Gracefully Truthful

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Read His Words Before Ours!

Luke 2:8-14
John 1
Philippians 2:5-11

Charles Wesley is one of the greatest hymn writers in church history, having penned approximately 6,500 in his lifetime.  It was within one year of Wesley’s coming to faith in Christ that he wrote the theologically-rich Christmas hymn, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

What’s remarkable about Wesley’s art is that he did not minimally re-tell the story of Christ’s birth. Instead he used Christ’s arrival as a backdrop to paint a full picture of the glory of Christ from start to finish.  Each stanza is rooted in Scripture truths, yet the words are woven together in a beautiful story-board manner.   

A Message Worth Singing About
In Luke 2:8-14 we read that a group of shepherds were tending their flocks, (it’s likely these would eventually be sacrificed as Passover lambs), when suddenly they were terrorized by an angel of the Lord in the sky. In the midst of their panic, the angel comforts them saying,
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Good news! Of great joy!  For all the people!
Throughout Luke, nearly every other instance of the word joy, (chara) is attached to salvation.  The angel’s proclamation spoke of the truest, most lasting, fullest joy possible – salvation from God in the form of this newborn baby.

Verse 14 goes on to reveal a host of heavenlies singing:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’”

This is the scene where Wesley’s hymn picks up:
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 the angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!” 

Both in the angels’ herald and in Wesley’s lyric,
“Peace on earth”, is not simply a nice Hallmark greeting over a Rockwell print.
It’s not the beauty contestant’s answer to world suffering.
It’s not the façade of peace that slaps a smile on when you’re actually dying inside.

No, this declaration of peace on earth ran deeper, wider, fuller and truer.
God Himself came down to earth as a man, to reconcile sinful souls back to Himself.
We are enemies of God – hostile to Him by our very nature,
desperately needing to be rescued.
Peace became possible because
reconciliation would now be offered.
Reconciliation became possible because
peace came down.
Of course, the angels were singing, beckoning all nations to “join the triumph of the skies”!

Fully God & Fully Man
Wesley doesn’t let up in building his lyrical crescendo of Christ’s glory:
Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold him come,
offspring of the virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with us to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

God Himself put on a cloak of flesh – He really did it. He really became a man!
And He was happy to do it; glad to live and walk among us!
Jesus – God with us.
Oh, to have heard the exhale of all creation
as God slipped into the atmosphere as one of us!
 

John 1:14 speaks of Jesus this way, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

He Laid His Glory By
Wesley brings us to the climax of the song:  
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild, he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

As I read this last gospel-rich stanza, my heart pumps a little faster;
I can hear the roar of the congregation singing of the hope and glory of this newborn King!   Wesley highlights the very purpose for which God came down to dwell among us in the first place.
Jesus laid His glory by for you and for me!

Philippians 2:6-8 explains the incredible, “though he [Jesus] was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but 
emptied himselfby taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

He took on humanity, yet remained fully God.
He chose to lay down the rights, power and privileges of His deity.
He chose to not use them – to not be helped by them.
He laid them down willingly to take on the burden of living within this human construct.

Why? Because from infancy to the cross,
Christ came to lay His life down
in order to reconcile man back to God.

Oh Glory to the newborn King!

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Katie Braswell
6 years ago

Wow! I had no idea about Wesley! I adore how he paints the whole picture of Christ’s birth and resurrection. <3

Rebecca Adams
Admin
6 years ago
Reply to  Katie Braswell

He displayed an amazing understanding of the full gospel!

Kristi
Kristi
6 years ago

One of my favorite songs…I love how rooted in Scripture it is!

Rebecca Adams
Admin
6 years ago
Reply to  Kristi

Agree! My favorite part of singing hymns is the richness of scriptural truths!

Erin
6 years ago

I’ve always loved that God daw fit to notify shepherds – everyday people. It warms my heart.

Julie
6 years ago

It’s so amazing that the Creator of the Universe became a baby for my sins! I think Charles Wesley captures this in his song! Great explanation of his song:)

Susan Evans
6 years ago

I love the words of many of the traditional Christmas songs because they speak forth so much theological truth.

Rebecca Adams
Admin
6 years ago
Reply to  Susan Evans

Exactly! Often we don’t even realize how rich that theology is! It’s definitely worth pausing over

Allyson
6 years ago

This is beautiful! I was planning on blogging about another Christmas song later in December! I love reading the rich Gospel truths in these words. Not only is Christmas about baby Jesus, but the mind-blowing, monumental idea of God in flesh coming to redeem His people! Thank you for sharing!

Rebecca Adams
Admin
6 years ago
Reply to  Allyson

Incredible, isn’t it?! What Christmas song will you be writing about?

Melissa
6 years ago

I couldn’t help read all of these lyrics and hear the music in my heart. I love the break down of the song to bring the meaning and depth into focus.

Keisha Russell
6 years ago

I am a worshipper through and through! Each one of these songs gives adoration to our Lord. He is worthy of our PRAISE!!

Rebecca Adams
Admin
6 years ago
Reply to  Keisha Russell

Amen!

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Christmas,faith,hope,peace,praise,Savior,worship
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