This Hark! the Herald Angels Sing Hymn Study includes everything you need to study the hymn in one easy download.
Hymn study is a simple way to pass the heritage of hymns on to our children. Use this unit study to help your family learn more about the hymn “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing Hymn History
Nearly 300 years ago, a new convert in England wrote the poem that would become the Christmas carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
That new convert was Charles Wesley. He went on to become a Methodist leader and hymn writer, eventually writing more than 6,000 hymns. His main purpose in writing hymns was to teach Biblical doctrine to the poor and uneducated in England.
As he was walking to church on Christmas Day about one year after his conversion, Mr. Wesley was inspired by the ringing of the London church bells. He went home and wrote the poem which he called “Hymn for Christmas Day.”
Wesley’s poem first appeared in Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1739, but it looked a little different than the carol we know and love today. It was originally written in ten shorter stanzas, each one half the length of the stanzas we sing today.
In addition, the opening line was very different than it is in modern hymnals:
“Hark, how all the welkin rings,
Glory to the King of Kings.”
(“Welkin” is an archaic term referring to the sky or the heavens.)
But in 1753, one of Mr. Wesley’s students, George Whitefield, adapted the poem into the familiar words we sing today:
“Hark! The herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the newborn King . . . ‘”
Another change was made in the New Version of the Psalms of David in 1782. In this version, the opening lines of the song are repeated at the end of each stanza as a refrain—the same way that we sing it today.
The tune has also changed over the years. When Mr. Wesley originally wrote the poem, he wanted it to be sung to a slow, solemn tune.
However, in 1855, a British musician and vocalist named William Hayman Cummings realized that a chorus from one of Felix Mendelssohn’s cantatas would fit the words of Wesley’s poem.
Interestingly, Mendelssohn was a Messianic Jew. He had intended this particular composition to be used only for secular music, but it seems fitting that it is used today to proclaim the birth of the Messiah.
From the beginning to the end, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is full of meaningful Scriptural references. The first stanza paraphrases the words of the angels announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. (Luke 2:14)
The final stanza of the carol (in most hymnals) refers to the beautiful words of Malachi 4:2: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.”
Nearly 300 years later, Charles Wesley’s poem continues to remind us of the peace and hope that are found in “Jesus, our Emmanuel.”
You may also like: Away in a Manger Hymn Study
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing Hymn Lyrics
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 th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun 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.
Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving pow’r,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
Oh, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Hymn Copywork, Notebooking Pages, and More
Copywork pages, notebooking pages, and other printables are now available in one easy download! The Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Hymn Study includes everything you need to study the hymn:
- hymn history
- sheet music
- links to listen to the hymn
- review questions to gauge comprehension
- vocabulary words taken from the hymn
- copywork and notebooking pages
- related Scripture to memorize