The Easter hymn “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” connects with his Christmas hymn. For 100 years, both hymns were sung to the same tune. Sung to the tune of the Easter hymn, the Christmas hymn expresses the Christmas spirit as well as it does the glad message of the resurrection.
Being set to music from Mendelsohn’s cantata of 1840, “Gott Ist Licht” (God is Light), makes this one of the beautiful songs with which we celebrate Christmas.
“Hark! The herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim,
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’
Hark! The herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the new-born King.”
Wesley, of these hymns and many others, took on the task of providing new hymns for the church after the renowned poet Watts died. Some of his 6,000 hymns are among the most admired in the English language.
Wesley was a member of a family whose history was rooted in music and the church. Charles had been brought up in the Church of England and was ordained a minister in 1735. But it was three years later in 1738 he had a “spiritual conversion and felt a new hope and meaning come into his life.”
He wrote “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” in 1739 to commemorate the first anniversary of this spiritual awakening. His brother John followed him in the same spiritual experience. He and his brother John had a powerful influence on the religious life of England. For more than 40 years, the work of the Wesley brothers impacted England and from their ministry grew the Methodist movement.
On their tours throughout the country, John preached and Charles sang. Some people think Charles — “his pen tipped with flame” — became the greatest of all hymn writers. No matter where he was, he “had to sing.”
Although Charles Wesley’s hymns greatly led to the growth of the Methodist movement, they are sung by Christians of all denominations today.
Charles was one of 19 children. His father, the Rev. Samuel Wesley, was the author of several poems and his mother helped in the education of the children. The Lord’s Prayer was taught to each as soon as he could talk and it was repeated morning and night. At 5, Wesley was taught to read and had one day in which to learn all the letters of the alphabet. School time was six hours a day with his parents as teachers.
NOTE: My mother taught me to read “lines and spaces” when I was 3. My parents bought a big upright piano and she, who was self-taught, taught me my first song on the piano which I played with two fingers: “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” one of the most popular hymns written by Charles Wesley. It was said that this hymn alone would have immortalized the name of Wesley.