Revive Our Hearts Podcast

— Audio Player —

Come Adore, Day 5

Leslie Basham: To fully appreciate Christmas, you need a full understanding of Genesis chapter 3.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You see, the serpent didn’t just get to Adam and Eve. He didn’t just get to the whole world. He got to me. He got to you.

Leslie: This Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She’s the author of the year-long devotional, A Quiet Place. Today is Friday, December 2, 2016.

Nancy: Oh, I love the Christmas carols of this season. I actually wouldn’t mind listening to them all year round, I don’t think. But there’s something special when you don’t hear them all year round, and then you come to this season, and you’re hearing ones you haven’t listened to since this time last year.

I love how many of these carols tell the gospel in song. We’re hearing them in stores. We’re hearing them in public places. We’re hearing them in many of our own homes. And what a great reminder of who Jesus is and why He came.

So I hope you’re enjoying that music, but not just enjoying it, but really letting God bring your heart to worship and then to greater witness because other people who don’t know anything about Jesus are listening to these carols during this season.

I’m talking through a number of carols in this season from the piano CD that I recorded a couple of years ago called Come Adore. There are eleven Christmas carols on this CD, some beautiful instrumentation that goes along with the carols, lovely arrangements, and we want to make that available to you to have in your home during this Advent season.

That’s why we’re offering it as our way of saying “thank you” when you make a gift of any amount to help with our year-end matching challenge. We’re very excited about this opportunity, and we’re asking the Lord to provide a significant amount of funds during these next several weeks. And you can be a part of God helping this ministry to continue, and when you do make that gift, we want to thank you by sending you a copy of this CD.

Now, Christmas carols have an interesting and checkered history. In 1627, the English Puritan Parliament banned Christmas carols. That’s because they considered Christmas to be a worldly holiday. And then along came Queen Victoria, who was queen from 1837 to 1901, and she loved carols. So she revived carol singing in England.

But until that time, there weren’t a lot of Christmas carols that were written in the seventeenth century and the early part of the eighteenth century because believers weren’t supposed to sing carols, or so it was thought.

One of the few written during that period is, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” written by Charles Wesley, who was the brother of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination.

This hymn of Wesley’s, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," was first published in 1739, and it’s considered to be one of the greatest hymns in the English language.

It was originally titled “Hymn for Christmas Day.” As you think about, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” can you think of any popular movies that feature this carol, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”? Anything come to mind? It’s a Wonderful Life, and Charlie Brown’s Christmas. So even they get in on the action of having “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

Now, the original melody that was sung with these lyrics is quite slow and solemn. For the first hundred years of this carol’s existence, it was mildly popular, but we might not know this hymn today if it hadn’t been for a man named William H. Cummings.

William Cummings was a famous tenor soloist and organist in England. And in 1855, years after these words were written, he was singing a cantata written by Felix Mendelssohn to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press. Can you imagine a whole piece of music being written to celebrate that?

As this singer was singing that cantata, he realized that Wesley’s words, written a hundred years earlier, could be put with this music that Mendelssohn had written. So he combined the two, the words and the music, in a new arrangement, and this more joyful melody that we sing today caught on, although Mendelssohn himself did not live to hear his music matched with this famous carol.

So that’s a little bit of the background on that. And then something else interesting about this carol: The original lyrics that Wesley wrote, the first two lines read this way:

Hark, how all the welkin rings
Glory to the King of kings.

Now, I see some of you screwing up your faces, some of you are puzzled. “Welkin? What is welkin? Hark, how all the welkin rings?”

Well, welkin is an old English term that means sky or heavens. “Hark, how all the welkin (the sky) rings glory to the King of kings.”

Well, fourteen years after this carol was first published, 1753, George Whitefield (who was the great preacher of the first Great Awakening) included this carol in a collection of hymns, but he changed the opening two lines to be, “Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King.”

Now, Charles Wesley did not like people editing his work. And when I read that, I thought, That reminds me of somebody I know who’s talking to you today. He didn’t like people editing his work, and he was upset that Whitefield had tampered with his lyrics, so he refused to sing the new version. But I’ll say that George Whitfield did Wesley a favor on this one. Can you imagine if we were singing, “Hark, how all the welkin rings”? Nobody would have any clue, even the herald angels is a little bit hard for some modern ears.

But this carol is . . . the words are theologically rich. It is packed with great doctrine about Christ and about His gospel. It’s amazing to me that this five-stanza hymn, some of those stanzas we rarely sing, if at all today, but this was one of Charles Wesley’s very first hymns.

It was written at the age of thirty-two, within a year of his conversion. At this time, he was still experiencing the freshness and the wonder of his life-changing encounter with Christ. But as you read these words, they’re biblically dense. They’re full of scriptural allusions. I’m thinking it’s obvious that this man, even as a baby believer, knew and loved the Scripture.

Now, of course, much of that he had learned before he became a believer, and now it just came to life within him and began to spring forth in songs and carols that tell the gospel.

But here’s a man, a hymn writer, who had eyes to see Christ in the Old Testament, and these carols teach us how we should read the Old Testament. There are many longtime Christians who are not familiar with the concepts that are referenced in this carol.

But I want to suggest that our enjoyment and our experience of Christ will be more precious the more we know and love and study His Word.

This carol also reminds us that Christmas is not just a sentimental holiday with some sweet traditions and sights and sounds and tastes, but that this Christmas account is a core piece of the cosmic story of redemption. It’s about something really important, something that matters a lot.

Well, this hymn opens with angels celebrating the Savior’s birth. We read the gospel story in Luke, chapter 2 of the angels coming to the shepherds and telling them the good news. And so the hymn opens:

“Hark! [Listen carefully!] The herald angels sing.” Now, herald is not somebody’s name. That’s h-e-r-a-l-d. A herald was someone who spoke for a king. He would go ahead before the king, and he would prepare the way for the king to come to a town or city or community. He would announce, “The king is coming! The king is coming!”

And, in this case, the heralds are the angels. They’re heralding Christ’s arrival. “Hark! [Listen!] The herald angels sing, [And what do they sing?] “Glory to the newborn King.”

Now, it’s been pointed out that there is nothing in the Bible about angels singing at the birth of Christ, but I think it’s possible that they did. Luke chapter 2, verse 13 says the angels were praising God and saying, “Glory to God.”

That word praising God, the Greek word can mean to sing praises. So whether they were speaking or singing them, they were praising God. They were worshiping God. And they were heralding this great, magnificent news about the newborn King.

When God created the world, Scripture tells us in the book of Job, chapter 38, that the angels sang together, and that they shouted for joy. Luke 15 tells us that the angels in heaven rejoice every time a sinner repents.

And here we learn in Luke 2 that there was celebration in heaven and from heaven to earth when Jesus Christ the King was born.

And so this hymn, as did the angels, this hymn, this carol calls on humans all around the world to join the angels in rejoicing at the news:

Joyful all ye nations, rise;
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Well, this five-stanza, rather lengthy carol, most of which we don’t sing very often today, it exalts Christ throughout as the promised Messiah, the newborn King.

Here’s some of the phrases you find in this carol:

  • Christ by highest Heav’n adored
  • Christ the everlasting Lord
  • It calls Him the Desire of nations.
  • The heavenly born Prince of Peace
  • The Son of Righteousness
  • It calls Him the Second Adam from above (the one who succeeded where the first Adam failed).

And so we have the exaltation of Christ. But we also have His humiliation. This God, this one who is adored by highest heaven, He laid aside His glory.

It says in this carol, He was the “offspring of the virgin’s womb.” The One who created heaven and earth became contained in the space the size of a virgin’s womb. How unthinkable! How impossible! He was God in the flesh. This calls Him “the incarnate Deity”—God who took on human flesh.

It calls Him, “Jesus, our Emmanuel.” He came down from heaven to be God with us, to live with us.

And here’s a phrase I’ve been meditating on: He didn’t do it grudgingly or under compulsion. It says that He was “pleased as man with men to dwell.” This great high-exalted “Christ, by highest Heav’n adored; Christ the everlasting Lord,” He was pleased as a man with men to dwell. That says that He delighted to do the will of the Father by coming to earth, that He didn’t do this grudgingly or reluctantly. He was pleased to do this. He was glad to do this.

So that’s who He as—the exalted Christ, but also the humble Son of Man, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Christ, by highest Heav’n adored,” but also the one who came and was in the virgin’s womb and became a man, lived among us as our Emmanuel, the incarnate Deity—God and man.

So why did He do it? And, again, we’ve said that this is the gospel in these carols. They tell us not only that He came and who it was that came but why He came. Why did He humble Himself?

Well, this carol tells us that He came to bring:

Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!

So we have the picture of a holy God and sinful humans who are at war with each other. They’ve been separated by mankind's sin. And here is this King, this one exalted in heaven, who comes to establish a truce and bring peace between that holy God and fallen man, and to bring the two together. Now God is reconciled to man. God and man can be one again.

Jesus came to this earth to deal with our sin problem, to deal with that which separated us from God. And He did so by paying the price that would enable us to have peace with God. We were God’s enemies. We were at war with Him. We weren’t interested in being at peace with God. But God wanted to be at peace with us. So He solved that problem that we created by our sinfulness by bringing Christ to be the Bridge, the Reconciler, the one who brought God to us and brings us to God.

Well, the second stanza expands on this mission of reconciliation:

Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by [that’s His humbling, His humiliation],
Born [this is why He was born] that man no more may die.

He came to conquer death. Death was the penalty of our sin. We deserved death. But Jesus came to die our death so that man no more would have to die. This is the gospel in the carols.

He was:

Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them a second birth.

Our first birth was that we were born into sin. We had no heart for God, no hunger for God, no love for God, no interest in being right with God. But He came to bring us together, to raise us up from earth to heaven, and to give us a second birth, a new birth.

Now, traditionally, we sing the first three verses of this carol, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” but Wesley wrote two others that are especially rich with the theological implications of the Incarnation. I want to encourage you to google and find those stanzas and read them carefully because there is so much in them that tells us what are the implications of Christ coming to earth.

In the fourth stanza, Wesley appeals to Christ to make His home in us and to overcome the power of Satan. He says:

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;

And then two lines that I have just fallen in love with as I’ve been meditating on this song over the last few weeks, He says:

Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed, [capital S]
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now some of you are looking really puzzled, like, “What do these old English guys . . . what are they talking about?” This is a powerful and rich allusion here to a passage in the third chapter of the Bible, Genesis chapter 3.

Remember that Adam and Eve were created to love God, to walk with God, to obey God, but they had a choice, and they chose to go their own independent way, to have it their way rather than God’s way. They sinned. We call this the fall of mankind.

They were separated from God. They hid from God. They were ashamed. They were guilty. All the good and beautiful things of Genesis chapter 2 . . . It’s like somebody has just taken a black marker and scratched all over it when we get to chapter 3.

We now have fallen mankind. But what does God do? He comes to Adam and Eve in the garden. He calls out to them. He finds them. He says, “Where are you?” And He gets them to acknowledge their wrongdoing, because you can’t be made right with God if you haven’t ever acknowledged that you’re wrong with God, that you’re at odds with God.

You can’t be made right with God if you haven’t ever acknowledged that you’re wrong with God.

He finds them blaming. They just don’t handle this well at all—and nor do we—right?—when God comes and speaks to us of our sin?

So God gives the consequences to the serpent, to the man, to the woman, to the human race. And He says in Genesis 3, verse 15, that “the Seed of the woman"—a child born to the woman, the one we now know is the Messiah—the first proclamation of the gospel in the Scriptures is found in this verse. It’s just a hint of it, but it takes on great significance as the Scripture and the story unfold. This Seed of the woman, the Messiah, "will bruise the serpent’s head.”

The serpent, that old enemy, our adversary, the devil, who led man and woman into sin. The woman will have a child who will grow up to “bruise” [to deal a mortal wound to the serpent] to “bruise the serpent’s head,” [to put to death sin and Satan.]

And we know that from Genesis chapter 3, but the way Wesley puts it here gave me a new insight into this concept. He says: "Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed . . . Who is that? Jesus. "Bruise " . . . he doesn’t say, “Bruise the serpent’s head.” He says, “Bruise in us the serpent’s head.”

You see, the serpent didn’t just get to Adam and Eve. He didn’t just get to the whole world. He got to me. He got to you. And we said “yes” to him.

We’re saying, “I wasn’t there in the garden when Adam and Eve sinned, when they did this. It’s not my fault.”

Oh, yes, we sinned. The serpent inserted his lies, his venom, his poison, his toxins in our own hearts. We were born with the serpent’s head inserted in our own heart, so to speak. And so Christ comes, “the woman’s conqu’ring Seed”—the one promised in Genesis chapter 3 to “bruise in us the serpent’s head,” the sin and the influence of Satan that reside in us.

I love that! He came to set me free to deal a deadly blow to Satan’s power and influence in my life. We don’t have to give in to the enemy. We don’t have to keep listening to his lies. We don’t have to keep believing him because Christ in us came to “bruise the serpent’s head.”

Wesley goes on to say:

Now display Thy saving pow’r,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

That’s a picture of reconciliation. We were separate from God. He had a holy nature. We had a sinful nature. But in Christ, He comes. Christ takes on our humanity. He dies our death. He pays the penalty for our sin so that a holy God can be reconciled to man-made righteous by the death of Jesus Christ.

Listen, I hope you never get tired of hearing the gospel explained because it not only saved us, but it keeps saving us. It delivers us. It is His saving power that restores our ruined nature, and “in mystic union joins” us to God and God to us, that we may be made one with Him as He in Christ are one. Jesus came to do this by His birth and then His death and resurrection.

The final verse talks about Christ, the Second Adam, and it asks Him to reverse the effects of the first Adam’s sin. It says:

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface [blot it out, wipe it out],
Stamp Thine image in its place.

You see, we were born with Adam’s image stamped on us. We were born independent of God. We were born sinners. But he says, “Lord, blot out by Your mercy and Your grace that image of Adam, and now stamp Your image in its place.”

Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.

We left His love. We rebelled against His love. But he says, “Reinstate us, bring us back. Bring us back to that place of loving You and being loved by You.

And then after each stanza we have the repeated chorus:

Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn king!

In that proclamation, we have the greatest news ever announced.

So what do we do in this season? Well, we join in their praise. We rejoice in this King and in His redeeming work.

And then, should we not be, in this season, looking for opportunities to explain to others what it really means that Jesus was born and what difference His coming to earth can make for them? You and I have people who live on our street, whose kids go to school with our kids, who work in our work place—even some probably in our churches who may have religion or none at all—but they don’t know Jesus. They’re separated from God.

There could be someone in this room who knows these Christmas carols—you know them well. You’ve sung them. You know a lot of the words. But they’ve never been made real in you.

And so we say to each other, “This is what this means. This is why He came. This is who He is. This is what His coming means in our lives and in our world, and this is what Christ can do for you.”

So we call people to believe the gospel, the gospel in the carols, the gospel in the Scripture, to believe and repent and to receive this newborn King.

Leslie: You hear, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” everywhere. Did you realize how much of the gospel is in that carol? I love getting deeper insight like that from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

The reason we’re able to bring you her teaching is thanks to listeners who support Revive Our Hearts financially.

When you help make the program possible, we’d like to send you Nancy’s Christmas piano CD. It’s called, Come Adore. This CD will fill your home with beauty and get you in the spirit of the season.

But that’s not the only reason to donate. You’ll also be helping Revive Our Hearts speak to women about the beauty of the gospel. Nancy’s here to tell you about a woman who’s been learning that.

Nancy: Just last week I met a woman named Jeanette, and through the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, she’s discovered how valuable it is for women to teach other women.

Jeanette: Through a number of circumstances, I have not had a lot of godly women in my life. I’ve been in church, and my mom was a godly woman, but we didn’t really talk about things much, and I’ve always just felt kind of bereft for female mentoring and companionship. And Revive Our Hearts has been that for me.

Oftentimes, when I’d be going through a hard time, there would be a program that addressed that issue. Or when something would happen, I would think, What would Nancy and her friends say right now?

I would hear you talk with your friends sometimes, and I would say, “Oh, that’s what I want.” It didn’t happen, and it hasn’t happened in that same way, but I’ve learned to appreciate, and I became a ministry partner about three years ago, I think, because of that. I was getting so much benefit from the program, and, probably only second to my home church, and I knew that I had to support that ministry so it could continue being there for me and to be there for others who would need it as well.

Nancy: Well, I hope the Lord has used Revive Our Hearts to connect you with sisters in Christ and to help you grow. Together we’re learning to live out the beauty of the gospel.

Revive Our Hearts can only keep connecting women together as long as listeners like you continue to give and support the ministry financially. So if you’ve benefitted from this ministry, and you want to help spread this message so more sisters can join in, would you pray for us here in the month of December? It’s that time of the year when we receive close to half the donations for the entire year.

And as you’re praying, would you ask the Lord what He’d have you to give to help meet this need?

At this crucial time of the year, some friends are doubling each gift up to a matching challenge amount of $600,000. Now, in order to keep our current ministry outreaches going, and to respond to other doors that the Lord is opening to reach women around the world, we really need to meet that challenge and then exceed it.

Thank you so much for your prayers and your support at this important time as we continue calling women to freedom, fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Remember, when you donate any amount, we’d like to send you Nancy’s Christmas CD, Come Adore.* Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or you can take us up on this offer by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

All of us know that sometimes it’s not easy to celebrate Christmas. We’re not always in a joyful mood. If you feel that way, Nancy will help you out Monday. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

Read More