Monday, January 02, 2012

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

A Christmas Newsletter:

If your radio hasn’t already started picking up Christmas melodies, it still probably won’t be long till you’re humming “It’s the most wonderful time, of the Year!” and other familiar Christmas music—both the commercial variety, and even better, the treasured Christian Christmas carols! Because as Christians we have a far deeper and older reason to celebrate Christmas than all the trappings of holiday decorations and foods and tinsel and music. For us, Christmas is wonderful because of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world as our Savior, in His birth in the little town of Bethlehem. It’s my hope and prayer that you will  celebrate Christmas  in worship, and that you may be renewed in continued worship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ throughout the year.
One of the treasured Christmas carols that we sing every year is Charles Wesley’s great hymn, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” The title recalls when the angels came down from the heavens and visited the unsuspecting shepherds to announce the good news of Jesus the Savior’s birth. “Hark!” is a call to attention. To listen carefully to a message about to be told. “Herald” is a title for royal messengers, who carry important news from a King. So “Hark, the Herald Angel’s Sing” is about God’s royal messengers, the angels, coming to announce the good news: “Glory to the newborn king!” Christmas is a royal holiday—the celebration of the birthday of a king. The first verse goes on to call all the nations to rise in joyful celebration and praise at the miracle that God had achieved in sending His own divine Son into the world to reconcile God and sinners. Christmas is all about God’s movement toward us, so that He might reconcile us to Himself in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:19).

Verse two calls Him “Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord.” Christ is a title that means “anointed one.” Messiah means the same thing, only in Hebrew. Kings were “anointed” in the Old Testament times as a way to show that they had been placed in a position of high responsibility and authority. Anointing typically was done by a prophet, who poured oil on the head of the anointed, laid hands on him, and placed him into his office. The Christ, or Anointed One, was the Savior whom the Jews looked for from of old. “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 Immanuel!” Jesus came as the long-awaited Savior, born of a virgin, as promised according to the sign in Isaiah 7:14. “Veiled” or hidden in human flesh, was God Himself. This Divinely born man, Jesus Christ, was God-in-flesh—the meaning of “incarnate.” Incarnate literally means “enfleshed.” Godhead and Deity are both words we use to describe God’s very nature as God. What makes Him God—the eternal, all powerful, all wise Creator. This infinite and eternal God made the most remarkable decision to live and dwell among us as one of us, so that He could meet His people face to face. To teach them His own truth, and show them the path to everlasting life.

The third verse of the carol speaks of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead: “Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.” Conquering death was part of the glorious mission to which Jesus, the Christ-child was born to live on earth. Yet His glorious mission was carried out in the humblest of ways, as the hymn sings, “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.” Jesus laid aside His heavenly glory when He came down to be born. He did not parade around in power and majesty, in royal robes, but began His life humbly in a manger, attended by lowly shepherds, and the worshipful gifts of foreigners. He humbly laid His life down in suffering and death on the cross to secure the forgiveness of our sins. His resurrection to life again foreshadows the future state when He will fully be revealed in all His heavenly glory. His birth meant the hope that God would overcome death, as God joined Himself to humanity. His birth dignifies and raises our human estate, as God so highly honored His creation by becoming human. He raises us to life, and gives us the new birth, by water and the Spirit. There is great reason to be thankful and to give praise this and every Christmas, and to acknowledge with the song of the angels, “Glory to the newborn King!!” 

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