Please reflect on the manner in which our Lord Jesus is portrayed in the Epistles and the Revelation of the New Testament — risen, glorified, coming again, and High Priest. The traditional, seasonal hymns are woefully lacking by not representing this pattern of teaching. Rather than being pleased with mixture of truth and error, there is clear indication in Scripture that such mixture is abhorrent to God! Proverbs 30:6 clearly warns against adding to the Word of God.
The following are brief observations of the many errors and weaknesses to be found in selections generally designed to be used at a certain season of commemoration:
#102 — O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL
Text: 12th cent. Latin
Tune: Processionale, 15th cent.; adapt. Thomas Helmore, 1854
This song was introduced into Protestant Christianity by John M. Neale of the Oxford Movement. It comes from medieval Roman Catholicism. Only verses 1 & 2 are useable (pertaining to Jewish expectations). Verses 3 and 4 are so weak as to be misleading. In verse 4, Emmanuel is called “The Key of David.” The Messiah has the key; in Scripture, He is not called the “key” (Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7). Also, the wording implies that one travels a journey to heaven. This kind of language usually signifies a type of works salvation and acceptance that one might lose salvation along the way.
#103 — THOU DIDST LEAVE THY THRONE
Text: Emily E. S. Elliott, 1864
Tune: Timothy R. Matthews, 1876
“O come to my heart” is confusing–does it reflect Roman Catholic tradition? Directed to saved or unsaved? Christ is already in the heart of the saved! As an Anglican, Miss Elliott was caught up in “Advent” liturgy. The Christian is to yield to the ministry of the Holy Spirit so that his life/heart (Eph. 3:16-17) is increasingly a “home” to the Lord Jesus. But the believer does not need to keep requesting the Savior to come. There is the imagery in Rev. 3:20, where Christ appeals to responsive believers in a local church that has become lukewarm, but that figure does not seem to be used by Miss Elliott here.
#104 — JOY TO THE WORLD
Text: Isaac Watts, 1719
Tune: George Frederick Handel, 1742; arr. Lowell Mason, 1839
Based on Psalm 98, it is descriptive of the Millennium. Ironically, this song does not directly relate to the First Advent at all! Why not sing it all year round?
#105 — O COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL
Text: Latin hymn, attrib. John F. Wade, 1743; trans. Frederick Oakeley, 1841
Tune: John F. Wade, 1743
The song’s introduction into Protestantism is attributed to Frederick Oakeley, who became so enamored by the Oxford Movement that he was suspended by the Anglican Church and he joined the Roman Catholic Church. Note the strange expressions: “born the King of angels” (v. 1) and “born this happy morning” (v. 3). (Jesus was born to be King of Israel and most likely was born in the evening.) “King of angels” is not a Scriptural title. Surely He created them all, but His birth enabled Him to be born “King of the Jews” (a title that appears 18 times in Scripture). The advisability of encouraging people to think in terms of adoring a newborn baby is questionable at best.
#106 — HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING
Text: Charles Wesley, 1739
Tune: Felix Mendelssohn, 1840; adapt. William H. Cummings, 1856
Probably the best of the Christmas hymns as it is generally filled with Scriptural allusions. One error: the “herald angels” did not sing “Glory to the newborn King” (v. 1 & chorus; see Luke 2:14). Wesley’s wording was changed by a later editor because his correct expression seemed quaint: “Hark how all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of kings. …” It is of interest to note that the music was written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the printing press.
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hattip: Biblical Connection