The fourth stanza of Charles Wesley’s classic Christmas carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a wonderful between-the-Advents look at what happened at the First Advent, and what we have to look forward to in the Second Advent. The key thing to note in this stanza is the verbs: come, fix, rise, bruise, efface, stamp, and reinstate.
COME, Desire of nations—What is the “desire of nations”? It’s the restoration of God’s glory on earth, so it’s not really a what but a Who. The prophet Haggai informs us that our Desire is realized in the Advent of Jesus (2:1-9).
FIX in us Thy humble home—At His First Advent, Jesus came and humbly made His home among us, even dying to pay the penalty for our sins (Hebrews 2:14, 17; Philippians 2:7-8).
RISE, the woman’s conquering seed—Although Jesus was obedient to death—even death on a Cross, He didn’t stay dead but was resurrected (Philippians 2:8-9; Revelation 1:18)!
BRUISE in us the serpent’s head—With His death and resurrection, Jesus took away the sting of death from satan, fulfilling one of God’s first prophesies (Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 54-57).
Adam’s likeness now EFFACE—That means to wipe out, do away with, expunge. That’s exactly what God does with our forgiven sins (Psalm 103:1-4, 10-12)!
STAMP Thine image in its place—Although our sin has been effaced, God doesn’t leave us as blank slates, but instead He allows the image of His Son Jesus to be stamped onto our lives (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
REINSTATE us in Thy love—The relationship we longed for is now reborn in us (1 Corinthians 15:49)!
The Desire of Nations HAS come, and yet He WILL come again! We’re living between the Advents now, so a good question for Christians to ask is: “How are we to live?” I think there are three key things—
It was for our benefit that God came to Earth in His First Advent, not in thunder, and lightning, and all the brilliance of His heavenly glory, but as a Baby. Otherwise, He would have been unapproachable by sinful man.
But make no mistake about it—although born as a human baby, Jesus was still “Christ by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord”!
The thought of God being everlasting permeates the Scriptures:
Charles Wesley captures this fully-God-fully-Man essence in his song Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by calling Jesus the everlasting Lord and then listing His humanness at His First Advent with phrases like offspring of a virgin’s womb, veiled in flesh, incarnate Deity, pleased as Man with men to appear, and Immanuel.
Jesus came to earth as Man not because He was forced to, but because it fulfilled the everlasting covenant that God had planned. The writer of Hebrews explains beautifully how He became like us in all of our humanness so that He could be a merciful help to us (see Hebrews 2:10-18).
When Matthew tells the birth story of Jesus, he includes a line pregnant with meaning: “All this took place to fulfill…” (Matthew 1:22).
What “all this”? Just take a look at Christ’s genealogy in the opening verses of Matthew 1. You see Abraham who tried to “help” God fulfill the covenant by fathering a child with another woman; Jacob who swindled his birthright from Esau; Judah who fathered Perez through his widowed daughter-in-law, whom he thought was a prostitute; Rahab was a prostitute; Ruth was a non-Jewish foreigner; David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed, and from their relationship came Solomon; Solomon’s son split the kingdom in two; from Abijah to Jeconiah the kings became progressively more and more evil; from Jeconiah forward the kings were without a kingdom; and then Joseph was a prince without a throne or even the glimmer of a hope of a throne.
Yet ALL THIS took place to fulfill God’s plan. All of history is His story! Every deed and misdeed was used by God to fulfill His everlasting plan of redemption. Jesus had a very human family tree so that none of us could be outside His merciful reach.
What’s your genealogy like? More good than bad? What about your own history? More mess ups than positives? Nothing in your genealogy—past or present—can ever stop our everlasting Lord from fulfilling His everlasting covenant with YOU (Romans 8:28)!
It may appear He is late in time, but behold Him come at just the right time. Accept Him as your everlasting Lord, lean on His everlasting arms, and bask in His everlasting joy.
Jesus—our Immanuel here—came so you could have all of God’s everlastingness!
Join me this Sunday as we continue to look at the amazing messages in our old familiar Christmas carols.
Nowhere else do we see such a concentration of angels as during Christ’s time on earth, and especially at His birth. In the Old Testament prior to Christ’s birth, and in the New Testament following Christ’s ascension, we don’t see as many angels clustered together on Earth—
Charles Wesley wrote a Christmas carol called Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. In the first stanza, we’re invited to “join the triumph in the skies.” But how can someone sing a song grand enough, majestic enough, or worthy enough to honor Almighty God?! That would be like me being asked to compose a song or play something on the piano to honor Mozart—how could I play anything worthy of his musical talent?
In a similar way, when the Israelites thought about coming into God’s presence, they were gripped with knee-knocking, gut-churning fear (Exodus 19:16-19; 20:18-19)!
But notice that the angels didn’t sing, “God is born in Bethlehem.” They sang, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.” Christ: the Messiah; the One who sets things right. No wonder this is such good news of great joy that brings peace and God’s favor (Luke 2:10, 14).
The simple fact is that we couldn’t approach God and join in their angelic song. Instead, Jesus approached us as our Messiah, our Deliverer. How could this happen? Wesley’s carol reminds us that Jesus came so that God and sinners are reconciled!
The First Advent is God approaching us. If we allow Jesus to reconcile us to our Holy Heavenly Father, then we have no fear of Christ’s Second Advent. His Second Advent will be attended to by angels just like His First Advent (Matthew 25:31-32; Mark 8:38; Jude 1:14-15). Those who haven’t had their sins forgiven will hear a song that is soul-crushing to them, while those who have accepted the reconciling work of Jesus will join with the angelic host in a victorious song bringing glory to God forever and ever (Revelation 14:9-11; 15:1-4).
We don’t have to wait until we get to Heaven to join the triumph of the skies. We can join the angelic choir right now in singing our praise to God today. And every day!
Join me this Sunday as we continue to look at the fantastic messages in our Christmas carols.
We began our series on The Carols Of Christmas by looking at the poem written by Charles Wesley in 1744: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. As far as I can find, Wesley never shared where he got his inspiration for this prose, but I have a hunch that it might be from a song in the Bible called The Benedictus.
Zechariah had been unable to speak for nearly a year because of his doubt over the message God sent him through the angel (see Luke 1:5-20). When his son was born and Zechariah named him John, his tongue was loosed and he “was filled with the Holy Spirit” and burst into song (Luke 1:67-79). The first word of his song in Latin is benedictus, from which the name is derived.
Here’s what I love about both Zechariah’s and Wesley’s songs—they both look forward to Christ’s First Advent and His Second Advent. Mary was still pregnant with Jesus when Zechariah sang his song, but his lyrics reflect the Redemption story that Jesus would fulfill as Emmanuel, God with us. Charles Wesley picks up this same theme, rejoicing over Christ’s birth and His imminent return.
In fact, that’s exactly the point! We aren’t celebrating Christmas as much as we are celebrating Advent. Jesus was born “when the time had fully come” for His First Advent (Galatians 4:4-5), and “this same Jesus, Who has been taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:11). That’s the message that should encourage us (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Check out the remarkable parallels between the Benedictus and Wesley’s hymn—
If you’d like to download a PDF of this side-by-side comparison, here it is → Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus & Benedictus ←
We are continuing our series on the rich, meaningful messages in the familiar Christmas carols next Sunday, and I’d love to have you join us!