Christian Articles Archive

O, Come, Let Us Adore Him

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (4:02)

Carol singersOne of our favorite Christmas carols, "O, Come, All Ye Faithful," goes back hundreds of years, perhaps to a Cistercian monastery.[1] Often known by its Latin title, Adeste Fideles ("Come, faithful people"), this hymn is a call for God's faithful, joyous people to contemplate the "King of Angels" in Bethlehem's manger. The first verse puts out the invitation.

"O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;

The chorus, repeated again and again, calls us to adore Him -- that is, to be fond of, to regard with loving admiration and devotion, and ultimately, to worship Him and honor Him as divine.

"O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord."

The second verse of the Latin hymn doesn't appear in many Protestant hymnals, but extols Christ as the incarnate God, using phrases drawn from the ancient Nicene Creed.[2] Most people today -- even many Christians -- look at the baby in the manger as a sweet Christ figure, but not really as God in Person. Verse 2 reminds us that even in the manger -- especially in the manger -- this baby is God himself in human flesh -- "Very God of Very God."

Verse 3 invites the angel chorus, the mighty angel army that appeared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem, to join us in adoration.

"Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God, glory in the highest...."

The angel host must have felt at home worshipping before the throne of God. But when called to an obscure Judean hillside, they must have wondered what all the fuss was about. Then, it hit them. They were called to celebrate the coming of God to earth, incarnate in a newborn baby. They sang their hearts out, and we are invited to do the same.

Verse 4 is a welcome, a greeting to the newborn King.

"Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing...."

The last line recalls the first lines of John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1) John observes, "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 1:14). And so we proclaim in song, "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!"

When we sing "O, Come, All Ye Faithful," we are reaffirming that the baby in Bethlehem's manger is indeed God in human flesh, Christ the Lord.

This morning, in the church where I worship, we sang the chorus over and over as we worshipped, our voices joining with those of monks of long ago, of believers throughout the ages, and the angel chorus that appeared on Christmas morning on the hills of Bethlehem.

"O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord."

He is worthy of all our praise!


[1] "O, Come, All Ye Faithful" goes back many centuries, perhaps to a Latin hymn sung by Cistercian monks as they praised Christ, our Lord. The words were known in Latin about 1640 in the collection of John IV of Portugal, a fervent patron of music and the arts and a composer in his own right. The Latin version with the tune was published by Catholic layman John Francis Wade in 1751, and later translated into English in 1841 by Anglican priest (and later Catholic canon) Frederick Oakeley. For more information, see the Wikipedia article on "O Come, All Ye Faithful."

[2] Verse 2 of the Latin hymn is translated, "God of God, and Light of Light begotten / Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb / Very God, begotten, not created...." It isn't often sung, probably because people might be offended by the idea of abhorring the Virgin's womb. But that phrase is meaningful, something like Paul was getting at in Philippians 2:6-7 where he talks about Jesus' willingness to leave the prerogatives of divinity and humble himself to become a human being.

Copyright © 2019, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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