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I love Christmas music. I will listen to Christmas music any time of the year. I think any Christmas song or hymns worth singing in December is worth singing all year ’round. I’d like to share some of my favorites as we anticipate Christmas, and my hope is that studying their history and inspiration will help make our Christmas celebrations even more exciting and worshipful this year.

Angels are a tricky subject. Born in the 80s and a child of the 90s, I remember well the fascination with guardian angels. Angels play an important role in the Christmas story, and so naturally have several hymns that focus on their part. “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “Angels from the Realm of Glory” are two that immediately come to mind.

While those other two hymns focus more on the angels themselves, and while they are very pretty and fun to sing, I like how “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” keeps the singer’s attention on the Jesus himself, with the angels specifically being referenced only for their part in announcing his arrival.

The origins of the hymn are easier to trace than some others. The lyrics were written especially for Christmas by Charles Wesley in 1739 (and tweaked by George Whitefield, which is the version we’re most familiar with). Wesley, of course, is from the famous Methodist family, originally an Anglican from England who came to America. While he also participated in the open-air preaching his brothers were known for, Charles himself was a prolific hymnist. The Methodist hymn book has around 150 of his hymns in print still today! It appears that the tune is adapted from Mendelssohn, which would explain its grandeur.

Like the other Christmas hymns we’ve looked at, this one contains rich, distilled “soundbites” for singers to recite, memorize, and meditate on. This also has “surprise verses” that don’t often get a hearing in church services. Included below are the ones that were most common – although one version had as many as ten!

Now that I’ve read them all, I don’t know if I can be really satisfied to only sing the most common verses. “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/Hail th’incarnate Deity/Pleased with us in flesh to dwell/Jesus our Emmanuel” proclaims the mystery of the incarnation. “Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed/Bruise in us the serpent’s head” is a direct reference both to the Messianic prophecy of Genesis 3, as well as a plain acknowledgement of our sin nature. “Second Adam from above” points us to 1 Corinthians 15.

Let’s appreciate the opportunity we have in song to proclaim some of the great truths of Christmas!


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!”

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


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.

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


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.

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


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.

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


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.

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


works consulted:!_The_Herald_Angels_Sing