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A hymn I’ve selected for the first day of Christmas.

“Hark, How All The Welkin Rings!” is a hymn by Charles Wesley, first published in his Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1739.  It has passed into modern usage as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”  While I understand and to varying degrees support the modernization and editing of this hymn that has gone on, I think it’s good to examine the original.  There are some notable changes, so read carefully.

Two things to notice:  first, “welkin” is an archaic English word referring to the heavens or sky.  Second, notice especially the fourth and fifth verses (most of the material of which is ignored and edited right out of modern hymnals).

Hark, how all the welkin rings!
Glory to the King of Kings!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
Universal nature say:
“Christ the Lord is born today!”

Christ, by highest Heaven adored
Christ, the Everlasting Lord
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the Incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with men to appear
Jesus, our Immanuel here!

Hail the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Risen 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 conquering Seed
Bruise in us the Serpent’s head!
Now display Thy saving power
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 Heavenly Man:
Oh, to all Thyself impart
Formed in each believing heart!

Source:  Christ in Song: Hymns of Immanuel from All Ages, compiled by Philip Schaff.  Published 1870 by Sampson Low, Son & Marston.  Reprinted by Solid Ground Christian books, paperback ed. 2004. pp.  51-52.

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