“You Got Peanut Butter In My Chocolate!”
(Hark! the Herald Angels Sing)
When Charles Wesley penned the lyrics to “Hark how all the welkin ring/Glory to the King of Kings” in 1739 he intended his words be put to music characterized with a slower, more solemn pace and sung with reverence. A century later Felix Mendelssohn had no cathedral or Christian notion in mind as he scored the second chorus of a cantata commemorating John Gutenberg’s invention of printing. In fact Mendelssohn was quite adamant that his music only be appreciated in secular settings.
The back story to how Wesley’s verse and Mendelssohn’s music came together is a testament to the Christmas story itself. When a third individual, William Cummings by name, came along in 1855, he brought the work of both these musicians together in spite of their express wishes. Cummings took Wesley’s words and Mendelssohn‘s tune and put them together as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (inadvertently paving the way for a television candy commercial 120 years later and the expression, “You got chocolate in my Peanut Butter!”).
Most of us in the Christian community, (myself included), live with the assumption we are doing God’s work with our lives and talents in some manner. Within that assumption we make plans and develop programs and promises, perhaps even writing a song or poem or a verse or two. But neither genius nor genre was going to prevent the work of these two men from coming together to herald the good news in spite of their well intentioned plans! Isn’t that the Christmas story in a nutshell? God in Christ is doing something that we could never imagine! And we most certainly would not have approved of his manner or his method in bringing it about as members of any religious community in first century Judea.
We sometimes assume too much as His creatures. His work is always proceeding and always illuminating from a light source that can’t be usurped by any of the shadowy features our squinting eyes discern in the predawn. His is a kingdom that will reveal to all mankind His goodness and His greatness especially when it runs contrary to our nature and sometimes even our dying wishes. Even our well intentioned “No way!” can become “Yes, His way” in Christ.
We appreciate you Chuck Wesley, Herr Mendelssohn and Billy Cummings for the beauty of the gospel set to music! But we thank the Father most of all for revealing to us His Son! Let the power and message of the music ring - “Pleased, as man, with men to dwell Jesus , our Emmanuel!”