My Favorite (& Most Unsung) Verse of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

A few years ago, North Side Worship started putting together a bluegrass Christmas album entitled “Peace on Earth.”  You can listen to or download the entire album for free below.

As we selected songs, I fell in love with some of the forgotten verses in Christmas hymnody.  “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” became my favorite due to one particular forgotten stanza.

Do Angels Actually Sing?

Some people have problems with the song because “nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that angels sing.  They proclaim but not sing.”  Well, the Bible also doesn’t say that we should nitpick nebulous things but that doesn’t stop us, now does it?

While it is true that the angels are not necessarily singing at the Christmas story, we shouldn’t assume that they don’t sing.  In fact, there is other scriptural evidence that angels do in fact sing.  God says that “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7).  This is done in Hebrew poetry, and the parallelism indicates that the morning stars are actually referencing angels.

In addition, the heavenly throne room is full of the 24 elders and the 4 living creatures (thought by many to be angelic beings) are singing a new song towards the Lord (Rev 5:9).  Later, the voice of many angels join in the praise (Rev 5:11) even though it does not specifically state in that particular verse they are singing.

Since both the words of the angels in Rev 5:11 and Luke 2:13-14 are words of praise in poetic form, there is a good indication that they are singing.

Just because the Bible doesn’t say they do sing, we cannot infer they do not sing.

The Forgotten Verse

So, either the angels sang or proclaimed or shouted on Christmas.  What words came out of their mouths?  This hymn articulates some of the content.  Charles Wesley originally wrote the hymn in 1739 with the first line being, “Hark! how all the welkin rings.”  The “welkin” refers to the skies or the heavens.  Possibly, he wrote it that way due to his lack of clarity on whether or not they were actually singing.  Later, George Whitefield would change the opening words to what we know today.  He also combined verse 4 and 5, took some lines out and came up with what is my favorite yet neglected stanza.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head
Adam’s likeness, now efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.

While the above line is some deep theology, let me unpack it for you.  The desire of the nations is the prophesied coming Messiah (Hag 2:7).  In the same way that Mary made a home for Jesus in her womb, believers are to make a home for him in their souls.

The woman’s conquering seed comes straight out of the prophecy in the Garden of Eden.  After Adam and Eve sinned, God promises that the seed of the Woman will crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15).  While men are typically viewed as the ones having seed, one woman is described as having a seed.  There will be a birth that no man would get the credit for.  This child, born of a virgin (Isa 7:14), will make all things right that was broken in the Garden.

As Jesus rises, we ask him to bruise in us the serpent’s head.  Jesus is coming to bruise the head of the serpent – the sting of sin left in us!  Since we all come from Adam, we are asking for that likeness to be erased in us.  We want to be restored to the image of God (Gen 1:27) rather than the image of Adam (Gen 5:3).  We are each now conceived possessing original sin (Ps 51:5) and our hearts are desperately sick (Jer 17:9).  Sin came into the world through Adam (Rom 5:12, 19) and the curse has been passed down to us.

We desire to have the image of God stamped back upon us (Gen 1:27; Matt 22:20-22).  Jesus is the second Adam (1 Cor 15:45; Rom 5:14).  He has come to make all things right again!

When we sing, we are begging this second Adam – please reinstate us in thy love (2 Cor 5:20; Rom 5:10; Col 1:20)!

If you can grasp all that, you can now understand when we sing those lines, I feel as if I could run through a wall!  Even if your church doesn’t sing that particular verse this Christmas, I pray you can use them as meditation and cause you to dive deeper into the Word and worship!



Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”


Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.


Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head
Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.


Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.