Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Charles Wesley of England was without doubt one of the most productive hymn writers and preachers of all time. Yet, strangely enough, Wesley was able to get only one hymn poem into the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, and that one by error! An eighteenth century printer didn’t know that the “established Church” of England frowned with disapproval upon Wesley’s hymns. Since he needed material to fill an empty space in the new hymnal, he took it upon himself to insert a Christmas poem called, “Hark, How All the Welkins Rings!” by an Anglican clergyman named Charles Wesley. When the error was discovered attempts were made to have it removed, but it proved so popular that it was allowed to remain. It was written in 1738, but is still very moving today.

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 the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born  in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

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!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son 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
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Interesting Fact: To celebrate the invention of the printing press, Felix Mendelssohn composed a cantata in 1840 called Festgesang or “Festival Song”. The melody of Mendelssohn’s cantata was then used by William H. Cummings and adapted it to the lyrics of Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

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