For those that would prefer it, there is an audio track of this blog post. Don’t forget after listening to skip to the end of this post to play the recording of the Carol.

Nostalgia

This is the third of these Christmas Carol blog posts, and I have become aware of how significant the emotional/nostalgic connection is when singing Carols. These are songs that can have quite an impact on us.

Being aware of that nostalgia can take us in one of two directions.

It can help enhance our wonder at the Christmas message
OR
maybe in some cases it detracts from worship.

When that emotional connection is distracting you, you maybe need to think again about the words you are singing and the biblical content they contain.

A personal comment

In my case, the magnificent words and stirring tune of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, play a significant part enhancing it as I sing.

O Holy Night, I am not as moved by but then I didn’t actually know the carol in my first few decades. The English version was initially more common in America and has only become popular here relatively recently. It was only about two or three years ago that I sang it for the first time.

O Come All Ye Faithful, the carol we are looking at today, is again one that I remember from childhood.

I have particularly strong memories from the time at my secondary school carol concerts. On those occasions we always sang it in Latin. I rather enjoyed that, and still would if I had opportunity to do so where it wouldn’t disturb people around me. I find the Latin is quite simple and I can pretty well still understand it!

So lets look at it . . .

A Bit of History:

It isn’t entirely certain who wrote this carol, or when.

Because it was originally written in Latin, I had assumed that meant it was fairly old – at least mediaeval – but that isn’t so.

It was first published in 1751, by John Francis Wade. He is often quoted as the author of the Latin version, although there are also other suggestions from around 100 years earlier.

In any case, the familiar English translation, the one with 4 verses, dates from 1852 by Frederick Oakley.

Various authors added more verses to the original four, and some of them have English translations, but they are not sung as often.

Many different composers have been said to write the tune so we do not really know who actually did.

O Come all ye Faithful …

So, what Bible themes can we point out?

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

Bethlehem in the second line is the first pointer that we are – if you hadn’t already guessed – singing about the birth of Jesus.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

Luke 2:4

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.

Matthew 2:6, quoting Micah 5

Then “Born the King of angels”.
Be careful how you read this line. Don’t read it as though Jesus became the king of angels at his birth.
Rather read it to say, even though he was the king of angels, he was born.
My translation of those two lines would be more like “See him born, the King of the angels”.

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Hebrews 1:6

The key word of this verse is clearly Come – mentioned seven times.

There are too many Bible references of this theme to mention more than one

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

This Christmas, sing the carols with joy but don’t miss out coming to Jesus.

God of God, light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God, begotten, not created:
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

This second verse feels a bit more theological.

It picks up thoughts from

  • John 1 – it references to God, and Light, and that he was with God in the beginning
  • Philippians 2 – he humbled himself to be born as a baby, he was equal with God.
    Note that the word Very here means Truly. So – even more reasons to come and adore him!

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God, glory in the highest:
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

In verse three we are back in Luke 2, perhaps, with choirs of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest heaven”

Actually, the word sing doesn’t appear in Luke 2, but can you imagine being in a huge crowd praising God and NOT singing? (although in Covid 2020 that thought is a bit of an issue)

I am also reminded of the verse in Revelation

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.”

Revelation 5:11

That would be something to hear, but maybe when we get to heaven the angels’ voices will be drowned out by the singing of the ransomed church?

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

The last verse used to be reserved for Christmas Day but that tradition seems to have pretty much gone. Maybe there is more recognition that Jesus probably wasn’t born on 25th December, or perhaps it is just not wanting to miss out on a good verse.

I think the author’s inspiration came from John 1.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

This Christmas come and adore the Lord of Glory, the Baby in Bethlehem, the King of Heaven!