Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a theologically rich song. It’s perfect for Christmas Eve, the night in which the angels visited the shepherds.
Luke records the event:
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:13-14
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is a classic Christmas story-song. It focuses on the Lukan narrative of Mary, the angels, and the shepherds and emphasizes the rest God provides through His Son, our Savior.
The refrain, “Oh-oh, tiding of comfort and joy, comfort and joy” is a catchy repeat that allows even those who struggle with all seven verses to always have a part to play.
In this version Sarah follow the original tune, which makes it an arrrangment, but it has its own style. The verses that are here form a chiastic (hourglass structure.) The 2nd and 6th are about Mary and have a protestant feel, as they emphasize both Mary’s humility, and worship of Jesus. (Roman Catholics usually focus on her honor and virtue.) Here’s the structure:
1. Public invitation — God REST ye merry Gentlemen
2. Mary’s HUMILITY — did nothing take in scorn
3. Angel to Shepherds — announcement
4. FEAR NOT — he comes to save us
5. Shepherds go to Bethlehem — laid in a manger
6. Mary’s worship — kneeling to PRAY before the manger
7. Public response — “Now to the Lord sing PRAISES all you within this place, and with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace.”
So note the structure:
The center verse is #4 — FEAR NOT.
Surrounded by Angel and Shepherds (#3 and #5)
Sourrounded by Mary (#2 and #6) — HUMBLE and PRAYING,
Surrounded by our response: REST and PRAISE
Tidings of comfort and joy!
Here’s where you can find the whole album, Emmanuel.
This December I wrote a Christmas time devotional for households for the church I serve, Cornerstone EPC in Brighton, MI called Devotions in December. It has 11 devotions to be used during advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas.