Wow. December 24 is here already. Hard to believe.
I’m no historian, but I did a little bit of research. Not sure how much of the following is true – but I wanted to share because their are nuggets of truth & something we can all glean from it.
I talk a lot about the song O Holy Night because I am moved by it every time I hear it. Not bad for a song written 168 years ago in 1847!
Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was the commissionaire of wines and a poet in a small French town. He was not what you might call a regular church attendee. So, he was probably surprised that the priest of his local parish asked him to write a poem for Christmas mass. Inspired by the gospel of Luke, he penned Cantique de Noel. He was so moved by his work that he thought it should be turned into a song, so he turned to friend and master musician Adolphe Charles Adams – who happened to be Jewish. Even though Adams did not share the same views as Jesus being the son of God, he was up to the challenge of writing a score to bring the lyrics to life. It was performed just 3 weeks later at midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
When the poet walked away from the church and joined the socialist movement in addition to the discovery of the score having been penned by a Jew, the Catholic church in France denounced this song and declared it unfit for church services. However, the French people continued to sing it. (It remained banned in churches for almost 20 years.)
A decade later, American writer and abolitionist John Sullivan Dwight, brought it to America. He felt very strongly about the third verse:
Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease.
Dwight published an English translation in his magazine and it quickly gained favor – especially in the North during the Civil War.
It’s also been said that during the Franco-Prussian war in 1871, a French soldier suddenly jumped out on Christmas Eve and began singing O Holy Night. The legend is that both sides ceased fighting for 24 hours, singing and celebrating Christmas.
Over 3 decades later, in 1906, a 33 year old professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison named Reginald Fessenden, using a microphone and a new type of generator, the first ever broadcast (his voice) across airwaves with a reading of the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke. Then, he picked up his violin and played O Holy Night.
Here’s what I know to be true: 2000 years and the gospel is still here. Still relevant. Still changing lives. A song written 168 years ago is still powerful. God still is using imperfect people to bring about His perfect will.