Hymn #144: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

            Charles Wesley (1707-1788) wrote this text less than one year after his conversion experience.  The hymn is a condensed course in biblical doctrine in ten stanzas, using a variety of terms for the newborn Christ.  Wesley published it in his 1739 hymnal, and many consider it his finest hymn.

           Charles Wesley was already active in the church and an ordained clergyman when he wrote that he was converted and “found peace with God and rejoiced in the hope of a living Christ” on Whitsunday, May 20, 1738.  He saw this conversion as the beginning of his Christian life.

            Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847) composed the tune MENDELSSOHN in 1840, but it was not set to Wesley’s Christmas words until fifteen years later.  Mendelssohn’s cantata, Festgesang, in which the melody appeared, was composed for the Gutenberg Festival at Leipzig to celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of the invention of printing.

          Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was a child prodigy, playing the piano publicly at the age of nine.  A prolific composer, he was deeply sensitive to criticism.  Mendelssohn died November 4, 1847, at Leipzig, Germany, shortly after hearing of the death of his sister Fanny.