I’m not sure how many of you caught it, but this past Sunday we sung a very familiar song (“Hark the Herald Angels Sing”) with some very unfamiliar lyrics. Most versions take the Charles Wesley’s Christmas hymn and cut it down to three verses. But the original had five verses, which we included this past Sunday’s worship. As I was thinking about yesterday’s sermon where I encouraged everyone to pay more attention to the words that we sing, so I thought I might lead the charge by describing these two ‘lost verses’:
4. Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in us thy heav’nly Home;
Rise the Woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent’s Head.
Verse 4 references the ‘conquering seed’ of Gen 3:15, where God promises that the ‘seed of the woman’ will ‘crush the head of the serpent’. This was the first promise of the Gospel after the Fall, and we can now look back on those words and see that Jesus was that ‘seed/child’ who would put an end to Satan’s/the serpent’s reign. Yet Charles Wesley cleverly adds two words that apply that theological concept straight to our hearts: “Bruise IN US the Serpent’s Head”. The hold of sin and temptation is in our hearts, that’s where Satan’s head is, and it is there that the battle must take place. Jesus doesn’t just conquer sin and death ‘out there,’ but the good news of the Gospel is that he conquers those things in us, personally and profoundly.
5. Adam’s Likeness now efface,
Stamp thy Image in its Place;
Second Adam from above,
Work it in us by thy Love
The fifth verse has some unfamiliar language that might be confusing at first blush. Adam’s likeness is the image of God from Gen 1:27, which was perfect at Creation. But after the Fall, the image of God is ‘effaced’- or ruined. Imagine a beautiful statues that someone painted graffiti and has thrown stones at till its nearly unrecognizable. That is the image of God in us: still there, but broken. The rest of the song asks the ‘second Adam’ i.e. Jesus (1 Cor 15:45, Rom 5:15) to work in us, by his love his own image in place of the broken one. This reminds me of Rom 8:29 that says we are being conformed into the image of Christ. The hope of Christmas doesn’t end with the baby Jesus in the manger, but points to the renewal of our very humanity as was created good in the Garden, tarnished in the Fall, and in need of redemption and renewal.