Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

armoredangelby Deana Chadwell12/19/16
Christmas marks the time when angels sang close enough to the earth that humans could hear them. Shepherds out on the hills outside Jerusalem watching over the flocks of sacrificial lambs must have been terrified at the sight of hundreds of glowing beings streaming at them from out of the cold, black sky. Talk about unidentified flying objects! “Be not afraid,” an angel said, which tells us how scared the shepherds must have been…

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14)

Even the stars celebrated. Men traveled for weeks to honor this birth, on the mere say so of those stars — wealthy, educated men. Can you even imagine?

Christmas marks the time when God Himself stepped into history, took on a human body and committed Himself to live a life under the limitations of His own creation. Astounding. He walked into time to demonstrate to both humans and angels His perfect justice and mercy and His so doing made every life meaningful and redeemable, unique.

Christmas marks the time when God Himself stepped into history, took on a human body and committed Himself to live a life under the limitations of His own creation. Astounding.

The miracle of Christmas – even after 2,000 years, even though watered down by all of our silly fuss-and-bother — remains a breathtaking event. A baby born of a virgin, a perfect baby arriving on earth without the taint of Adam’s sin, born into an impossible situation; Mary, the virgin (all of 14 years old, 9 months pregnant and unmarried, travelling for three days on the back of a donkey only to find herself in labor, stuck in a barn, a cave really, far from home and the women who might have helped her) just she and her betrothed, Joseph, clueless except for the information he’d had from an angel – who talks to angels? How preposterous, how unlikely.

How astonishing that news of this baby’s arrival would so unhinge Herod that he’d order all male babies killed. What?!

And yet there the baby was, wrapped in swaddling clothes – strips of cloth used usually to wrap corpses in – wrapped as His body would be some 33 years later. There He was complete with the “same hinged thumbs and toes, the same valved heart….” (John Updike Seven Stanzas at Easter)

There he was

“… this amazing Jesus

Who made Uranus and Venus became a fetus

It’s such a secret that few if anybody knew it

Months later, he’s covered in amniotic fluid

The subject of the gospels, praise of Apostles

Armed with eye sockets, arm pits and nostrils? (Shai Linne The Hypostatic Union)

So – it was a baby. Big deal. But this child would know more about God by the time he turned eleven than the priests in the Temple knew. This child would, by the time he became an adult, command crowds of thousands, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and withstand the temptations of Satan himself. This baby would grow into the man that would one day storm into the Temple and overturn the tables of the money-cheaters. This baby would stand on the walls of Jerusalem and weep for His city, for what He knew would happen to it. This child would grow into the man Pontius Pilate would one day crucify – a horrifying event, accompanied as it was by earthquakes and lightning, a blood moon, and the Temple veil ripping from top to bottom.

And this is the baby who would, after being beaten beyond recognition, through the streets of Jerusalem, up to Golgotha with a cross dragging on his torn shoulders, nailed to that cross and hung up for all to ridicule, who after all that would die and then vanish from his grave to be seen and talked with by hundreds in the weeks after his brutal execution.

This baby was the “woman’s seed” promised in Genesis, the one Isaiah prophesied – “For unto us a son is given.” This baby would be the Lamb of God, the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace. He would be called Immanuel – God With Us. He will one day rule over the whole world from his throne in Jerusalem.

This is a baby who would walk on water, and calm the storm, who would feed the 5,000 and bring Lazarus out of his 4-day tomb. That baby. THE baby. The one who would hang on that cross and finally, after hours and hours, shout, “Tetelestai!” It is finished. In fact, if one looks closely at the Greek here, it means, “finished in the past with results that continue forever.” Ah… THAT baby. The one who would take the punishment that the justice of God demanded from each of us. The one who condensed all of the law into two – Love God, and love your neighbor – and then showed us what that might entail, and what the ultimate reward would be. The “not my will but Thine” baby.  That baby.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n 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 newborn King!”   (Charles Wesley 1739)


Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com and is a writing and speech professor at Pacific Bible College in Southern Oregon.
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Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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4 Responses to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    One of my favorite Christmas carols. And of course you recall the scene in Charlie Brown Christmas (which ABC will show this Thursday) in which Linus quotes the passage you did as an explanation of the meaning of Christmas.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    A very nice and meaningful essay, Deana. I’m not even going to try to convince you that Sinatra’s version of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is the preferred one. I think few can match the simple charm of the Vince Guaraldi version in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

    One could do worse than the Johnny Cash version. And if anyone could hark, it was probably Tennesee Ernie Ford.

    And for sheer unexpected out-of-placeness, there is the version by Marty “Cool Water” Robbins.

    Still…when reading that final verse by Charles Wesley, I think KCC puts some wings on the musical version of it.

    Encore.

    And the funky version. The meek shall indeed inherit the earth. As will the out-of-tune.

    But the meek don’t own Christmas. Sometimes it’s okay for the angels to sing as well.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

    A beautiful story and promise.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    Just “Wow”

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