Who do you think is the most prolific poet in the English language?

At theological college in Manchester our lecturer Dr McGonigle claimed that if you counted lyrists as poets then Charles Wesley was the most prolific English poet as he wrote over 6500 hymns.

Most of us who have been brought up in church know a few Wesley hymns (And Can It Be? O For A Thousand Tongues) but there is no doubt that his best known hymn by people in general is HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING.

Charles Wesley first published it in 1739 and called it A HYMN FOR CHRISTMAS DAY.

Back to Dr McGonigle (In case you wondering I went to Nazarene Theological College not Hogwarts) We had to take a course with Dr McG that meant an in depth look at Charles Wesley’s hymns.

Dr McGonigle’s big point was this in Wesley’s hymns THEOLOGY ALWAYS LEADS TO DOXOLOGY

I was glad he explained what that meant because as a relatively new theological student I didn’t have a clue. He explained that theology is the study of God, what we believe about who God is and what He has done, and doxology is an expression of praise.

He showed us how in his hymns Charles Wesley would describe some great theological truth about God or our salvation and then describe what we should experience and why we should praise God as a result.

Wesley always wanted to make what we believe about God to lead us to experience God and praise God.

Dr McGonigle then had a bit of a rant about how in many hymns books they chop off verses and so people never get to the verses about how we should experience what God has done for us and praise him in response. Hark the Herald was one of his examples. Go on have a read, when was the last time you sang verses 4 and 5 ?

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!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

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.

There is so much in this great Carol we could reflect on but I want to pull out 4 lines from verses 2

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Wesley is reflecting on John 1:14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.He is thinking about the Incarnation, that Jesus became fully human without becoming any less God.

OK back to Dr McGonigle’s class on Wesleyan tradition. Dr McG told us that as theological students, like in Wesley’s hymns, theology must lead to doxology. He said what we studied about God should always draw us to worship God. I believe that applies equally to every believer

So, I have an Advent challenge for you. Below is the verse from John 1, the lines from Hark The Herald and a quote about the Incarnation by theologian James Packer. I challenge you to sit and reflect on these words, what do they teach you about our God, about Jesus? Then let your theology lead to doxology.

How should you praise God because of what you believe about the Incarnation?

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