Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

I have always loved Christmas music. There’s just something about those joyful songs that can bring out the holiday cheer in me. As a teen, I remember my buddy and I would start listening to Christmas music as early as July some years!  As I got into radio and began playing Christmas music 24/7, my enthusiasm waned some – but it still holds a special place in my heart.  Especially some of the old Christmas carols that have withstood the test of time.

As I was singing along with one the other day, it dawned on me that I have really always taken those carols for granted. Since I was a kid, I would sing along at the top of my lungs (often singing the wrong words), blissfully unaware of the great theological truths that I was singing. It was “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” – again, a song I’ve sung hundreds of times before. But, one line really stood out to me as I sang it this time. “Peace on earth, and mercy mild…GOD AND SINNERS RECONCILED.”  I don’t know why I had never truly thought about the beauty of that line whenever I sang that song! But now as I think about it, I can never sing that song the same again. This hymn, and so many other Christmas hymns we sing every year, is not about Santa and presents and elves of the shelves and Christmas trees or everything else we’ve made Christmas to be… It’s a declaration of the beautiful gift that was given to US over 2-thousand years ago when God sent His only son down to earth in the form of a helpless baby, so that he could grow up and live the perfect life we could never live, and then die the terrible death that we deserve, so WE could be reconciled to God! Without that gift given to us, reconciliation with God could never happen.

Then, if that one line weren’t enough to bowl me over – I sang another verse that I had never truly thought about before:   “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; Hail, the incarnate Deity: Pleased, as man, with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel!”  As a kid, I never would’ve understood the words I was singing, but now the glory of those lines really hit me.  Jesus – God the Son – came to earth “veiled in flesh” and was pleased to dwell with US…the sinful beings that he would later die for on the cross.  All I can think even as I write this is Paul’s words in Romans: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Thank you Charles Wesley (and revisions by George Whitefield) for this beautiful reminder of why we celebrate Christmas every year.

As you sing along this year, I pray that you will join me in being mindful of the glorious spiritual truths that we’re singing!

-Dan Ratcliffe

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