Great Songs of the Church-Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

This week’s selection of great songs of the Church has a bit of a complicated history.

Written in 1739 by Charles Wesley (brother of John, founder of the Methodist church), it was originally set to the music of Amazing Grace. Later, the tune was changed to that of Christ the Lord is Risen Today. His friend George Whitfield changed the opening lines from “Hark! how all the welkin rings/Glory to the King of Kings” to what we sing today which is “Hark! The herald angels sing/Glory to the newborn King”. Some sites attribute today’s tune to Whitfield as well, while another gives the famous composer Mendelssohn credit for the tune, though his contribution was unintentional.

Story goes: In 1840, Mendelssohn wrote a song in celebration of the invention of the printing press.  An organist by the name of William H. Cummins took the tune of Mendelssohn’s second chorus of that song and applied it to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. The final version of the song was published in 1856.

We, today, are most familiar with the first three verses. The song book we use at my church has five verses. Take time to read the last two verses, as they are most precious. Like so many classic hymns, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing  teaches the Gospel-thus making it an ideal selection among Christmas favorites. “Tis the Reason for the season”, after all!

Merry Christmas!

1. Hark! The Herald Angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born 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 Hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”1
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King.”

2. Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting lord
Late in time behold Him come,
Off-spring of a2 Virgin’s womb3
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail, the incarnate deity
Pleased as Man with men to dwell,4
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the New-born king!”

3. Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace,5
Hail, the Sun6 of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His Wings.
Now He lays His Glory by,7
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 New-born king!”

4. Come, Desire of nations come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Oh, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born king;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the New-born king!”

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.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the New-born king!”

(Sources: About.com; ShareFaithHymnsandcarolsofChristmas.com)

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