Wesley hymn devotions for Advent and Christmas

Music is a wonderful part of the Christmas and Advent seasons. Charles Wesley, one of Methodism’s founders, wrote several hymns for Advent and Christmas. Some we know and others are less familiar.

These devotions draw on the hymns of Charles Wesley to help us reflect upon the miracle of Christmas, when

“the Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14, NRSV).

“Peace upon earth be restored!” A Christmas hymn devotion

A UMC.org Feature by Joe Iovino*

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of four weekly devotions for Advent based on the hymns of Charles Wesley.

There’s something peaceful about Christmas.That can be hard to remember in the bustle of our preparations. Days of shopping, baking, and traffic can become more stressful than peaceful. Yet in the midst of all we are doing, we sense that things should be quieter and slower.

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Charles Wesley wrote many hymns in the top floor of his house in Bristol, England, which is now a museum. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

We try to hold onto glimpses of stillness: a moment in front of the tree while decorating, the solitude of the drive home from the late Christmas Eve service, or a quiet cup of coffee after the kids have opened their gifts early Christmas morning.

Peace, however, is elusive—not just at Christmas, but all through the year. Weary from discord in our nations, communities, relationships and church, we welcome the words of the angels as they announce Jesus’ birth.

“Glory to God in heaven,” they say to the shepherds, “and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (Luke 2:14 CEB).

A song of peace

Charles Wesley wrote about the peace of Christmas in the final song of his collection Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord. The song opens with an echo of the angels’ words,

All glory to God in the sky,

And peace upon earth be restor’d!

O Jesus, exalted on high,
   Appear our omnipotent Lord.

For Wesley, the peace of Christmas is not something only for a day in the past or some time in the future. It is something we can experience in our lives every day.

Peace begins in our hearts

We sometimes think peace is outside of our control. We long for our national leaders to work toward world peace. We hope our bosses will be good at managing conflict in our work places. We pray for those in power to treat us, and others, fairly.

We think when peace is achieved out there, then we will find peace in our lives.

In this hymn, Wesley teaches that peace flows in the opposite direction. Rather than waiting for peace, he invites us to pray for Jesus, “The Prince and author of peace,” to set up “Thy quiet and peaceable reign” in each of our hearts and lives.

The Rev. Paul Chilcote, United Methodist author and scholar, writes in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Advent and Christmas with Charles Wesley, “The Christ is not only an ambassador of peace, he is Peace. God calls us to live into the peaceable vision revealed and manifest in the person of Jesus.”

As we surrender control of our lives and allow the love of Christ to rule in our hearts, peace is born in us. Wesley writes,

All sorrow before thee shall fly,
   And anger and hatred be o’er,
And envy and malice shall die,
   And discord afflict us no more.

We then become ambassadors of peace in our relationships, our work, and our world.

Living the song

One can see why John Wesley called this song, “the very best hymn of the collection.” These few verses not only express our longing for the peace of Christmas, they invite us to participate in it today.

For peace to prevail on earth, it must first reign in our hearts and lives. Photo by Joe Iovino, United Methodist Communications.

Experiencing peace is not in the hands of the authorities in our world. Nor will we attain it through a purchase, promotion, or change in relationship status.

When we allow “The Prince and author of peace” to set up his “quiet and peaceable reign” in our hearts and lives, we will find peace.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, may the peace of Christ be born in us, and may we share it with all the world. In the words of Charles Wesley,

Appeas’d by the charms of thy grace
   We all shall in amity join,
And kindly each other embrace,
   And love with a passion like thine.

Merry Christmas.

*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.


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