Theology of Worship: O Come, All Ye Faithful

Today is Christmas Eve, and I thought it fitting to analyse the theology of this hymn as it calls to gather the faithful to celebrate the birth of our newborn King.

Verse 1

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant!
O, come ye, O, come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him
Born the king of angels:
Chorus: O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

There isn’t much theology in this hymn than there has been in the other Christmas hymns I’ve analysed, such as O Come, O Come, EmmanuelThat hymn has a lot of theology in it and it tested my exegetical skills. This hymn, on the other hand, seems to focus just on the morning of Christ’s birth.

The hymn famously begins with calling the faithful to joyfully and triumphantly gather before our newborn King in Bethlehem. Matthew 2:1 tells us Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Luke 2:11 likewise tells us Jesus was born in the city of David, which is Bethlehem—the hometown of King David. Just as the faithful came to see the birth of Jesus—the shepherds, the three wise men, and the magi—this hymn calls today’s faithful each Christmas season to come before the altar and rejoice joyfully and triumphantly in Jesus’ birth. We rejoice joyfully and triumphantly because the King who frees us from our sins has been born! Jesus is also king of the angels because as King of kings (Revelation 17:14), He is King over all creation, both in heaven and on earth. Therefore, let all God’s faithful come and adore Christ the King.

Verse 2

Highest, most holy,
Light of light eternal,
Born of a virgin,
A mortal He comes.
Son of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing!
Chorus: O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

“Light of light” is language coming from the Nicene Creed. God is the Light, and as Jesus was begotten of the Father, He is the light of light. God’s light came down to earth, born of a virgin, and born a mortal. God came down in the flesh as His Son, suffered as we suffer, died the death we will all suffer, and on Him God’s wrath was placed as the satisfaction for the punishment of our sins we justly deserve. Therefore, let all God’s faithful come and adore Christ the King.

Verse 3

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation.
Sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above!
Glory to God
In the highest:
Chorus: O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Multiple times throughout Scripture we see angels praising God in exultation. From the birth narrative, they sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). I might be wrong, but I think the most we see angels praise God is in Revelation, such as when they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8). God is holy, and all He does is holy. Therefore, let all God’s faithful come and adore Christ the King.

Verse 4

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given!
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing!
Chorus: O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

The hymn ends with using language from the gospel of John—Jesus as the Word who came down in the flesh. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 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” (John 1:1, 14). According to John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is the Word of God, who is God ever since the beginning, and this Word was born of the flesh and walked among us. Those who were blessed enough to see Jesus witnessed God’s glory in the flesh. God humbled Himself as a man to come to earth and die for our sins. Therefore, let all God’s faithful come and adore Christ the King.

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