Posted by: rcottrill | April 15, 2019

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Mendelssohn, by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (b. Feb. 3, 1809; d. Nov. 4, 1847); arranged by William Hayman Cummings (b. Aug. 22, 1831; d. June 10, 1915)

Wordwise Hymns (William Cummings) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Both by the quantity of his hymns, and the high quality of many, Charles Wesley ranks as one of our greatest hymn writers. Also, in the first Wordwise Hymns link, there’s an interesting note regarding the tune by Mendelssohn, and Cummings later arrangement of it.

The Internet can be a useful tool for many kinds of research. But it can also be a purveyor of error and deceit. Strange conspiracy theories, quack cures for various diseases, unproven and scandalous biographical details about famous individuals, are all given a place. Great caution is needed in sifting out the false from the true.

This mixture of Internet fact and fiction applies to the subject of angels. Some people claim they’ve met one, but give no definite proof. There are even reputed photographs of angels, either far away, or blurred so they could be anything, like those supposed pictures of Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness monster. Some are given names, and specific roles, based upon nothing but tradition or somebody’s imagination. It’s wise to be skeptical.

But in the Bible, the Word of God, Christians have a reliable source from which to learn about angels. As the Lord Jesus said, in prayer to His heavenly Father, “Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine [or teaching]” (II Tim. 3:16). And there, angels are spoken of hundreds of times.

They are supernatural spirit beings, created by God (Neh. 9:6; Col. 1:16). Angel (angelos in Greek) means messenger, or envoy, one sent on a particular mission. They are called “ministering spirits,” engaged in the service of the Lord (Heb. 1:14). There is an “innumerable company of angels” in heaven (Heb. 12:22).

Though angels, as spirits, are invisible to us, they have the power to take on a visible form, when they need to be seen (Matt. 28:2-6). Sometimes they have appeared as men (Heb. 13:2) but, contrary to what some think, people who die do not become angels. The latter are an entirely separate class of beings.

And though angels have great power, they are not God, and should not be worshiped (Rev. 19:10). Nor are we to pray to angels. The Lord Jesus is the one and only Mediator between us and God (I Tim. 2:5), and we’re to pray on His authority, to our heavenly Father, by the agency of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18).

Only two angels are clearly given names in Scripture: Gabriel, who serves as a special messenger of God (Lk. 1:26, 30-31), and Michael, the Bible’s only archangel (or chief angel), who oversees and protects the nation of Israel (Dan. 12:1; Jude 1:9). Two classes of angels are identified: cherubim (Gen. 3:24), and seraphim (Isa. 6:1-3)–with the “im” at the end of each word signifying plurality in Hebrew. “Principalities and powers” (Eph. 3:10) may be other categories of them.

As to what angels do, they worship and praise the Lord (Rev. 7:11). And, as was noted, they can also serve as messengers on God’s behalf. Further, they are our helpers and protectors (Ps. 91:11-12; Heb. 1:14). Some believe each of us has a specific guardian angel. It’s possible, but the biblical evidence is limited (cf. Matt. 18:10).

Angelic activity was especially prominent is during events surrounding the birth of Christ. In Matthew chapters 1 and 2, and Luke chapters 1 and 2, they’re mentioned nineteen times. And many of our carols talk about the angelic choir announcing the Saviour’s birth.

“Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Lk. 2:13-14).

As to whether those angels sang or not, it’s certainly possible. We know angels sang at the dawn of creation (Job 38:4, 7). In the Hebrew poetry of verse 7, the two clauses are parallel. Both “the morning stars,” and “the sons of God” refer to angelic beings. Hymn writer James Montgomery (1771-1854) uses this information in the first stanza of his great Christmas carol:

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

As well, “praising God,” in Luke 2:13, also could be accurately paraphrased, “singing God’s praises, and saying, in their song, ‘Glory to God…’”

In Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Charles Wesley gave us one of our finest carols–though, ironically, he is not the origin of the singing angels line. His first line was, “Hark, how all the welkin [sky] rings.” It was changed by a later editor.

CH-1) 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!”

CH-3) 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.

1) What is your favourite thing about the Christmas season?

2) What is your favourite Christmas carol?

Wordwise Hymns (William Cummings) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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