The Shepherds Story Retold in the Words of Charles Wesley

Throughout this Christmas season, I have read and re-read the portion of scripture
that recounts the angelic choir announcing to the shepherds the coming of the Christ
Child. I have tried to imagine how surprising, awe-inspiring, and life-changing the
encounter must have been. God selected the time, the place, and the men to whom He
would make one of heaven’s most famous proclamations; and the sound of their story has
marked history from that night forward.
 
For over 2000 years, many believers have read and re-read this Christmas
narrative and, like the shepherds so long ago, been illuminated and inspired by what the
angels proclaimed. One such believer was Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley who
founded the Methodist Church. In 1739, Charles wrote a poem set to music that
began “Hark! How all the welkin (meaning heavens or celestial sphere) rings, glory to
the King of Kings.” Thus began the famous Christmas carol Hark the Herald, which was
given its modern day melody 100 years later by musician William Cunnings from an
adaptation of a Felix Mendelssohn composition. The song has continued to be a favorite
carol for nearly 300 years.
 
Charles Wesley must have been a man selected by God to author this famous
carol that would mark history from the time he penned the words until this Christmas
Season, 2011. During this holy time of the year, may you be stirred anew and afresh by
the story of the shepherds as retold by the lyrics of Wesley’s popular hymn!

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 God head 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!”

I pray that the shepherd’s story, the angel’s words, and Wesley’s carol will inspire you
this Holiday Season! Merry Christmas!

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~Dr. Patti Amsden