The Gospel in Christmas Carols

‘Carols’ were songs sung in circles while dancing…Traditional / Communal

Protestant Reformation deemed pagan based celebration & music ‘non-essential’

Christmas was pretty bleak in the early 1800’s…

1843 Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ is published and it begins a revival of joyously celebrating Christmas, rather than it being played down by the Reformation.

The practice of people not working on Christmas sweeps Europe and America.

In 1861 the Hymnal ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern’ is published reworking many traditional Christian songs into the the standards we know today.

Singing becomes connected to the celebration of Christmas. From 1840 – 1870 popular, Biblical Christmas Carols were part of a renewed culture of setting apart Christmas as a special holiday to rival Easter in the Christian world.

And in these great songs The Gospel is firmly in-bedded

The four Christmas Carols I am looking at parts of today all came to popularity in the 1840’s – 50’s, were part of the collection Hymns Ancient & Modern, and are at the theological core of Christmas celebrations then and now.

A Picture of the Gospel: The Promise / The Separation / The Salvation / The Glory

O Come Emmanuel:

Origins in Latin Advent Liturgy from the 800’s, current form seen in 1700’s in France. A German version 1710; Hymns Ancient & Modern 1861 gave it the tune we know today.

O Come, O come Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel.

That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appears.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel. Shall come to thee O Israel.

Isaiah 43:1& 3

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

  • The Promise of Ransom (God not in linear time; He has ransomed)
  • ‘The Exile’ is our human condition of our sin separating us from God (mourning)
  • ‘God Among Us’: The Holy One Of Israel…the only place salvation can come from
  • He calls His People, He makes them HIS

O Holy Night:

Published in1847 the song became very popular in France: after a few years the author disavowed Christianity and the song was rejected by the church…but was kept alive by peasant class in Europe…it was revived in 1855 when it was translated into english, by 1870’s it was a classic!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Psalm 130:5-8

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning—yes, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

  • All of creation has been waiting since the garden…Separated from God by sin
  • Our souls long to be in union with our creator…David expressing His anticipation
  • What gives our souls their worth is Christ!
  • He will give us our value by His mercy and ‘Abundant Redemption’ (all iniquities)
  • This is what all Scripture is pointing to…

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Original by Charles Wesley, John Wesley’s brother (he wrote 6000 Hymns) 1739. George Whitefield did a rewrite in 1754…Charles Wesley didn’t like it. In 1782, the hymn was revised yet again. In 1855, new music by composer Felix Mendelssohn, he wrote music in 1846 Dickens

Hail! the heaven-born Prince of Peace. Hail the son of Righteousness

Light and life to all He brings, risen 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 new born King”

Psalm 103:3-5

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

  • Prince of Peace = Shalom
  • Son of Righteousness = God Himself
  • The healing of our sin being forgiven: SALVATION
  • He laid down His divinity to accomplish our redemption from death
  • HIS BIRTH signals the reality that we can have eternal life…in HIM
  • The ‘Renewal’ of Second Birth / wings = eagles

Joy To The World

Issac Watts 1719, part of a Psalms of David collection, the music we know today written by Lowell Mason 1848…part of Christmas revival of the 1840’s

He rules the world with truth and grace. And makes the nations prove.

The glories of, His righteousness. And wonders of His love

And wonders of His love! And wonders, wonders, of His love!

Isaiah 55:3-5

Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. See how I used him to display my power among the peoples. I made him a leader among the nations. You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey, because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

  • This is written by The Father about and to the Son..
  • Fulfillment of Davidic Kingship
  • Ruling because He is God
  • Grace & Truth: John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • ‘Makes’ spoke more of producing something rather than forcing something
  • The GLORY of God that Christ is!

Application: You personally search the Scriptures to find the origin of these words:

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Christ, by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord;

Late in time behold him come, Offspring of the favored one.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity

Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel

Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new born King”