Christmas carols-1

From 1714 to 1718, James Oglethorpe was a military aide under the command of Prince Eugene of Savoy fighting to drive the Muslim Turks out of Belgrade, Serbia. After the battle, at the age of 22, Oglethorpe returned to England, where he entered Parliament and worked for prison reform after one of his friends died in debtors prison. In 1732, Oglethorpe founded the Colony of Georgia in America for poor debtors and persecuted Christians. Oglethorpe defended Georgia from attacks launched out of Spanish Florida.

General James Oglethorpe’s secretary was Charles Wesley. Charles’ brother, John Wesley, served as the colony’s Anglican minister. John Wesley’s efforts to evangelize the Indians proved more difficult than anticipated, and his strict religiosity was resented by the colonists.

In 1737, John and Charles Wesley returned to England where they were befriended by a Moravian missionary named Peter Boehler, who was waiting for a ship to sail to Georgia. Peter Boehler shared with the Wesleys regarding the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which resulted in their “Aldersgate experience” in May of 1738.

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John Wesley wrote: “I felt my heart strangely warmed” and began to preach that God’s grace was “free for all.”

The Wesleys influenced George Whitefield, whose preaching spread the Great Awakening Revival throughout the American colonies. John Wesley founded the Methodist movement and Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns.

Charles Wesley was the 18th child of Rev. Samuel and Susanna Wesley, born Dec. 18, 1707, in Epworth, England. Susanna Wesley homeschooled all her 19 children, giving them a classical education which included learning Latin and Greek.

Charles Wesley excelled in his studies, later attending Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he came to the attention of Garret Wesley, or Wellesley, a member of the British Parliament with a large fortune in Daugan, Ireland. Having no child, Garret Wellesley offered to adopt Charles as his heir, but Charles declined.

Garret Wellesley then decided to leave his estate to his cousin Richard Colley Wellesly, who was the father of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, famous for his role in defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Charles Wesley graduated from Oxford and sailed to the Colony of Georgia in 1732, serving as secretary to the colony’s founder, General Oglethorpe.

Charles Wesley penned “Hark! how all the Welkin (Heaven) rings” but George Whitefield changed the first line to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” It was put to the music of Lutheran composer Felix Mendelssohn, grandson of the notable Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn. “Hark! the Herald Angels sing” was first published in 1739, and then published in George Whitefield’s “Collection of Hymns for Social Worship” in 1754.

In America, at this time, the French and Indian War was heating up. British General Edward Braddock fought the Battle of the Monongahela in 1755, assisted by the young officer named George Washington, who was miraculously spared. Also there for the British was 20-year-old wagon driver Daniel Boone.

In the time of war, colonial Americans would have found hope in singing:

Hark, the Herald Angels sing,
Glory to the new-born 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 the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel,
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son 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.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

The same year Charles Wesley was born, 1707, Isaac Watts wrote the carol “Joy to the World,” which became one of the most published Christmas hymns in North America:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

At this time in Europe, composer George Frideric Handel was at a low point in his career, having suffered partial paralysis on his left side due to a stroke. Incredibly, beginning August 22, 1741, George Handel composed “Messiah” in only 21 days, as part of a series of concerts in Dublin to benefit charities. The premiere was met with overwhelming success. When it was performed in London, King George II stood to his feet during the singing of the “Hallelujah” Chorus.

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Another popular Christmas carol first published in 1751 was “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” originally written in Latin as “Adeste Fideles” (attributed to John F. Wade, music by John Reading):

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.

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God, Begotten not created. (Chorus)

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
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; (Chorus)

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

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesu, 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.

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