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.
Charles Wesley 1743
So many Christmas songs bring to mind memories of our childhood traditions, warm thoughts of family and togetherness, and the smells of those things baking in the oven, saved especially for Christmas dinner.
Ever since I first heard Hark the Herald Angels Sing as a child in A Charlie Brown Christmas, and again as an adult Christian, studying and considering the theology in these lyrics, the message of this hymn resonates in my very soul. The entire gospel is neatly packed into the lyrics of this hymn in such a memorable way.
Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns in his lifetime; however, according to The History And Use of Hymns and Hymn-Tunes, page 116, Hark the Herald Angels Sing is noted as one of the “Great Four of Angelican Hymnology.”
Although an entire book could be written about each line of this hymn, I’d like to focus on what was Charles Wesley’s 6th verse:
Mild he lays his Glory by;
This six-word phrase basically summarizes Philippians 2:5-11: although Jesus is God, He didn’t consider it robbery or beneath him to come to this world in the humble form of a baby to suffer the death on a cross.
The book of John verses 1 and 14 give us a very short genealogy of Jesus, in contrast to that of Matthew and Luke, from God’s point of view. That is, in the beginning was the Word, or message.
So before time existed, the Word was in existence, with God and that word was God. Verse 14 of John Chapter 1 tells us that Word became a man and lived among us. Jesus mildly, without any significant fanfare or gala, with the exception of the angels’ announcement to the shepherds watching their fields at night, arrived in a bleak world, homeless, a feeding trough his only crib.
Though He came to be the Deliverer, He was a refugee in Egypt. Though He came as the King of Kings, magi from the East brought to Him the gifts that would be their provision during their exile. Of his own volition, He stripped Himself of His glory.
Born; that Man no more may die,
Adam’s sentence for his sin was death. Because of Adam, one man, we all die. Because of the God-man, we all live. Jesus became a man and humbled Himself to the point of the death on the cross. This is significant because He, as the Lamb of God, a one-time sacrifice, died in our stead.
Romans 6:23 tells us that we deserve, as sinners, death. Death is our sentence. The purpose of the Savior’s birth is to die in our place. He is the propitiation for our sins.
Born; to raise the Sons of Earth,
In the Pauline Epistles we learn that without the resurrection our faith is meaningless. In that same line of logic, Christmas (the birth of Christ) is meaningless without Easter (the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ).
The birth of Jesus was always in the shadow of the cross; but that isn’t the end game. Birth and Death is not the end. God raised Jesus from the dead; this is a critical doctrine to Christianity (see Romans 10:9).
Romans 6:4-6 tells us that we are buried with Him through baptism and are also raised together with Him in the resurrection. He is the firstborn of the dead. Because of His resurrection we have the hope of resurrection as well. And that same spirit dwells in us that raised Christ from the dead.
Born; to give them Second Birth,
The Resurrection and Second Birth go hand in hand. As some say, “born once, die twice.; born twice, die once.” That is, we who are born again (because of the resurrection) will only die physically.
We are not subject to spiritual death (eternal separation from God). We are born again of incorruptible seed; meaning, nothing can make it (the seed) die.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:3-6
For Thought & Discussion:
- Why Did I Write this?
- Scriptures to dig into:
- What are your thoughts about this stanza?
- Are there any other verses that back up this lyric theologically?
- Have you used this song lately? Have you explained it?
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.