EDITOR’S NOTE: Modern hymn writer Keith Getty has written a series of essays, each focusing on a Christmas hymn or carol. This is the fourth of an 11-part series in Baptist Press.
NASHVILLE (BP) — I always associate “O Come all ye Faithful” with going carol singing in Ireland at Christmas when I was a child; it makes this carol incredibly special for me and we always finish our Christmas concerts with it.
The carol, originally known as ‘Adeste Fidelis’, was most likely written by John Francis Wade, a Catholic artist. It remained a Latin masterpiece for 100 years before being translated into English by Frederick Oakley. For congregational and a capella purposes, this carol sings beautifully.
It’s a simple carol that tells the story of the Christ child and encourages us to join with the angels in celebrating and declaring the birth of our Savior:
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
It’s an invitation to join in with the praise and worship of heaven — to remember that Jesus gave up his heavenly home to become flesh for us.
It takes us to the fields of Bethlehem, and reminds us that Jesus’ birth was proclaimed “by a great company of the heavenly host … praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests'” (Luke 2:13).
The carol is full of snappy theological phrases like:
Word of the Father
now in flesh appearing
Everybody knows this phrase; it’s such a memorable part of Christmas carol singing tradition. And yet, each Christmas, this phrase can mean something different to me and each person who sings it.
For me, this hymn has one of the best choruses ever written. The invitation to all is just to ‘come and adore …’ The repetition of this one line builds emphasis and a persuasion to forget what is holding us back, to let go of all else that might be occupying our minds, and to just ‘come.’ To take a step from one place to another, whether physically or spiritually, where we can simply ‘adore Christ the Lord.’
About Keith & Kristyn Getty
Keith and Kristyn Getty are modern hymn writers whose compositions are sung the world over. For more information on Getty Music and the Sing! initiative, visit www.gettymusic.com.