The hymn, O Come, All Ye Faithful, is a celebration of the birth of Christ and calls us to gather in His presence to adore Him as Christ the Lord. The hymn brings us to the manger scene to join the shepherds and others in paying homage to Christ the new-born king.
In Stanza 1, we are invited to “Come and behold Him”. The term “King of angels” is another way of saying “King of heaven”, where angels dwell. We are not to go away thinking that this is merely the simple baby of a poor couple, without even a proper place to call home. We should use eyes of faith to see that the child is more than an ordinary human being, for this child is nothing less than the King of heaven. He has come in humility to save us all. It is because of who He is that our song can be joyful and triumphant.
Stanza 2 says more about Christ. It borrows phrases from the Nicene Creed, which was a declaration of faith by the church in the fourth century AD. This creed has been embraced ever since by all major branches of the Christian church.
The Creed arose as a result of false teachings about God and Christ. Arius, an Alexandrian heretic, was spreading a dangerous view that called into question the divinity of Christ. Christ, he claimed, was only the most perfect of God’s creation, but was not equal to God. The 318 bishops who gathered at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 condemned Arius’ view and, to make clear the faith of the church, produced the Nicene Creed (which was further expanded later in the century).
In the Creed, we find these words concerning Christ:
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Some of the phrases in the Creed are echoed by the hymn: “God of God, light of light” and “Very God, begotten, not created” (Stanza 2). It is important to recognise that what we believe about Jesus affects our attitude towards Him and the way we relate to Him. This hymn provides a doctrinally sound and biblically accurate portrayal of Jesus Christ. It underlines His full divinity and inspires us to worship Him for who He is.
Though Christ was God, He “abhors not the Virgin’s womb” (Stanza 2). Such was Christ’s humility for our sake. He deserves our wholehearted worship for emptying himself of what was rightfully His so that we can gain what was not rightfully ours—a blessed eternity.
We are challenged to recognise the lengths to which Christ went to save us. He travelled the longest distance possible (from holy heaven to sinful earth), bending low to lift us up from the mud of sin. He stooped down to make us great (Psalm 18:35). C. S. Lewis wrote so aptly, “The Son of God became a Son of Man that sons of men might become sons of God”. This is at the heart of our Christmas celebration.
Stanza 3 is addressed first to the angelic choir. They are urged to continue their glorious singing, exalting Christ in the highest way possible (Revelation 5:11–12). And, as they sing, we are called to come and adore the Lord Jesus Christ as our King. In this way, Christ is worshipped in heaven and on earth—and in our hearts.
The final stanza is addressed to the Lord Jesus himself. We greet and welcome Him with joy, for His birth has made this a happy and blessed morning—as every day will become when He is king of our lives. In one more Christological phrase, the song reminds us of who Jesus is, as declared by the apostle John in his gospel. Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1) and in Him, the Word became flesh (John 1:14).
This Christmas carol repeatedly invites us to come into the presence of Christ to adore Him as our Saviour and Lord. The word “adore” comes from the Latin adorare, meaning “to worship”. We must worship Christ, who gave His life for us. We must present our whole life to Him as an acceptable offering—while we are still living here on earth.
We are reminded of the apostle Paul’s exhortation: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1). We should not hold back anything from Christ, who did not hold back anything for our sake.
Why is it important that we should have a proper understanding of who Jesus is? What would you say about Him, in your own words? How does what you know about Jesus help you to adore Him?
Excerpted and adapted from Songs of Christmas by Robert Solomon. © 2018 by Robert Solomon. Used by permission of Discovery House. All rights reserved.
Back to Finding Rest for the Soul