God with all of heaven—everyone—because Christ has been born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) to reconcile God and sinners! (Luke 2:14)
  • Verse 2: Jesus came to earth, fully God and fully Man, to dwell with us. He was, as Isaiah prophesied, born to a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14; John 1:14)
  • Verse 3: Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was born to remove the curse of death, to raise us to new life in Him, to transform and renew us. (Isaiah 9:6; Malachi 4:2; John 1:4; Psalm 27:1; Philippians 2:7; Romans 6:4)
  • Verse 4: This verse combines Garden prophesy of Christ’s birth (Gen 3:15) with Isaiah-to-Revelation prophecy when the time comes for all nations to bow, every tongue to confess, and the fallen world/nature to be perfected. (Haggai 2:7; John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 3:17; Isaiah 65:25; Revelation 21-22; 2 Peter 3:13; Galatians 2:20; 1 John 4:13)
  • Verse 5: We are all born into sin, but through Jesus we are transformed—from glory to glory—into the image of Christ. We are lost but are found in Jesus. (1 Corinthians 15:45; Romans 5:12-18; John 3:16)

And, of course, there is every refrain that is shouted with joy between each verse—a beckoning for us to join all of heaven in celebrating God with us, the King of kings, our Savior: “Hark! The herald angels sing! Glory to the newborn King!”

“Father God, may we never cease to focus on You this Christmas, giving glory and praise for the way of reconciliation You made through Jesus Christ—our Emmanuel.”

For His Glory

Julianne Winkler Smith
TRBC Women’s Life

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