More to the Music: ‘O Holy Night’

By   •   December 19, 2014

(Editor’s Note: This is the last of a five-part series, taking a look at the meaning behind some of the favorite Christmas songs we sing.)

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” — Luke 2:10-12

The night that Christ was born.

Some things are impossible to imagine. But still, it’s worth the try.

In 1847, Placide Cappeau, a Frenchman and commissioner of wine, was asked by a priest to pen a song to celebrate the church organ renovation and sing at Christmas mass.

Known more for his poetry than church attendance, Cappeau was a little shocked, but took the request seriously and dug into Luke 2 for some inspiration.

On a long, dusty carriage ride to Paris, Cappeau started to think about about what it would be like to have been there. On that Holy Night.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Words in hand, Cappeau needed a melody and asked his friend and trained classical musician, Adolphe Charles Adams, for a little help. The two collaborated and the “O Holy Night” was debuted at the Christmas Eve service to rave reviews. It later spread to the U.S., after airing as the first song on radio waves.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

You can almost put yourself in the back of that Paris cathedral over 160 years ago. Probably dimly lit by oil lamps and candles, hearing anew about that “night of our dear Savior’s birth.”

But can you put yourself in Bethlehem on that night?

Can you imagine being there, in that lonely manger?

Fall on Your Knees. Oh hear the angels’ voices…

Ask any parent about the most memorable moments in their life and the birth of a child is certainly on top of the list.

But more than 2,000 years ago, there were no smartphones to document the event. No Instagram or Facebook to share the moment with the world.

Just fear and uncertainty.

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone all around them and they were terrified.” — Luke 2:10

But even without social networking, word spread quickly about the birth of the Savior. After all, this was Good News and great joy.

Yes, bringing a child into the world is one of those things you just can’t stop talking about. But what about this Christmas? What about the most meaningful childbirth in all of history?

It may not be easy to imagine what it would be like, on that “night divine.”

But that shouldn’t stop us from talking about it.