Charles Wesley wrote the beloved Christmas carol Hark the Herald Angels Sing in 1739. I think he would be quite surprised to know how much airtime it has gotten in our generation.
I love this carol. The tune brings back childhood memories of the wonder of the Christmas season. But the words remind me of theology class in seminary.
The second verse, in my humble opinion, contains some of the most important theology of any hymn in our hymnals. Here is the verse:
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 the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Did you get all that? Consider the identifying features of Jesus in this verse…
- Jesus is worshipped by angels (Heb 1:6)
- Jesus is eternal (Is 9:6)
- Jesus came at the perfect, God-ordained time (Rom 5:6)
- Jesus was born of a virgin and His Father was God (Matt 1:18-25)
- Jesus was/is God Almighty (Matt 17:1-8)
- Jesus was fully human (1 Tim 2:5)
- Jesus was the Savior, “God with us”—Emmanuel (Matt 1:23)
- Jesus’ identity was attested by angels (Luke 2:1-15)
- Jesus is the King of Kings (Rev 19:16)
So when we sing the carol, What Child is This?, let’s let Mr. Wesley provide an answer!