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Christmas Music, Part 7 – Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Charles Wesley (1707-1788),  the younger brother of John Wesley wrote the words to this Christmas Carol.

Charles was a hymn writer and a poet, also known as one of the people who began the Methodist movement in the Church of England. Hark the Herald Angels Sing appeared in 1739 in a book called Hymns and Sacred Poems.

Wesley envisioned this being sung to the same tune as his hymn, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,  and in some hymnals it is included along with the more popular version.

This hymn was regarded as one of the Great Four Anglican Hymns and published as number 403 in “The Church Hymn Book” (New York and Chicago, USA, 1872).

To celebrate the invention of the printing press, Felix Mendelssohn composed a cantata in 1840 called Festgesang or “Festival Song”. The melody of Mendelssohn’s cantata was then used by William H. Cummings and adapted it to the lyrics of Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

And, of course, no one can do it better than The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

 

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2022 in Christmas Music, Holidays, Posts of Interest

 

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Hymn History: All Saints Day

November 1 is All Saints Day, a sometimes-overlooked holy day in United Methodist congregations. It is not nearly as well known as the day before, All Hallows’ (Saints’) Eve, better known as Halloween, but is far more important in the life of the church.

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, enjoyed and celebrated All Saints Day. In a journal entry from November 1, 1767, Wesley calls it “a festival I truly love.” On the same day in 1788, he writes, “I always find this a comfortable day.” The following year he calls it “a day that I peculiarly love.”

This may sound odd. United Methodists don’t believe in saints. Right?

Well, yes… and no.

Wesley cautioned against holding saints in too high regard.The Articles of Religion that he sent to the Methodists in America in 1784, include a statement against “invocation of saints” (Article XIV—Of Purgatory, Book of Discipline ¶104). Wesley did not see biblical evidence for the practice and discouraged Methodists from participating.

However, he also advised against disregarding the saints altogether.

In an All Saints Day journal entry dated Monday, November 1, 1756, Wesley writes, “How superstitious are they who scruple giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints!” If your 18th century English is as rusty as mine, it might help to know that the word scruple means, “to be unwilling to do something because you think it is improper, morally wrong, etc.” (Merriam-Webster.com).

All Saints Day is an opportunity to give thanks for all those who have gone before us in the faith. It is a time to celebrate our history, what United Methodists call the tradition of the church.

From the early days of Christianity, there is a sense that the Church consists of not only all living believers, but also all who have gone before us. For example, in Hebrews 12 the author encourages Christians to remember that a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounds us encouraging us, cheering us on.

Charles Wesley, John’s brother, picks up on this theme in his hymn that appears in our United Methodist Hymnal as “Come, Let Us Join our Friends Above,” #709. In the first verse, he offers a wonderful image of the Church through the ages:

Let saints on earth unite to sing, with those to glory gone,
for all the servants of our King in earth and heaven, are one.

On All Saints Day we remember all those—famous or obscure—who are part of the “communion of saints” we confess whenever we recite The Apostles’ Creed. We tell the stories of the saints “to glory gone.”

Alongside the likes of Paul from the New Testament, Augustine, Martin Luther, and John and Charles Wesley, we tell stories of the grandmother who took us to church every Sunday. We remember the pastor who prayed with us in the hospital, and the neighbor who changed the oil in the family car. We give thanks for the youth leader who told us Jesus loved us, the kindergarten Sunday school teacher who showered us with that love, and the woman in the church who bought us groceries when we were out of work.

Retelling these stories grounds us in our history. These memories teach us how God has provided for us through the generosity and sacrifice of those who have come before us. The stories of the saints encourage us to be all God has created us to be.

Charles Wesley’s hymn tells us those “to glory gone” are joined by the “saints on earth,” whom we also celebrate on All Saints Day. We think of the inspirational people with whom we worship on Sunday, and those across the world we will never meet. We celebrate fellow United Methodists who inspire us, and those of other denominations whose lives encourage us. We give thanks for those with whom we agree, as well as those whose views we do not share.

Additionally, we remember and pray for our sisters and brothers in Christ who faithfully follow Jesus in places where being labeled a Christian puts them in harm’s way.

On All Saints Day, we recognize that we are part of a giant choir singing the same song. It is the song Jesus taught his disciples; a tune that has resonated for more than 2,000 years; a melody sung in glory and on the earth. Our great privilege is to add our voices to this chorus.

The last verse of “Come, Let Us Join our Friends Above” encourages us to sing faithfully while on earth, so we might join the heavenly chorus one day.

Our spirits too shall quickly join, like theirs with glory crowned,
and shout to see our Captain’s sign, to hear His trumpet sound.

O that we now might grasp our Guide! O that the word were given!
Come, Lord of Hosts, the waves divide, and land us all in heaven.

On All Saints Day, let us give thanks for both the saints in glory and those on earth, who have led us to Jesus. As they have shared the gospel with us, may we add our voices so someone else may hear about the grace and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God for the lives of his saints.

Adapted from https://www.umc.org/en/content/all-saints-day-a-holy-day-john-wesley-loved

 

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2022 in Holidays, Hymn History, Posts of Interest

 

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Marking John Wesley’s Birthday in his Words

wesley-quote1787

A UMNS Commentary by the Rev. Robert J. Williams

As John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, grew older, he frequently commented on his birthday how he was still in good health and this was largely due to the way God had blessed him.

Wesley was born on June 17, 1703, while England was still using the Julian calendar. England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 and thus Wesley’s birth date became June 28.

His birthday reflections give us a glimpse into how he viewed his life, health and ministry. On June 28, 1770, he wrote:

I can hardly believe that I am this entered into the sixty-eighth year of my age! How marvelous are the ways of God! How has he kept me, even from a child! From ten to thirteen or fourteen, I had little but bread to eat, and not great plenty of that. I believe this was so far from hurting me that it laid the foundation to lasting health. When I grew up, in consequence of reading Dr. Cheyne, I chose to eat sparingly and drink water. This was another great means of continuing my health, till I was about seven and twenty…; (He then speaks of various ailments.); Since that time, I have known neither pain nor sickness, and am now healthier than I was forty years ago! This hath God wrought!

He started to set a pattern for indicating his age and his good health. One year later, he wrote:

This day I entered the sixty-ninth year of my age. I am still a wonder to myself. My voice and strength are the same as at nine and twenty. This also hath God wrought.

In 1774, he wrote:

This being my birthday, the first day of my seventy-second year, I was considering. How is this, that I find just the same strength as I did thirty years ago? That my sight is considerably better now and my nerves firmer than there were then? That I have none of the infirmities of old age and have lost several I had in my youth? The grand cause is the good pleasure of God, who doth whatsoever pleaseth him. The chief means are: (1) My constantly rising at four, for about fifty years. (2) My generally preaching at five in the morning, one of the most healthy exercises in the world. (3) My never travelling less, by sea or land, than four thousand five hundred miles in a year.

In the intervening 10 years, he repeated these sentiments numerous times, and even in 1784, he wrote:

Today I entered on my eighty-second year and found myself just as strong to labour, and as fit for any exercise of body or mind, as I was forty years ago. I do not impute this to second causes, but to the sovereign Lord of all…; I am as strong at eighty-one, as I was at twenty-one, but abundantly more healthy, being a stranger to the head-ache, tooth-ache, and other bodily disorders which attended me in my youth. We can only say ‘The Lord reigneth’ While we live, let us live to him!

In 1788, after praising God “for a thousand spiritual blessings,” Wesley listed as questions what may be some of the “inferior means” for achieving such good health into old age.

To my constant exercise and change of air? To my never having lost a night’s sleep, sick or well at land or at sea, since I was born? To my having sleep at command, so that whenever I feel myself almost worn out, I call it and it comes, day or night? To my having constantly, for above sixty years, risen at four in the morning? To my constant preaching at five in the morning for above fifty years? To my having had so little pain in my life and so little sorrow or anxious care?

Finally, on June 28, 1790, less than a year before his death, he wrote:

This day I enter into my eighty-eighth year. For above eighty-six years, I found none of the infirmities of old age: my eyes did not wax dim, neither was my natural strength abated. But last August, I found almost a sudden change. My eyes were so dim that no glasses would help me. My strength likewise now quite forsook me and probably will not return in this world. But I feel no pain from head to foot, only it seems nature is exhausted and, humanly speaking, will sink more and more, till ‘The weary springs of life stand still at last.’

As this remarkable man aged, he reflected on God’s blessings and how his lifestyle contributed to his good health. This is but a brief glimpse into his humanity and can call on us to do likewise on our birthdays.

Editor’s Note: This story was first published on June 25, 2012.

*Williams is the top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History in Madison, N.J.

From http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/marking-john-wesleys-birthday-in-his-words

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2021 in Holidays, Posts of Interest

 

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Happy Birthday, John Wesley

wesley-quote1787

A UMNS Commentary by the Rev. Robert J. Williams

As John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, grew older, he frequently commented on his birthday how he was still in good health and this was largely due to the way God had blessed him.Wesley was born on June 17, 1703, while England was still using the Julian calendar. England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 and thus Wesley’s birth date became June 28.His birthday reflections give us a glimpse into how he viewed his life, health and ministry. On June 28, 1770, he wrote:

I can hardly believe that I am this entered into the sixty-eighth year of my age! How marvelous are the ways of God! How has he kept me, even from a child! From ten to thirteen or fourteen, I had little but bread to eat, and not great plenty of that. I believe this was so far from hurting me that it laid the foundation to lasting health. When I grew up, in consequence of reading Dr. Cheyne, I chose to eat sparingly and drink water. This was another great means of continuing my health, till I was about seven and twenty…; (He then speaks of various ailments.); Since that time, I have known neither pain nor sickness, and am now healthier than I was forty years ago! This hath God wrought!

He started to set a pattern for indicating his age and his good health. One year later, he wrote:

This day I entered the sixty-ninth year of my age. I am still a wonder to myself. My voice and strength are the same as at nine and twenty. This also hath God wrought.

In 1774, he wrote:

This being my birthday, the first day of my seventy-second year, I was considering. How is this, that I find just the same strength as I did thirty years ago? That my sight is considerably better now and my nerves firmer than there were then? That I have none of the infirmities of old age and have lost several I had in my youth? The grand cause is the good pleasure of God, who doth whatsoever pleaseth him. The chief means are: (1) My constantly rising at four, for about fifty years. (2) My generally preaching at five in the morning, one of the most healthy exercises in the world. (3) My never travelling less, by sea or land, than four thousand five hundred miles in a year.

In the intervening 10 years, he repeated these sentiments numerous times, and even in 1784, he wrote:

Today I entered on my eighty-second year and found myself just as strong to labour, and as fit for any exercise of body or mind, as I was forty years ago. I do not impute this to second causes, but to the sovereign Lord of all…; I am as strong at eighty-one, as I was at twenty-one, but abundantly more healthy, being a stranger to the head-ache, tooth-ache, and other bodily disorders which attended me in my youth. We can only say ‘The Lord reigneth’ While we live, let us live to him!

In 1788, after praising God “for a thousand spiritual blessings,” Wesley listed as questions what may be some of the “inferior means” for achieving such good health into old age.

To my constant exercise and change of air? To my never having lost a night’s sleep, sick or well at land or at sea, since I was born? To my having sleep at command, so that whenever I feel myself almost worn out, I call it and it comes, day or night? To my having constantly, for above sixty years, risen at four in the morning? To my constant preaching at five in the morning for above fifty years? To my having had so little pain in my life and so little sorrow or anxious care?

Finally, on June 28, 1790, less than a year before his death, he wrote:

This day I enter into my eighty-eighth year. For above eighty-six years, I found none of the infirmities of old age: my eyes did not wax dim, neither was my natural strength abated. But last August, I found almost a sudden change. My eyes were so dim that no glasses would help me. My strength likewise now quite forsook me and probably will not return in this world. But I feel no pain from head to foot, only it seems nature is exhausted and, humanly speaking, will sink more and more, till ‘The weary springs of life stand still at last.’

As this remarkable man aged, he reflected on God’s blessings and how his lifestyle contributed to his good health. This is but a brief glimpse into his humanity and can call on us to do likewise on our birthdays.

Editor’s Note: This story was first published on June 25, 2012.

*Williams is the top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History in Madison, N.J.

From http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/marking-john-wesleys-birthday-in-his-words

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2021 in Holidays, Posts of Interest

 

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Watch Night 2020

 

John Wesley believed that Methodists and all Christians, should reaffirm their covenant with God annually, so he created a service in which an individual renews his/her covenant with God.

 

In 1755 Wesley held his first covenant service using words written earlier by Richard Alleine. Wesley published this service in a pamphlet in 1780, and this form was used without alteration for nearly a century in England. It has been modified somewhat in more recent years.

 

The covenant hymn, “Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine,” was written for this service by Charles Wesley. The service is included in The Book of Worship under the title “An Order of Worship for Such as Would Enter Into or Renew Their Covenant with God–For Use in a Watch Night Service, on the First Sunday of the Year, or Other Occasion.”

 

This covenant service is often used in United Methodism as a Watch Night Service on New Year’s Eve. The covenant service is observed in some local churches on New Year’s Day or on the first Sunday in January. The service focuses on the Christian’s renewing the covenant of response to the grace of God in Christ.

 

 

 

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