#5 "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (music: Felix Mendelssohn, lyrics: Charles Wesley, based on Luke 2:8-14)
Every word in this song, with the exception of the first line, is a word that we're to understand as being sung by an angel, and maybe not even all of the first line. It could either be "'Hark!' the herald angels sing," or "Hark! The herald angels sing:" The title of the hymn capitalizes "the," suggesting the second reading, in which a third-person narrator tells us to listen to the herald angels; the lyrics themselves don't capitalize "the," suggesting the first reading, in which the angels themselves ask us to listen. I'm not sure it really matters who is saying "hark," but in either case, we're asked to pay attention to what the angels have to say to us.
Most of what they sing are the sorts of praises and shouts of glory we've read about before, but before long, we're treated to a fantastic description of why it's so marvelous that Jesus was born. Right out of the gate, we get the line that I chose for the title of this post: Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled. He came to bring peace, and He came to reunite us with the Father we estranged ourselves from through sin. That's not to say that He drags us back to our Father's presence, but He does reintroduce us and give us the chance to make amends.
And how does he do it? The second verse gives us some clues. He reconciles us not by changing the mind of God or the rules of the heavenly game, but by softening our hearts. Life and light to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings. He changes our desire, which lets us change the direction we're traveling from away from heaven to toward it. And He does it as an example of humility to us, despite the magnitude of the sacrifice. Listen:
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.
He was born that we may be reborn. He died that we may live. And as we learned earlier, the angels sing His song just as they always have. It floats over all the weary world, and all we have to do is bend an ear to hear them sing.
Previously in this series
#6 Oh Come, All Ye Faithful
#7 Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains
#8 Once in Royal David's City
#9 Angels We Have Heard on High
#10 It Came upon the Midnight Clear
#11 O Little Town of Bethlehem
#12 With Wondering Awe
#13 Joy to the World
#14 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks