O Come All Ye Faithful

We are looking at popular Christmas hymns and their origins in Biblical truth during this advent season. Our objective is not to exposit the hymns but to worship along with the hymn writer and the countless others who know the hymn.

We are looking at the carols with an eye on Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. He writes,

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

We sing these spiritual songs of Christmas with thankfulness in our hearts for what God has done. As we sing, Biblical truth that coincides with the song comes to mind.

This week, we are looking at the carol, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.’ (It is only by coincidence that the three carols we have looked at thus far begin with “O.” The lyrics are at the end.) It is often sung at the end of Christmas concerts because it leaves people in a cheerful mood due to its upbeat melody.

The writer of the carol is uncertain. It has been attributed to a few composers over the years, including Handel and Gluck, but it is commonly believed that John Francis Wade is the author.

The first printing in Latin took place around 1751. The English translation was completed by Frederick Oakeley in 1841 and is the most commonly used English version.

Jesus is King

O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant
Oh come ye O come ye to Bethlehem;
come and behold him born the King of angels;
O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.

The Christmas carol begins by beckoning us to come and behold Jesus, who is born in Bethlehem.

The writer of the hymn gives Jesus three titles. Jesus is Christ, which means He is the anointed Messiah of Israel. He is Lord, which means He is sovereign over us. Third, Jesus is the King of angels.

We are familiar with the titles of Christ and Lord, but how often do we think about Jesus as the King of angels?

Turn to the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation, and we will get a tiny picture of the world of angels. John describes in his vision that, like Isaiah, he is given a picture into the throne room of heaven. In the throne room, John sees magnificent creatures that are angels.

The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” (Revelation 4:7-8)

John does as best as he can to describe what he sees. The creatures are nothing short of fantastic. They have six wings and are covered with eyes. Angels in the Bible never appear as cute, chubby infants!

Angels are created as mighty beings with the sole purpose of being servants of God. Angels are mentioned at least 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament[1]. Hence, there is plenty of information available in Scripture to allow us to have a foundation of knowledge of angelic beings.

Angels have direct access to the throne of God. The Jews considered them next to God, and none entitled to their adoration but God. The responsibilities given angels in Scripture are diverse.

It appears that the main activity of the angels in heaven is worship and praise (Isaiah 6:1-3; Revelation 4-5). Angels travel to our world as messengers to communicate God’s will to men. They helped to reveal the law to Moses (Acts 7:52-53). The Angel Gabriel announces the birth of Jesus to Zacharias and Mary.  Heralding angels tell the shepherds of Christ’s birth.

Angels give instructions to the women at the tomb, to Philip (Acts 8:26), and to Cornelius (Acts 10:1-8). They tend to physical needs by giving food to Hagar (Genesis 21:17-20), Elijah (1 Kings 19:6), and Jesus after His temptation (Matthew 4:11).

Angels help protect from danger. They protect Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 3).  Psalm 34 tells us that the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him. Angels released the apostles from prison in Acts 5 and Peter in Acts 12.

An angel with a flaming sword stands guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24).

Angels are to be greatly feared. One angel slays 185,000 Assyrians (more than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined) (2 Kings 19:35).  Angels give worms to Herod (Acts 12:21-23).

When Jesus returns, He is coming with His angels to repay each person according to what they have done (Matthew 16:27). In Revelation 12, Michael and his angels fight the dragon and his angels. Michael is an angel holding the key and chain for Satan.

As we contemplate the vast responsibilities and powers of angels, let’s remember their Commander is Jesus, King of the angels. We are impressed by generals and commanders. But no man commands such an incredibly powerful army as Christ the Lord. Jesus bids them to come and go and to help or destroy.

Come, let us adore Him. The Baby born in a manger in Bethlehem is the King of angels.

Jesus is God

God of God light of light
Lo he abhors not the virgin’s womb;
Very God begotten not created:
O come let us adore him Christ The Lord.

The primary reason we have so many songs telling about the birth of Jesus is that Jesus is not a mere human. Jesus is God in the flesh. He is God of God and light of light.

Jesus is not created but begotten. He takes on the form of a man. He willingly becomes one of us. The God who commands angels is born in Bethlehem. God humbles Himself to become a human, and He does so with no regrets. The writer of the song says, “He abhors not the virgin’s womb.” God did not despise the virgin’s womb because He chose her womb as a vessel to carry Him and give Him birth.

The writer of Hebrews explains why Jesus choose to be born a man.

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:9-10)

Remarkably, the God who creates the angels and is their King, humbles Himself to be made lower than the angels. Jesus takes on the form of a man who is a creature lower than the angels.

Listen to the amazing truth that this passage tells us about Jesus. He tastes death for everyone. It is the death of Jesus which gives us our salvation. Jesus dies to take the punishment we deserve.

The writer of Hebrews tells us of the relationship of Jesus to His creation. It is Jesus, “for whom are all things, and through whom are all things.” In other words, all things are made for Jesus, and all things are made by Jesus. Because all things are for Him, it is fitting that it is from Jesus that salvation is given.

It is not fitting for an angel to give salvation. It is not fitting for a lamb or bull sacrifice to give salvation. But, it is fitting that God, in the form of a man gives salvation. Human creatures need to be saved, so God becomes a human creature to give salvation.

When someone is an authority on a subject, we say, “they wrote the book.” Jesus brings many to glory by being the author of salvation. He is the author who writes the book of how salvation is given. He tastes death for everyone, but not all come to glory. Only those who put their faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord are those who receive His salvation. (O come all ye faithful.)

Come and adore Him, God who humbles Himself to die for our salvation.

Jesus is Exalted

Sing choirs of angels sing in exultation
Sing all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God in the highest:
O come, let us adore him, Christ The Lord

The third stanza calls creatures to sing. It calls the choirs of angels and those who are citizens of heaven to sing. All who put their faith in Christ are citizens of heaven. We are to join with the angels in singing, “Glory to God in the highest.”

Why are the angels singing? Why should we join them? John’s book of Revelation gives us the reason.

I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:1-14)

The angels are not worthy. None of us are worthy to open the book. We sing to exalt Jesus because He is worthy. The one who opens the book must be valuable and Jesus is valuable.

The Scripture says worthy is Jesus to open the book because He purchased the salvation of people from every tribe and tongue and nation. Worthy is Jesus because He redeems sinners and transforms them into a kingdom and priests to our God. Worthy is Jesus, for He is the Lamb that is slain.

Because Jesus is worthy to open the book, He is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. There is no other who is as worthy as He. Jesus stands alone as the greatest among the great. He is highly exalted above all things.

Come and adore Christ, the Lord, and give Him glory for He is worthy.

Jesus is Glorious

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

We greet Jesus, our Lord. He is the One worthy of our praise. We come and adore Him, for He is our Savior. Jesus is the Word of the Father, in flesh appearing.

The writer of the hymn references John’s gospel.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)

Jesus is in the Word, and He is in the beginning with God. Jesus is in the world, and the world is made through Him, but many did not know Him or recognize Him as God. Jesus is the Messiah, born into Israel as a Jew descending from David.

It is a great tragedy that the Jews, who have the Scriptures describing God and the Messiah, did not recognize Jesus as God in the flesh. They did not receive Him, but most rejected Him.

But, the good news is that as many who did receive Jesus, those who believe in Him by putting their faith in His salvation, become the adopted children of God.

We are not saved by blood. Being a Jew, which is a blood descendant of Abraham, will not save. Being in the bloodline of Abraham, or in the bloodline of a Christian, does not save people.

We are not saved by the will of our flesh. We cannot will ourselves to do good works or deeds to earn our salvation. There is no amount of good work that will take away our sins.

We cannot be saved by our will. In other words, we cannot stand before the throne of God and say, “It is my will to be saved. It is what I want, and I demand my salvation.” Neither can we will others to be saved. We can only be saved by the will of God.

God’s will is salvation is given to those who put their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. God wills that those who believe in Jesus become His children. Those who receive Jesus as the sacrifice for sins are saved.

Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The disciples beheld the glory of God when they looked upon Jesus. Jesus said to His disciples, if you see Me, you see the Father.

“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

To Jesus, all glory is given. Come, let us adore Him.

Offer Up A Sacrifice of Praise

We have one goal in going through these Christmas carols during the advent season. Our goal is that we grow in our love and appreciation for Jesus Christ our Savior. Our goal is to express our adoration of Him.

As the saying goes, “He is the reason for the season.” We sing Christmas carols as a way to offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15).

Let’s keep Christ in Christmas. O come all ye faithful, come, let us adore Him!

 

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Lyrics – O Come All Ye Faithful

O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant
Oh come ye O come ye to Bethlehem;
come and behold him born the King of angels;
O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.

God of God light of light
Lo he abhors not the virgin’s womb;
Very God begotten not created:
O come let us adore him Christ The Lord.

Sing choirs of angels sing in exultation
Sing all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God in the highest:
O come, let us adore him, Christ The Lord

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

[1] Chafer, Systematic Theology, II, 3