The Herald Angels Sing: A Baby Born to Die

Hark the Herald Angels sing about a newborn King who was born to die for usThe angels knew Jesus before Mary did.

They experienced his glory and praised him before God set his plan in motion. The angels held their breath as Mary gave birth. They broke out in song when Jesus first inhaled earth’s air. I imagine them like proud aunts and uncles circled around the new mother cooing, “How glorious is our precious Lord!”

Hark! The herald angels sing! Glory to the newborn King!

One unnamed angel, most likely God’s right-hand-man Gabriel, appears to the shepherds:

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:9-11 NASB95

Gabriel packs a punch in these 3 verses.

Trade your fear for joy. Jesus is good news for all people. Not one ethnic group. Not one denomination. No people group is more special than another. Everyone shares this great joy because he is our Savior, reconciling God and sinners.

Born that we no more may die.

Notice the tiny word for in Gabriel’s proclamation. Jesus is good news for all the people. The Savior is born for you. Jesus gives sacrificially of Himself from the moment of birth. His entire human life is for us.

For the first time ever, the eternal God is contained within and limited by a human body. For us, Jesus lays aside the praise of angels, his glory, his power and his eternal union with the Father and Spirit. For us, the Savior is born to die.

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ the everlasting Lord…
veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell…
Mild he lays his glory by.
-Charles Wesley, 1739

Perhaps less obvious, God provides the promised King in the line of David. During the worldwide census, every male returned to the city of his ancestors. Jesus’ birth in the city of David qualifies him to be God’s promised Christ (which means king), our Prince of Peace.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NASB95

Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace among men with whom He is pleased. Luke 2:14Immediately, God’s Kingdom differs radically from the world’s kingdoms.

God announces his entry into human history to peasant shepherds in a field. Kings on their thrones and priests in the Temple receive no heavenly announcement, upending the world’s measure of power and privilege. The angelic herald is the first fulfillment of Mary’s prophesy that Jesus will bring down rulers from their thrones, and exalt the humble (Lk 1:52).

In addition, the temple was understood to be the only place where heaven touched earth. In Jewish practice, God met the high priest once a year in the holy of holies, the innermost room of the temple. God shatters this belief when his glory surrounds the shepherds on a farm. God is not confined to one location, but meets every person wherever we are.

God and sinners reconciled.

Let’s appreciate the depth of this familiar carol’s story.
Let’s rejoice over the light and life Jesus offers through his personal sacrifice.
Let’s praise God for this baby who was born to die.

This is week two of our series of noticing strong biblical themes in familiar Christmas carols. In the first of the series, we sang O Come! O Come, Immanuel with increased understanding of Immanuel. Next week we’ll look at O Holy Night!

#seedsofscripture #readthebiblebetter #Luke2 #Isaiah9 #christmashymn #harktheheraldangelssing


  1. Barbara Latta on December 7, 2023 at 4:51 PM

    I love the message in the old Christmas carols. They do proclaim the gospel message. Jesus was born so that we wouldn’t die. Thank you, Cathy!

    • Cathy Chung on December 7, 2023 at 6:23 PM

      Me too! But sometimes the tune and refrain take precedence over the main lyrics rich in Truth.

    • CathyChung on December 11, 2023 at 9:33 AM

      Thanks Barbara. It’s the one time of year the general public hears the gospel if they’ll listen carefully.

  2. Hope C on December 7, 2023 at 5:30 PM

    I love the angels message that good news of great joy for all people.

    • CathyChung on December 11, 2023 at 9:34 AM

      Yup, all.

  3. J.D. Wininger on December 8, 2023 at 7:04 AM

    Always treasure your insights my friend. We all need to pay more attention to the lyrics of the “classics” as I like to call them, and myself these days. 🙂 There’s much we’ve forgotten from them that may help us return to the nation we were founded to be. God’s blessings and Merry CHRISTmas sweet friend.

    • CathyChung on December 11, 2023 at 9:35 AM

      Definitely classics, sadly many of which are being updated. We can keep praying people will finally turn to the Truth.

  4. Barb Fox on December 12, 2023 at 8:39 AM

    Every year these familiar carols become meaningful in fresh ways. Beautiful extractions of Biblical insights, Cathy! Especially the “all people” which just feels so important with so much trying to alienate us while God draws us all to Him to be one family.

    • CathyChung on December 15, 2023 at 12:07 PM

      The ‘all’ struck me too. A great reminder of God’s intended unity, that we might have one mind and one heart. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Katherine Pasour on December 13, 2023 at 11:51 AM

    I love Christmas Carols. We can sing and glorify our Lord and have a wonderful time praising Him with our voices. Thank you for sharing joy.

    • CathyChung on December 15, 2023 at 12:08 PM

      I love them too. They carry memories of church, my late mother, and express my gratitude, praise, and joy in Christmas. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Yvonne Morgan on December 14, 2023 at 5:09 PM

    So many of the old Christmas carols move me to tears. They offer us so much beauty and hope. Thanks for the beautiful message Cathy. Merry Christmas

    • CathyChung on December 15, 2023 at 12:09 PM

      They are beautiful, aren’t they? Merry Christmas Yvonne.

  7. Debbie Wilson on December 16, 2023 at 8:42 PM

    Cathy, those carols pack so much truth. Thanks for sharing this. Merry Christmas!

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