Sunday, December 25, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Glory to the Newborn King"

“Glory to the Newborn King”
Christmas Sunday
Luke 2:13-14
December 25, 2011

I invite you open your Bibles with me to the book of Luke chapter 2.

It seems like we end up here every year at Christmastime, and with good reason.

I love the story in Luke chapter 2.  It’s good news of great joy!

This year for Advent, we used “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” to give us some awesome things to think about during the Christmas season.

Now, be honest. How many of us used to think that that song was about a angel named “Harold?”

Nicknamed, “Harry.”

Harry the Angel?

Am I the only one?

I said last night, as we lit each candle in our wreath, that Hark! is now my favorite Christmas carol.

That’s because of the rich theological truth embedded in it.  It’s full of the true meaning of Christmas.

We’ll sing it together in a few more minutes.

Today, our title and the central thing I want to say comes from the last line that gets repeated over and over again in the carol: “Glory to the Newborn King.”

Interestingly, Charles* Wesley, who originally wrote this hymn didn’t write those words. He didn’t write, “Glory to the Newborn King.”

He wrote, “Glory to the King of Kings.”

Which is, of course, the same person.

In reality, there have been a lot of changes made to this hymn over the years.

Charles Wesley wrote it in 1739 as a long poem as a “Hymn for Christmas Day,” and it didn’t have that chorus that we’re used to singing at the end of each verse. [slide]

And it started like this, “Hark How All the Welkin Rings. Glory to the King of Kings.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that the words got changed over the years. Sometimes I hear people complaining about changing words to hymns and changing tunes that go with hymns.

Well, for the first 100 years or more Hark! was sung to the tune that we normally sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”

It wasn’t until 1855 that William H Cummings took Felix Mendelssohn’s tune and put these words to it so that it is what is familiar to us today. 

Anybody know just what the “welkin” is?

I had to look that one up.

“Welkin” is an old English word to stand for the sky, the heavens, the celestial sphere.

What you see when you look up at night time.

And what the shepherds saw when they looked up in Luke chapter 2, verse 13:

A sky full of angels.

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host [an angelic army] appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Can you imagine?

So that’s why Wesley wrote, “Hark! How the Welkin (the Sky!) Rings. Glory to the King of Kings.”

It was actually Wesleys' frenemy (that’s a friend who is sometimes an enemy or an opponent) George Whitefield that changed the words to what we know today.

Hark! The herald angels (the angels sent to be heralds of Jesus) sing, “Glory to the Newborn King.”

And today, I want to ask, what is glory?

“Glory to the Newborn King.”
“Glory to God in the highest.”
“Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”

What is glory?

And why are these angels singing it?

Of course, we don’t know if they actually sang.  Verse 13 says that they praised God and said “Glory to God in highest.”

But I think we all hear them singing those words. Not just boringly chanting them, that’s for sure.

But what did they mean?

What is glory?

Glory is a hard word to define.

It’s one of those words that you-know-it-when-you-see-it.

But how do you define it?

Here’s one way. It’s the beautiful greatness of God.

And saying, “glory to God” is announcing, proclaiming, declaring that God is amazingly great.

The Old Testament Hebrew word for glory is “Kavod.”

And it literally meant, “heavy.”

Like we say, “heavy, man.”

That’s awesome.

Rulers in the ancient world were the best fed. And the best fed got what? Heavy, right?

So, if you were great. Then you were great.

You had weight if you were great.


One of the things I like to pray for people is that Jesus would be BIG in their life.

I think that gets across this idea.

I pray that Jesus would be BIG in your life.

Or we could use the word “credit.”

We love the credits at the end of movie now.

Who gets the credit?

Who gets the BIGGEST credit?

Glory is credit.

To glory in something is to exult it so that it is BIG in your heart.

We see people glory when they enjoy a great football game or whatever you like.

They jump up and down, they yell, they sing, they raise their arms.  They do a little dance.

They glory. Something is big in their heart.

Glory, praise, magnification be to God in the highest.

Glory to the Newborn King.

Does that make sense?

The angels knew that something GLORIOUS, something tremendously great had happened on that first Christmas night.

And it took a whole army of angels to say it like it needed said.

Glory to God in the Highest!

What was so glorious?

Well, so many things.

We’ve been singing and sharing about them all this Advent season.

The hymn is full of wondrous things.

“Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
“Offspring of the Virgin’s Womb”
“Veiled in Flesh the Godhead See, Hail the incarnate Deity”
“Light and Life to All He Brings, Ris’n With Healing in His Wings”
“Born to raise the Sons of Earth, Born to Give them Second Birth”

So many ways of saying it.

Jesus is God become man who brings us salvation.

Salvation is what is so glorious.

And there are so many ways of glorying in it.

Let me share with you verse #4.

You may or may not know this verse.

My guess is that most of us don’t. It’s not in our hymnal, and I have several hymnals at home, it’s not in any of those.

It wasn’t actually in Wesley’s original, either.  But it’s taken from four stanzas of Wesley’s original poem and re-worked into a verse, probably by Whitefield.

And there are several versions of this out there, too.  Proof again that Christians songs can be fluid and open to revising for current needs and trends.

Can you read it from there?

#4. Come, Desire of Nations Come,
Fix in Us Thy Humble Home;
Rise, the Woman's Conquering Seed,
Bruise in Us the Serpent's Head.
Adam's Likeness Now Efface:
Stamp Thine Image in its Place;
Second Adam, from Above,
Reinstate Us in Thy Love.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,
Glory to the Newborn King.

Familiar to anybody here?

Of the four verses, this is one that is a prayer.

And it’s like a theological pound cake. Dense and rich with biblical truth.

It’s about salvation.  How glorious the salvation is that Jesus brought when He was born that first Christmas day.

“Come, Desire of Nations Come.”

Now, that my friends is a reference to Haggai chapter 2.

I ask you to turn there, but we’ll be done with it before you could find it.

Charles Wesley knew his Bible, didn’t he?

God says in Haggai 2:7 says, “I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with [what do you think the word is?] glory,' says the LORD Almighty.”

And Wesley saw Jesus’ birth as the fulfillment of Haggai 2.

He prays, “Fix in us thy humble home.”

And that’s a prayer for Jesus to come not just to Earth but to each believing heart.

As Paul prayed in Ephesians 3, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

And not just live there, but remodel the place.

“Rise, the Woman’s Conquering Seed, Bruise in Us the Serpent’s Head.”

What’s he talking about there?

That’s salvation!

It’s talking about Genesis 3. And the Fall.

When God cursed the serpent he said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Ever since Genesis 3 there has been a battle between the seed (offspring) of the serpent and the seed of the woman.

And Wesley understood that this was the gospel.

That Jesus would crush the serpent.

And so Wesley prayed, “Rise, the Woman’s Conquering Seed (That’s Jesus), Bruise in Us the Serpent’s Head.”

And there, he’s talking about the effects of Satan and the Fall being defeated in us.

That sin would be conquered in us.

And that we would become Christ-like

“Adam’s Likeness Now Efface.”

Efface means erase.

Take away our sin.  Rub it out with a Pink Pearl Eraser.

And then, “Stamp Thine Image in Its Place.”

The first man Adam is what we are all like.

But this little baby born in Bethelehem is the Second Adam.  Read Romans 5 or 1 Corinthians 15.

Jesus is the second head of humanity. 

“Second Adam from above Reinstate Us in Thy Love.”

That’s salvation!

And that’s something to glory in.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, ‘Glory to the Newborn King!’”

Glory that the Desire of Nations has come!
Glory that we are His humble home by the Holy Spirit!
Glory that Woman’s Conquering Seed Has Risen and Has Bruised in Us the Serpent’s Head!
Glory that God is stamping His own image into our hearts and reinstating us in His love.



Two words of application this morning.

First, is INVITE.

Each of us needs to receive Jesus as our own Lord and Savior if we are going to glory like this song calls us to.

Pray to the Lord, “Fix in me your humble home.”

Invite Him to be your Lord and Savior. Your King and Rescuer.

Jesus came to bring salvation.  Invite Him in.

Second word: EXULT.

Let your heart overflow with the GREATNESS of the Lord.

And worship Him.

Rejoice. Jump. Sing. Dance. Lift your hands. Yell.

May Jesus be BIG in your heart and mine.  Getting all the credit. All the glory.



He is great. Sing of His greatness.

GLORY to the King of Kings.
GLORIA in Excelsis Deo.

Glory in the Newborn in the King.

Anita, come on up here and let’s sing this.   Hymn #133.

Let’s sing all four verses this morning.

And sing them with all of our hearts.

Glory to the Newborn King!

* Note: An earlier version of this message credited Charles' brother John Wesley as the original author. I'm sorry for the error.


Charles Wesley wrote it, not John


You're right. I don't know how I could have made that mistake or how it's hung out there wrong since 2011! Will fix it. Thanks for your help.