Hark the Herald: Deep Truths Embedded in a Simple Carol

Hark the Herald: Deep Truths Embedded in a Simple Carol

Written by M.R. Conrad |
Saturday, December 23, 2023

In these short stanzas, Wesley teaches rich truths about the person of Christ (Christology) and salvation (soteriology). The composition of this hymn follows the inspired guidelines of Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” With so many quotes and allusions to Scripture, the word of Christ dwells richly in “Hark the Herald.” 

Across the world, Christmas carols carry deep doctrinal truths where few other witnesses would be allowed. These carols ring out from apostate cathedrals of Europe, through pop music artists online, and even in glitzy Asian malls.

In particular, Charles Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” proclaims bold truths about the person and work of Christ that most carolers do not even realize as they sing the familiar lines. Let’s walk through the lyrics of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and discover what doctrines and Scripture passages Charles Wesley (and later editor George Whitefield) reference throughout this beloved Christmas carol.

1. Jesus is Savior, King, and Messiah.

(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!”

The hymnwriter, Charles Wesley, launches directly into the Christmas account, paraphrasing lines from Luke 2:9–15. He focuses on Jesus’ titles of king, savior, and messiah. As king, Jesus brings peace. As Savior, He reconciles man to God. Finally, as messiah, He fulfills the prophet’s words in Micah 5:2 as a ruler born in Bethlehem. Wesley tucks all these doctrinal truths into one stanza and hides them in plain sight in the words of the angels on Christmas morning.

2. Jesus is Fully God and Fully Man.

(2) Christ, by highest Heav’n adored; Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.

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