HARK! To “hark” means to listen and that is exactly what the great English leader and hymn writer of the Methodist movement, Charles Wesley, wanted his singers to do when they sung the Christmas hymn Hark The Herald Angels Sing. It is so easy for us to sing a song or hear a sermon without really listening and thinking. This is a song of reflection and proclamation!
Charles’ brother John Wesley was the great preacher and is considered the organizational genius behind the founding of Methodism. But without the hymns of Charles, the Methodist movement may have gone nowhere. As one historian put it, “The early Methodists were taught and led as much through [Charles’s] hymns as through John Wesley’s sermons”. Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,000 hymns but this one was written within a year of his conversion, The inspiration of his newly-made contact with God was still fresh. Rather than simply tell the nativity story, Wesley pours theological truths into this text. The first verse tells the story of the angels proclaiming Christ’s birth, and the second and third verses go on to make it very clear why the angels sang. Simply by describing Christ, Wesley tells us the entire Gospel story. We are told of Christ’s nature, his birth and incarnation, his ministry, and his mission of salvation. The last 4 verses of the hymn (rarely sung) deeply dive into the prophecy and theology of our salvation. The hymn is a curious mixture of exclamation, exhortation, and theological reflection. The focus shifts rapidly from angels, to us, to nations. The song produces in us a childlike response of faith; we too can sing ‘Glory to the newborn King!’”
PROCLAMATION OF JOY Luke 2:8-11, John 3:16-18, Hebrews 1:3-5 The song focuses on the proclamation of the angels found in Luke 2:8-11. A “Herald” is a messenger and in this case it is the angels of God proclaiming Jesus’ birth. The good news is that God and sinners are reconciled through this “peace child” and all nations are invited to “rise” and respond. God’s peace treaty with man is found in Jesus and whoever rises to believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life; however, it is important for us to take note of the fact that there is no peace treaty without Christ but only condemnation. The song proclaims scripture: Jesus is the exact representation of God and far superior to the angels that proclaimed Him that first Christmas eve. All of Heaven knows this and all of Heaven adores Jesus. He is Deity (God), and He is trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit: three persons in one). He is the prophesied Immanuel. God in the flesh…God with us.
Some might say that Christ appeared to come “late in time” but as God’s word says: The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Just as Christ came once to be the reconciler He will come once again in judgment of those who rejected His “peace treaty”. His time of favor has come to all men…now is the time to come to Him if you have not already. Now is the day of salvation.
He is the Sun of righteousness. In other words the fire that refines us. For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:29
He is born that we may no more die: “He who believes in me will never die” John 11:25
Born to raise us from the earth: “and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40b
Born to give us second birth: “You must be born again.” John 3:7b
SALVATION IS COMPLETE John 15:11, Mark 4:9 “Joy” is defined simply as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. And then is listed a list of synonyms: jubilation, triumph, exultation, rejoicing, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, and rapture. People spend a lot of time, money and effort on getting joy. Some actually become addicted to feeling great pleasure and as a result become trapped in drug or alcohol addictions, sex addictions, shopping addictions, gambling addictions, food addictions…the list goes on. These obsessions actually rob us of the joy in salvation that God intended us to have. Jesus said: I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. John 15:11 Joy complete is only found in salvation!
The last four verses of Wesley’s hymn theologically explain salvation beginning in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) The “enmity” or hostility and hatred spoken of here is between Satan and Christ. The seed of the serpent, evil men and demonic forces, struck at the heel of the Savior when men conspired to condemn Jesus to be crucified. But His wound was not the final act. He rose the third day, having paid the price for the sin of all who would ever believe in Him. The ultimate victory was His, and He crushed the head of Satan, removing forever his rule over man. Our nature as children of God was ruined by sin but sin is conquered in Christ. Through the individuals faith in Christ a mystic union with Him takes place. Upon our confession of Christ as Lord, the image of Adam’s sin is erased in us and the image of Christ appears in its place! We are reinstated in His love, forgiven for our sin. Guilt is replaced with joy and eternal hope! Though we were once lost we can be found in Him as we impart ourselves to His Lordship. Do you want “Joy complete?” It is “Formed in each believer’s heart” as we trust ourselves to Jesus. Hark! “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
The above message was given by Pastor Barry Bruce at The Gathering Church in Hawaiian Gardens. Come and visit us at 22427 Norwalk Blvd., Hawaiian Gardens, CA 90716 You can also check us out at facebook.com/thegatheringchurch1