Christmas carols on the Incarnation

Sean Morris posts on how the classic Christmas carols draw on the Nicene Creed as they confess that the baby Jesus is God incarnate.  See his examples after the jump.  What are some others?

From Sean Morris, in the confusedly titled The Inauthenticity of Christmas Carols | Humane Pursuits:

Consider the first line of the Nicene Creed (or the Niceano-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 AD):

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man….

Now consider stanza 2 of Charles Wesley’s famous “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”:

Christ by highest heav’n 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….

Or stanza 2 of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (perhaps the most explicit example):

God of God, Light of Light Eternal,

Lo, He abhors not the Virgin’s womb;

Very God, begotten, not created;

And later in stanza 4:

Jesus to thee be all glory given;

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing

Or stanza 2 of “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”

King of kings, yet born of Mary,

as of old on earth he stood,

Lord of lords, in human vesture,

in the body and the blood,

Or stanzas 2 and 3 of “Of The Father’s Love Begotten”:

O that birth forever blessed, when the virgin, full of grace,

By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bore the Savior of our race;

And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,

First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom heav’n-taught singers sang of old with one accord;

Whom the Scriptures of the prophets promised in their faithful word;

Now He shines, the long expected,

Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

Or stanza 1 of “All Praise to Thee, Eternal Lord”:

All praise to thee, eternal Lord, clothed in a garb of flesh and blood;

choosing a manger for thy throne, while worlds on worlds are thine alone

Do you see the obvious borrowing and linguistic allusions these hymns take from the creed? I am sure there a great many more examples that have escaped my notice. I encourage you to be on the lookout for such language as you worship and sing this season.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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