Hark How All the Welkin Rings
Words by Charles Wesley, 1737
Music: tune, MENDELSSOHN, by Felix Mendelssohn, 1840
Scripture: Luke 2:8-14
Topics: Christmas; Incarnation; Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley first published these familiar and favorite Christmas words in 1737 in Hymns and Sacred Poems. His original title was "Hymn for Christmas Day." Wesley’s text appears here in its original version without any of the changes so common to later hymnals. The single exception is the repetition of "Hark how all the welkin rings! "Glory to the King of Kings," added to accommodate the extra line of music contained in the MENDELSSOHN tune. Mendelssohn’s tune, of course, was not composed until more than 100 years after Wesley’s text. Eighteenth-century hymnals (and Wesley) suggested the hymn be sung to "Salisbury Tune," which we know as EASTER HYMN, most often used today with another Wesley text, "Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today." The word "welkin" refers to the sky, the vault of heaven.
Retaining the familiar MENDELSSOHN for Wesley’s original words allows congregations to sing the hymn as Wesley wrote them. Consider singing them anytime during the Christmas season, or perhaps on a Sunday near Charles Wesley’s birthday, December 18.