Last month we started memorizing songs as a church. You can look at the previous post, Crew will be memorizing hymns, for the reason we want to do this.
Before I introduce this months song, I want to thank Sean, our song guy, and ya’ll for your full participation. Sean, you served us well in explaining and leading us each week through memorizing the song. Crew, you have served your leadership well by taking this seriously and passionately singing to Jesus in gathered worship. I had tears in my eyes as we sang, by memory, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross with you this past week.
Ok, this month being Christmas, we decided to a Christmas song. Some of the best theology set to music are in Christmas hymns. But Sean and I decided that the best one out there was, Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley.
First, let me give you the skinny on who wrote it? It was a fella named Charles Wesley, who was a leader in founding the Methodist movement with his brother, John Wesley, and close friend George Whitefield. He wrote over 6500 songs to serve what was taught in churches and published over 50 hymnals. Once again, Mars Hill Church has served us well with their gift for technology:
Although, Charles Wesley is the author, it has been altered a few times before making it to the version we have it today.
First, Wesley published it as a Hymn for Christmas Day with 10 four line verses.
Second, Wesley’s close friend, George Whitefield, a Calvinist, dropped the last several verses and changed Wesley’s “Glory to the King of Kings” to “Glory to the Newborn King” in order to focus the attention more on Christ and eliminate what he saw as less accurate theology. Wesley was a little peeved at Whitfield doing this and refused to sing his version, although Whitfield’s was more popular.
Third, while Wesley wanted a slow solemn tune to accompany the lyrics, it was not to be. An organist named W.H. Cummings adapted from a Felix Mendelssohn cantata celebrating the invention of the printing press.
While the Wesley/Whitefield disagreement may be instructive and the Mendelssohn tune may be interesting. The reason we chose it are the lyrics, which are essential. (We chose Whitefield’s version)
I mean look at the theology in this song:
- Christ centered
- Reconciliation of God and man
- Jesus’ virgin birth
- Hypostatic Union (Full Deity/Full Humanity of Christ)
- Kenosis (Christ emptying himself)
- Immortality of the soul
- Resurrection of the dead
- New birth
- The protoevangelium (The first preaching of the gospel in Gen. 3:15)
So, buy in again. The payoff of having this type of theology to a compelling tune in our head is worth it.