Glory of the Newborn King

Caleb Cangelosi: Of all the hymns written about the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the words of Charles Wesley’s “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” are among the most theologically dense and substantive–because all five stanzas are filled with Scriptural truths about Jesus. Before considering the Christology of this beautiful carol, though, it will help us to recall a little of the fascinating and ironic history behind it. Charles Wesley first penned the words of this poem in 1739, a year after his conversion. He originally wrote ten shorter stanzas, without a refrain, and his first two lines were “Hark! How all the welkin rings // Glory to the King of Kings.” Nearly all of us today would ask, “What on earth is a welkin?” A welkin is actually not “on earth” at all. Rather, it is the archaic English word referring to the sky or the celestial sphere where the angels dwell with God. Fifteen years after Wesley first wrote his poem,

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My song is love unknown

  My song is love unknown, my Savior’s love to me Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be Oh who am I, that for my sake My Lord should take frail flesh and die? He came from His blest throne salvation to bestow But men made strange and none the longed-for Christ would know But O my Friend, my Friend indeed, Who at my need His life did spend Sometimes they strew His way and His sweet praises sing Resounding all the day Hosannas to their King Then “Crucify!” is all their breath And for His death they thirst and cry They rise and needs will have my dear Lord made away A murderer they save, the Prince of Life they slay Yet cheerful He to suffering goes That He His foes from thence might free Here might I stay and sing, no story so divine Never was love, dear King, never was grief like Thine This

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