Beyond the First Verse

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I often play this game at Christmas parties when I led singing of holiday songs. I’d have us sing a familiar song like, “Here Comes Santa Claus” or “Home for the Holidays, have the people sing as many words as they know and sing “la, la, la” on the rest of the words. Everyone would sing out strong on the first line, and then it’s amazing how many people drop out and sing “la, la, la” for the rest of the song! We’d laugh it off and then go off on the next song, only to hear the same thing happen again and again and again.

We think we know these songs, but we really don’t.

On the Christmas hymns, most people know the first verse. But I find that the second, third and subsequent verses have the most meaning. Take, for instance, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” The second verse has one of the best theological statements on the incarnation and the divine-human nature of Jesus Christ:

Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the ever-lasting Lord

Late in time behold him come, offspring of the Virgin’s womb

Veiled in flesh the God-head see! Hail the incarnate Deity!

Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel

The third verse is a tremendous doxology to the work of God through the Incarnation:

Hail the Heaven-born 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 us second birth.

Hark! The herald angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King!”

I encourage you to take some time over the next couple of days and look at the verses beyond the familiar first verses of our most beloved Christmas hymns (“Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Silent Night,” “We Three Kings,” “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” “O Holy Night” etc.) Read them slowly, thoughtfully and devotionally. Allow the meaning of Christ’s coming to seep into your soul. And worship Him with more of your heart, mind and soul.

What is your favorite Christmas hymn?

Do you know the “other verses” besides the first?

What strikes you most deeply about the lyrics of that hymn?

What do you praise God the most about the coming of Jesus to our world?

One thought on “Beyond the First Verse

  1. Thank you, Doug, for this post. I have always appreciated your love for Hymns, and the fact that you include them in your worship set. I was just sharing my heartache with Jeff this morning regarding the fact that MANY kids are growing up not knowing these beautiful hymns AT ALL, let alone the first verse! Even in my Christian school, I asked my 3rd graders if they knew “Away in a Manger”. I about cried when only 3 kids raised their hands. Ellie said that a similar thing happened in Junior High when a teacher asked who had NEVER heard of Angels We Have Heard On High. She said more than half raised their hands saying that they had NEVER HEARD OF IT!!!!! We are losing an entire generation of children who are growing up without these deeply foundational and biblically strong songs of Truth. I’m going to have my devotions using the hymn book tomorrow, and I’m gonna keep teaching my own children. Thanks for letting me share:)

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