Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas favorites: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

In the category of hymns, here is my Christmas favorite:

That is a strong statement. There are so, so many beautiful Christmas hymns. Silent Night. O Come All Ye Faithful. Angels from the Realms of Glory. I could go on and on. But this one, written by Charles Wesley, is right at the top. Why? Why?

I have always been fascinated by the mystery of the Gospel. More specifically, I am fascinated by the mystery of the Incarnation. The idea that the infinite Creator of the universe could choose to live inside the world he created. That he would take on flesh and live as a human being. That a teenage girl - a virgin at that - carried around in her womb the King of kings. That he lay homeless in a feeding trough on the night he was born, showing the extent to which the Lord would lower himself to reach us. That he would die on a cross.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
  Who, being in very nature[a] God, 
   did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
 but made himself nothing, 
   taking the very nature[b] of a servant, 
   being made in human likeness. 
 And being found in appearance as a man, 
   he humbled himself 
   and became obedient to death— 
      even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)
So, there it is. For me, more than any other Christmas hymn, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing captures the mystery of the Incarnation and leaves me breathless. Lines like "Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die." And "God and sinners reconciled". But the heart of the song, and the reason I love it most, is contained in this passage:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the Incarnate Deity,Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.
What a powerful statement of how God came to be with us. To show us his character, his love, and to bring us back into relationship with him.

Thank you, Charles Wesley, for putting into words the greatest mystery of all time. I am in awe.

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