Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
A Christmas carol? But aren’t those songs about the baby Jesus? With angels and shepherds, the virgin Mary, a donkey ride and a manger? Yes, of course, all those things are important but none of them would matter without God becoming man. A doctrine we can never take for granted as even some who call themselves “Christians” have doubted the divinity of Christ. And this hymn is very much about the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty! God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
In his teachings, “Christian” priest, Arius (250-336 A.D.) of Constantinople stated a belief in a created finite nature of Christ rather than having equal divine status with God the Father.
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.
Church leaders met in Nicea, Bithynia (present day Iznik, Turkey) in May 325 to formulate a consensus of belief. Arius was declared a heretic for refusing to sign the formula of faith that stated Christ was of the same divine nature as God the Father.
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee, which wert and art and evermore shall be.
Nicene Creed: We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all the world. Light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.
Reginald Heber (1783-1826), a rector of a small church in Shrewsbury, England wrote the hymn Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! to be sung after reciting the Nicene Creed.
Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee, though the eye made blind by sin thy glory may not see,
Heber based his hymn on the words from Revelation 4. The Apostle John saw one seated on a throne and around the throne were creatures who “never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!'”
Only thou art holy; there is none beside thee, perfect in power, in love and purity.
Some might try to argue that the one on the throne to whom these “holies” are being sung could only be God the Father and this all has nothing to do with Christmas at all, never mind the divinity of Christ. But the Apostle John made clear in the beginning of his Revelation that he saw the Lamb, the risen Christ. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not. I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.'” (Revelation 1:17-18a)
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
To further the argument that the life of Jesus did not begin in Bethlehem, some 700 years before his birth, the prophet Isaiah also had a vision and heard those words, “Holy, holy, holy”. In the Hebrew language, repetition is used as a superlative, something of the highest quality or degree. But only here in Isaiah is a quality raised to the power of three “as if to say that the divine holiness is so far beyond anything the human mind can grasp that a ‘super-superlative’ has to be invented to express it and, furthermore, that this transcendent holiness is the total truth about God.” (J. Alec Motyer in Isaiah, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries).
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty! God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
But who did Isaiah see? According to the same John the Apostle who had the vision in Revelation, Isaiah saw Jesus. “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” (John 12:41)
“The prophet, standing outside the temple, sees the Divine Presence seated on the mercy-seat, raised over the ark of the covenant, between the cherubim and the seraphim, and the Divine glory filled the whole temple. This vision is explained, John 12:41, that Isaiah now saw Christ’s glory, and spake of Him, which is a full proof that our Saviour is God.” (Matthew Henry in Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible).