4755 Kimball Bridge Rd. Alpharetta, GA 30005

The Stories of the Carols

The Stories of the Carols

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The Stories of the Carols.

Bible Reading Luke 2- 

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:1-21 ESV)


Welcome to Radiant church and to our Christmas Eve service. We are glad to have you with us to celebrate this special season with us, the birth of the Savior of the world. 

We know this has been a crazy year. There is a lot that has been unexpected. We wanted to have a Christmas Eve service to remind us that while some things change, our hope in a Savior does not, and that hope gives us strength. We are glad you would come here to celebrate the birth of Christ. 

This year’s service is called the stories of the carols. We are familiar with these songs, but sometimes their meaning and significance goes right past us. Happens with songs and even Christmas, too. So we are going to look at the meaning of these songs and then sing them, and we hope that will allow us to sing with an awareness of what these songs mean. 

Christmas is a special time, but sometimes we get so caught up in the stuff of Christmas that we lose sight of what it is really about. Sometimes we are so preoccupied with other things that we just pass through the motions without any thought or engagement. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you feel? Are you present in this moment? 

On Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That is amazing to think about. God sends his son into the world, as a baby. He was to rescue us from sin and evil, and he would do so as a person.

Our first song is:

  1. Hark the Herald Angels Sing.  .

This song utterly confused me as a teenager. I used to think Hark was an angel’s name, and this angel named Hark was singing. 

Hark is simply an exclamation like “Look out,” “behold,” and means to pay attention. The song was composed by Charles Wesley in 1730. 

Herald is an authoritative messenger. That’s what angels are and that is what they did in the gospels. Angels brought a message that explained the events occurring. They were like a spotlight pointing to God’s great act of deliverance.

They announce the new born king, but Wesley calls us to sing some other important truths. God and sinner reconciled. Now you may say, “I didn’t know we had a fight.” The Bible teaches that our sin and rebellion to God put us at enmity with God. Just like when you offensively do something a person asked you not to do and they get angry at you, and rightfully so. Our sin offends God and makes us enemies. Cosmic Treason. Sin brought a curse on the world. Life is hard, God is hidden, evil is present. 

Covid. Sickness. Economic downturn. Makes you feel separated from what is right and good. That leads to loneliness. But this song announces reconciliation. Like a person once estranged but now reconciled to his family; he is now able to talk with, dine with and enjoy their presence. 

We can be reconciled by repenting and trusting in Christ. Saying, “I’m sorry. I believe in you and follow you in everything.” We can be raised with Christ. We can have second birth, spiritual birth, a birth in which we seek to follow God. We come alive to God and to his ways, which is really what it means to live. Apart from that we are dead to God.

 The spirit dwells with us. God is with us- Emmanuel means “God with us.” We have a relationship with God through Christ. 

This song also gives us a much bigger view of God. Jesus is “the glory of the skies,” “everlasting Lord.”

It also says “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate deity.” What a profound statement. The God who is head over all things, comes in the form of a servant, a child, to bear our sin and reconcile us to God. And we receive it by saying, “Hail” as an exclamation of support, alignment. When we see what Christ has done we say, Hark, Hail, glory to the newborn king. 

Hark! The herald angels sing:

“Glory to the newborn King”

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinner reconciled

Joyful all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

With angelic hosts proclaim:

“Christ is born in Bethlehem”

Hark! The herald angels sing:

“Glory to the newborn King”

Christ by highest heaven adored

Christ the everlasting Lord

Late in time, behold Him come

Offspring of the virgin’s womb

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see

Hail the incarnate deity

Pleased as man with man to dwell

Jesus our Emmanuel

Hark! The herald angels sing:

“Glory to the newborn King”

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

Hark! The herald angels sing:

“Glory to the newborn King”

  1. Angels we have heard on high. 

This song may be best known for the often repeated latin refrain that you probably don’t know what it means. “Glory in excelsis dei.” It means “Glory to God in the highest.” God has done the greatest work in sending his Son and we ought to give him glory for it. 

The song reminds us of the great hope the gospel brings, even to those in lowly positions. Shepherds were some of the lowliest people in ancient society. They worked with sheep, lived with sheep, and yes, smelled like sheep. They were not the ones with the nice clothes, the millions of followers on twitter, big retirement funds. The good news announced by angels echoed through the mountains and plains and first came to the ears of lowly shepherds watching their sheep. Christ coming is good news to all, even the lowly. 

This song also shows the reconciling work of Christ. Reconciliation is a theme of the Bible and reconciliation with God often leads to reconciliation with other people. This song brings people and angels, lowly and lofty, together to sing. 

The theme of unity is similar to other songs about Christ. One songwriter, born in 1771 in ireland, shows this. His parents were Moravian missionaries who rebelled against the strict rules and rituals of the church of England. His parents were called to work in the West Indies and sent him to school in Ireland. At the age of twelve the parents he hardly knew died on the mission field. 

The boy lost interest in schooling and flunked out. By age twenty he was little more than a vagrant, moving from job to job, even homeless for weeks at a time. Taking an interest in writing he devoted himself to it. He became an editor set on fighting for Irish freedom from England. His rebellious and firey views twice landed him in prison.

Later, when he was not waging an editorial crusade against the English, he began reading his Bible to understand the power that motivated his parent’s lives and ultimately led to their death. He discovered that power and peace in the good news of Jesus. In time, through Bible study and a softening of his heart, his writing ability and zeal would send him on a new mission. 

On December 24 1816 his readers discovered in his magazine a poem called “Nativity.” It told the story of the angels proclaiming the birth of a Savior for all people. For English, Irish, rich and poor, Anglican and Moravian. It spoke of a society that needed to right wrongs and be united together. A society just like ours today. 

Angels we have heard on High shares this theme and tells how hostility can be removed. Hostility can be laid down, because Christ forgives and reconciles. If God forgives us then certainly we can forgive others.

Luke 2:10 the angels appeared and told the shepherds not to fear. They bring good news of great joy. Angels on high reminds us peace comes in resting in God’s plan.

I want to encourage you, where you feel broken relationships in your life, consider how the Lord might mend those, to quiet hostility and bring affection. Consider how you might follow Christ in those. 

Angels we have heard on high

Sweetly singing o’er the plains

And the mountains in reply

Echoing their joyous strains

Oh shepherds, why this jubilee?

Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be

Which inspire your heavenly song?

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Come to Bethlehem and see

Him whose birth the angels sing

Come adore on bended knee

Christ the Lord the newborn King

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Angels we have heard

Angels we have heard on high

Angels we have heard

(a moment to be in presence. Lift hands to respond to Christ work. Ask for peace. Confess you sins. Your need for him).

  1. Oh come all ye faithful 

The word “Ye” reminds us this song was not composed by an American Idol contestant. It was likely composed in the 1700’s. 

It is one of the best known carols even though its author was unknown for several hundred years. Authorship wasn’t discovered until the 1900’s when a handwritten manuscript dating back to 1700’s with the name of John Francis Wade. While much of our work can get lost or go unnoticed, God made sure that the birth of his Son would be noticed. He sent angels to declare it and called the faithful to adore it. 

The song brings us into the manger scene with shepherds who have come to see the new born child. We are called to come in triumph, assured of a great victory, a Savior has come. If you are in need and help arrives, you rejoice, you are triumphant, and that is what the birth of Christ should do. It’s like you were on top of a burning building and the emergency helicopter shows up. You are saved. You have a deliverer.  May have felt like that this year.

The song also calls us not simply to a baby but to the king of angels. As if it were not enough that he reigns over all people he is also over the angels. The rescuer is not just another fireman or police officer or even governing official, but the king of angels.

He is the Word of the father. God sends a message to us in the form of his Son. Had a friend who met a person and began talking to them about God. The person said to him, “You sitting here bringing up these things makes me think God has not forgotten me.” If you want to know what God would say to you, seek to know Jesus Christ. Don’t ignore it and then lament that God has not shown you what he wants of you. 

The song also call us citizens of heaven.  Points to the triumph the child brings. In Christ we are “no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens… and members of the household of God,” (Eph 2:19 ESV). That makes a happy morning. 

How does one become a citizen of heaven. Do you have to relocate there, pay a fee, take an entrance exam? We are made citizens of heaven through the king of heaven. He came to bring outcasts in. He came to rescue the refugees.  

But we have to remove our patronage to the world and trust in him. The way we do that is not by removing ourselves physically, but could better be said to be a change in what we adore. We adore this Child, we adore God’s plan, we adore following him. Those are the faithful that are called to join in worshipping and singing.  The shepherds left flocks and all to see this child, and we must leave all for him, too.

Many of the great Christmas movies focus on a character who has a change of heart, a change in their affections. 

  • Scrooge is angry and bitter but finds joy, 
  • the Grinch has his heart grow three times because he finally sees Christmas is not about presents but being together with people we love. 
  • after being left all alone Kevin McAlister finally realizes the gift of his family and how he should treat them, 
  • after defeating Hans John McClane realizes what a jerk he has been to his wife Holly (yes, die hard is a Christmas movie), 
  • Ralphy may think his Red Rider Carbide Action 200 Shot Model Air Rifle is the greatest gift ever, but it does not compare with the gift of our sins being forgiven and promised everlasting life with God. 
  • But the greatest transformation comes by recognizing what God has done, resting in his plan, being content in his work, and using his plan to guide you. It simplifies your life, quiets threatening voices and allows you to still your fears. That is what sets hearts free, that is what motivates you to bless others with gifts and kindness, that is what brings joy, that is what allows you to be the person God calls you to be. 

This song is an invitation to join in the singing, and I want to invite you to join in singing the song with joy, triumph and adoration, a Savior is born!

O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant
Oh come ye O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him born the King of angels;
O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.

Sing choirs of angels sing in exultation
Sing all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God in the highest:
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Joy to the World. 

At Christmas time we celebrate Christ’s birth, and this next song that is almost exclusively sung at Christmas is not about Christ’s birth but his second coming. 

Not about angels and shepherds, but all creation. Heaven and earth/nature. 

The Lord is come. The Lord reigns.

Christ’s work goes well beyond a manger and even a cross. He died for our sins, he was resurrected, now sits at the right hand of God, but he also promises to come back and set the world right, to judge evil.

We currently live in a fallen world. When sin entered people were handed over to hardship.  Work is difficult and hard. Thorns infested the ground. We live and work in futility and hardship. These things often make us cry “Why is life so hard.” It’s hard because of sin. Sin did this. It was not the original design, and it is not the permanent design. Christ is going to return and make us new, make the world new. It will be heaven on earth. 

The world will sing his praise, not resist it. The world will freely give its fruit not grudgingly withhold. All things will be made right. The frustrations of life will be taken away. The pain in relationships healed. Evil will be removed. His judgment also causes us to think about our own evil. Will you repent and believe, and have your sins taken by Christ, or will you pay for your sins yourself?

Psalm 98 speaks of the Lord coming to judge in righteousness. Because we can be forgiven for our sin in Christ, by turning from it and trusting in him, the day of judgment is good news. We are to sing to the Lord a new song, to burst with joy-filled song, to make music with the harp and trumpets. All the world and all who live in it are to sing, rivers to clap their hands and mountains sing for joy. The Lord is come. And we ought to receive our king with complete allegiance to him and his ways. 

Must receive what he has done. Prepare him room. Hindu friend who made Jesus one of many. Learned he had to get rid of everything but Jesus. If he is not Lord of all then he is not Lord at all. 


We experience joy at Christmas time because our thoughts are directed upward to something beyond the daily grind, we are reminded to be kind and compassionate to others, we also are reminded we have something that is worth singing about. Many of us go through day to day life feeling lonely, depressed, isolated, confused and constantly looking for escape. Christmas gives us a break from that. But Christmas is not meant to be a seasonal event. Christ’s work should lead to a life of hope, joy, and guidance. We want to invite you to come back next week or in the new year to better know how the Christmas hope changes every day.

Hark, Hail , adore, glory in the highest…. 


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