My Favorite Christmas Carol

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One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the music. Now, unlike in years past when we were lucky to get a scattering of Christmas songs mixed in on the regular radio stations, we now have one station around here which devotes 24/7 programming to Christmas music from November 1st (YES, November) through January 1st each year. They play everything from the old standards to the latest Christmas recordings. Budge and I actually keep a running total of how many times a season we hear the song “Last Christmas” by Wham. We’re up to fourteen for the year as of this writing. Unfortunately, one of the neglected areas of the music the all Christmas, all the time station makes is of the traditional Christmas Carols, the hymns from earlier times like “Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Joy to the World.”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of hymns on the radio today. After all, most people these days barely admit Christmas is, at its roots, a Christian holiday. The lights and glamor of celebrity drowns out the real reason this holiday ever started and that’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Because of that, my favorite Christmas hymn is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Of all the songs I’ve heard, none more clearly capture the feeling and true meaning of Christmas than Charles Wesley’s mighty hymn.

Imagine if you will, you are a lowly shepherd on a Judean hillside in the black of night. It’s not that cold because Jesus wasn’t actually born in December because the sheep aren’t in the field in winter. Anyway, you and your comrades are dozing in turns watching over the flocks when out of nowhere the sky lights up brighter than day. The heavens are filled from horizon to horizon with the Heavenly Host singing songs of praise that the King of Kings has been born. One of the angels tells the shepherds where they can find the new babe. Eagerly, they set off to see him. I would imagine only after standing up from where they had fallen on the ground. That is the subject of verse one:

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 hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”

It is the second verse that captures the realities behind Christ’s birth.

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 th’incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.

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

The final verse tells the truth of why Jesus came, that men no more should die. Not die as in we’ll never face death, but die as in the second, eternal death.

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun 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”

I know a lot of people who read my blog don’t believe like I believe. For many of you, Christmas is just giving gifts and eating feasts of food. It is lights and trees and presents. Christ doesn’t matter anymore. Still, I’d like to say that even though many may not believe in Jesus, Jesus still believes in you and you can find Him if you simply open your heart and let the Sun of Righteousness meet you where you are.1

In any event, Merry Christmas and love y’all and keep those feet clean!

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