Christmas Carol Theology: O Come, All Ye Faithful
Is there a more chaotic time than Christmas? I feel myself fill with dread whenever I have to go to the post office or the store around this time of year. There’s even the feeling of busyness in the church!
Yet despite all of this, Christmas for Christians is about worship. We’re celebrating the arrival of our Savior, the Word of God becoming flesh, the Creator condescending to His creation. “O Come All Ye Faithful” is a song that calls us and exhorts us to adore and worship Jesus Christ in the midst of the winter chaos.
Though nobody really knows who the author of the song was, it’s believed to be a man named John Francis Wade who allegedly wrote the song sometime in the 18th century. However, the song really wasn’t popularly known or sung until the mid 19th century.
There have been a lot of variations on this song over the past 150 years. This year at Fellowship Bible Church, we’re singing the Sovereign Grace version of the song. You can take a listen to it here: What I really like about the Sovereign Grace version is that it emphasizes the divine nature of Christ along with the call to worship Him.
1. Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels
The first verse is based on Luke 2:8-20. In this passage, an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds in a field, proclaiming to them “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk 2:10). This good news was the birth of “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord;” and this birth occurred in “the city of David,” otherwise known as Bethlehem. This certainly was amazing news and a great cause for joy. It’s important to remember that shepherds were of extremely low social and economic standing, yet it is to them that the angels appeared.
The angels then told the shepherds that there was a sign for them: “A baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). With great anticipation, the shepherds went to Bethlehem to “see this thing that had happened, which the Lord has made known to us” (Lk 2:15). Indeed, these shepherds were faithful to see what the Lord had done, joyful over the birth of the Savior, and triumphant in the mighty work of God!
Refrain: O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord
Like many hymns, this hymn contains a refrain that is sung after each verse. This refrain is a worshipful response to the truths contained in the verses: Let us adore Christ! This is what the shepherds did when they returned to their fields “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Lk 2:20).
2. Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing
Though Christ was not born on December 25th, we will be gathering on Sunday morning to remember and celebrate His birth. Verse 2 of this song acknowledges the full worth of Jesus Christ to receive glory, just as Revelation 5:12 says: ”Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to recieve power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing" and again in Revelation 5:13 we see Christ receiving the same worship as the Father: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
John’s gospel tells us that Christ is the Word, “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). This truly amazing truth has appeared in all the songs I’ve written about so far, and that is because it is the core doctrine of Christmas. Take a few minutes to think about the magnitude of that statement! The Word of God, who was “in the beginning… with God” and who “was God,” the Word of God who had no beginning and who has no end, the Word of God through whom and for whom all things were created took on created human flesh and subjected Himself to being born as a human baby (Jn 1:1-3; Col 1:15-20; Heb 1:1-4). I have an 11 month old son. He can do absolutely nothing by himself. The Almighty Son willingly robed Himself in human flesh and put Himself in this same disabled state. Is there greater humility than this? And yet it reveals to us how great and worthy of praise this child, Jesus Christ, truly was! O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!
3. True God of true God, Light from Light eternal
Humbly, He enters the virgin’s womb
Son of the Father, begotten, not created
This verse is based not directly upon scripture, but upon the Nicene Creed. This creed is a historic Christian document dating to 325 and the revised version to 381 AD. It was written to form a common and unified expression of true Christian doctrine. While the Creed was based on scripture, it does not supersede or take preeminence over the Bible.
However, there are still scriptural truths to be found in this verse. Christ is described here as “true God of true God,” meaning that He is of the same essence and being as the Father and the Spirit. Essentially, this is an argument for the full deity of Jesus Christ. This is found in Jesus’s statements in John’s gospel, such as “I and the Father are one” and “You, Father, are in Me and I in You” (Jn 10:30, 17:21). It is also found in such statements as “He is radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb 1:3).
Christ is also described as “Light from Light eternal.” Essentially, this refers to Christ being the “light of the world” and revealing the very glory and very nature of the Father to us (Jn 8:12; 1:1-18; Col 1:15-20). Christ reflects entirely the glory of the Father, an eternal glory that blazes bright (Heb 1:3).
These two phrases that exalt Christ are contrasted with His humble conception as a human baby in Mary’s womb. This second line also describes the mysterious union of Christ’s deity and humanity: Fully God and yet fully man.
Yet though Jesus Christ was a human conceived in Mary’s womb, He was also “Son of the Father, begotten, not created.” Eternally, the Son, the second Person of the Trinity had always existed with the Father (Jn 1:1). He was not created, but rather created “all things” (Jn 1:3; Col 1: 16; Heb 1:2). Instead, Christ was “begotten,” a term found several places in scripture depending on the translation (some New Testament examples are: Jn 3:16; Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5, 5:5). The word “begotten” is not a term we use very often today, but it’s an important one in the Bible. It’s a word that is directly linked to bearing children, to producing a lineage. This term does not refer to Jesus being a created being, but instead to His relationship with the Father as His Son.
This third verse extols the full deity of Christ and His identical substance and nature with the Father, yet He humbly was born to us as a Savior.
O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!