As I write this, I am recovering from both viral and bacterial infections. 'Tis the season. . . and as a preacher, I tend to be most vulnerable where I can least afford to be: my voice. (cue Devil guffawing and God giggling track) Of course, even though I may speak less, the Word of God will not be silenced under any circumstances (take that, Devil!)
So I am filled with deep gratitude that tomorrow at St. Peter's, I will be able to receive the healing and life I so desperately need.
-- I will soak in the Word that gives hope and life.
-- I will bask in the voices of praise and adoration that fill the air
-- I will stretch out my hands to receive the body and blood by which my deepest, most sinful ills are healed by God's grace
--and I will bow my head while a brother lays hands on me with prayers and anoints me with the oil of healing
For some, church may seem an empty, perfunctory religion. But for me, it is the community of faith in which the living God is present, speaking, teaching, forgiving sins, healing, giving life and salvation.
There is a balm in Gilead to save the weary sinsick soul -- Jesus.
He is here for you, too.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all you nations, rise; Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! The herald angels sing, ...
“Glory to the newborn king!”
Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh and Godhead see! Hail, incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with us to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel! Refrain.
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, Ris’n with healing n his wings.
Mild e lays his glory by, Born that we no more may die,
Born to raise each child of earth, Born to give us second birth. Refrain.
Charles Wesley, known as the founder of Methodism and writer of thousands of hymns, wrote a new Christmas composition in 1737. It was called “Hark! How All the Welkin Rings” and premiered in his church that year.
Soon, the song grew in popularity among the growing Methodist churches and Wesley waned to have it published. He turned to an old college friend, George Whitefield. George and Charles were many times at odds in how they presented the gospel; Whitefield was more charismatic and because he was banned from the Anglican churches, was forced to preach in open-air revival-like meetings. He is credited with influencing the revival movement that later exploded in America!) His approach to the Scriptures was more liberal than Wesley’s, too. When Wesley saw the unapproved changes to his Christmas song when Whitefield published it, he was furious!
George Whitefield removed the term “welkin”, and archaic Middle English world that meant “the vault of heaven” or the uppermost part of the sky. And instead of the heavenly host of Luke 2 simply praise God and giving Him glory, Whitefield had the angels sing their praises! Wesley never sang the new version of his gong.
But the original melody for “Hard! The Herald Angels Sing” changed decades later when an admirer – and performer – of Felix Mendelssohn’s work, William Cummings combined the music of two men who would never meet. Cummings put the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley to the melody of a song composed by Felix Mendelssohn which was written as a tribute to Johann Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press and the first printed Bible! Once again, a song which has become treasured the world over was brought together through the creativity of man.
We three kings of Orient are; bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.
Oh, star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright;
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light!...
Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain;
gold I bring to crown him again;
King for ever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign. Refrain.
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, gladly raising,
Worshiping God Most high. Refrain.
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone cold tomb. Refrain.
Glorious now behold him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice;
Heav’n sings alleluia:
alleluia the earth replies. Refrain.
In 1857, John Henry Hopkins Jr. was faced with a difficult task – what to get for his nieces and nephews for the celebration for Epiphany! Hopkins was ordained as an Episcopalian priest, but chose to us his writing talent as a report instead of a clergyman. He was a brilliant scholar with a law degree who used his inspirational writing as a scribe for a New York publication called Church journal.
So, when Hopkins had to decide upon his gift for his brothers’ children (he was a bachelor, by the way), he decided to write a tribute to the magi of the Christmas story. His gift would be personal, entertaining, AND meaningful! Using his imagination and knowledge of the Scriptures, Hopkins wove a simple but poignant story of the quest to find the Savior and the symbolism of the gifts they brought.
John Hopkins Jr. published “We Three Kings” in his own songbook called “Carols, Hymns and Songs”. In the next century, many churches chose the carols and hymns which would be accepted into their hymnals and “We Three Kings” was, of course, readily included.