Today I get to share the history behind my most favorite Christmas carol! It's a song well-known for its beautifully arranged lyrics and spine tingling high notes, as well as being theologically sound. Listening to it can easily bring tears to your eyes!
Have you figured out yet which song I'm talking about?
Yes, of course it's,
"O Holy Night"
The history of this particular song is quite interesting!
In 1847 a French poet and wine seller named Placide Cappeau was approached by the local priest to write a poem for the Christmas mass.
The priest's request no doubt was a huge surprise to Cappeau since he was not a church attender, nor was he considered a godly man, however, he graciously accepted the priest's request.
As Placide Cappeau was traveling in a coach down a dusty, bumpy road on his way to the capital city of France, he began pondering what it would have been like to be present on that blessed night described in the Gospel of Luke. By the time he arrived in Paris the words to the poem, "Cantique de Noel", had been completed.
As Mr. Cappeau read back over what he had written, he knew that it needed to be set to music. Since Cappeau was not musically inclined, he turned for help from his good friend, Adolphe Charles Adams.
Mr. Adams was the son of a well-known classical musician and had studied at the Paris conservatoire. His talent and fame brought him numerous requests to write lyrics for ballets and orchestras all over the world. However, the lyrics his friend had given to him were unlike any he had EVER received!
Mr. Adams was Jewish, and the words of, "Cantique de Noel", represented a day he did NOT celebrate and a Man he did NOT view as the Son of God.
Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work creating an arrangement for Cappeau's beautiful words, and the finished work which became known as, "O Holy Night", greatly pleased both men.
Just three weeks later the song made its premiere at a Christmas Eve midnight mass, and it quickly became a favorite among the French congregations.
I find it amazing that such a beautiful story of our Saviour's birth was written and put to music by the two men mentioned above! One an unbeliever and the other a Jewish man who did not believe Jesus was the Son of God!
However, when the Church leaders discovered that Cappeau had renounced the Church to join a Socialist movement, and that the song's composer was Jewish, they quickly banned the song from being sung and removed it completely from the playlist.
But thankfully in 1855 John Sullivan Dwight discovered the song. He was particularly inspired by the powerful lyrics about Christ's victory over the oppression of sin and the brotherhood of men under God.
Dwight "tweaked" the lyrics slightly to read,
"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"
Mr. Dwight published, "O Holy Night", in his magazine, "Dwight's Journal of Music ", and it quickly gained great popularity with American audiences, especially in the North during the Civil War. And, to this day, it remains one of the most favorite Christmas carols of all time!
The meaning behind this song turns our hearts to the REAL reason why we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
As the song says,
"Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth."
The world needed a Saviour.
Someone who would provide a way out of the mess of sin and make us right with God.
Such a sacrifice requires a response, just as the lyrics suggest,
"Fall on your knees"
This Christmas as we listen to, "O Holy Night", let's stop and TRULY listen to the TRUTH of the words.
Allow your attention to be drawn to The One who made that holy night truly divine!
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May God Bless You,