Have you ever realized you have no clue as to the meaning of a song you’ve been listening to for years? Or a scripture you’ve read over and over that never actually clicked until the 100th time? That was me with “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” a 279-year-old Christmas song I’ve always loved for its uplifting, celebratory, and classic Christmas-y feel, but never understood. Till now.
One would think, me, a Christmas Eve baby, a.k.a. that annoying person playing Christmas music way before Thanksgiving, would know all the season’s carols like the back of my hand. Turns out, not so much when it comes to the oldies. As a kid, I thought Herald was the name of one of the angels or something. To be fair, the song was written in super Old English that no one under the age of 279 could understand. And while beautifully poetic, it’s just plain confusing. But now that I’m an “adult,” I’ve realized there’s a big wonderful message about light, hope, and life I’ve been missing all along.
So I’ve decided to do some Old English-to-Modern English translating that might help us all decipher this carol. First order of business: What in the world does “Hark!” mean? (*Heads to Google*) Ah ha! “Hark: To listen or pay attention to.” And while we’re at it, “Herald: An official messenger with very important news.” So, Herald Angels were messenger angels who spread the good news about Christ. I guess singing to the world in a swelling chorus was their way of sharing it on Facebook. Angels, the original millennials. Who knew?
OK, now let’s dive in. An abridged version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” interpreted by a real-life twenty-something in 2018. Here goes:
Hark! the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King! (Listen up! These angels got big news. Show some love for the King.)
Peace on earth, and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled. (He brought peace and gentle mercy for all. And now He’ll forgive you and welcome you in.)
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies; (Get on your feet and get excited about the salvation God has delivered)
With th’ angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem. (Do as the choir of angels do and spread the good news)
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; Hail, th’incarnate Deity (Come see God in human form)
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel! (God gladly took on flesh so He could be with us and understand what we need)
Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings (If you’re deep in darkness, He’ll bring you light and healing through His resurrection) (Sign me up for that!)
Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die: (His entire reason for being was to give us not just an abundant life on Earth, but an eternal life in Heaven)
Born to raise the son of earth, Born to give them second birth. (#baptism #bornagain #blessed)
Hark! the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King! (In case you missed it, hope is here, for you!)
So there we have it. Relevant reminders for the modern day extracted from an ancient hymn. Just another nugget of proof that God’s love, His word, and His promises are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” but let us not forget to tune into (or should I say, hark!) the deeper message this season.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.