“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” first appeared in 1739 as part of a collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems. This compilation features lyrical contributions from Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. Charles Wesley wrote “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and later went on to found the Methodist Church. Meanwhile, Whitefield became a famous evangelist speaking at Big Tent Revivals on the east coast.
For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father [of Eternity], Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from the [latter] time forth, even forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this, Isaiah 9:6-7.
Sometime after reading Luke 2:14 which tells of an angelic chorus singing praises to God, Wesley was inspired to begin writing this Christmas carol. Later on music to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was adapted from “Vaterland, in deinen Gauen” by Felix Mendelssohn. Going back to the story in the Bible, the birth of Jesus suddenly brought a great company of heavenly hosts to appear before shepherds.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. 11 For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord! – Luke 2:9-11
The anticipation of the Bible’s first prophecy in Genesis 3:15 was within moments of being fulfilled. Jesus was about to become a second Adam to restore what was lost in the Garden of Eden, Luke 19:10. Just as children are anxious to pour out the contents inside of their stockings and rip open their presents, the realization of God with us, Emmanuel, inspired the angels to sing.
by Jay Mankus