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.