O Holy Night is a Christmas Carol with a lot of history.
It all began in 1843 in France. One of the priests in Paris wanted something new for the Christmas Eve Mass. He wanted to have a poem written to celebrate the birth of Christ. This priest was not able to write anything himself so he turned to a local writer named Placide Cappeau.
Now Cappeau was not a part of the priest’s church. He was a local wine merchant and atheist. He is believed to have been a part of anti-Christian protests before being asked to write this celebration of Christmas poem. Even though he did not believe in God Cappeau accepted the task of writing something for this priest.
That Christmas Eve it was shared and soon people desired it to be a hymn. Then the poem was given to a Jewish composure who created the melody for the poem. This is where O Holy Night began.
It was created by an atheist and a Jew. Two people who did not believe in the birth of Jesus Christ as stated in the Bible.
This was an odd beginning for a Christmas Carol that has a great message of love and hope over sin. The history continues…
In 1855, John Sullivan Dwight translated this song from French to English in America. Dwight heard this song and it hit him like a train. The line that stood out to him and cause a movement…
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, Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we; Let all within us praise his Holy name!
For he was an abolitionist. He believed this song spoke of the great love of God coming and giving His Son for the world, not just for free people, but for all people. It began a movement throughout the northern United States where people believed we should have freedom and equality for all people.
Jesus taught us to love one another; this included those who were enslaved.
Let me break from the history quickly…when Dwight translated this carol he believed all people should experience love and broken chains physically. Today, we find there are many people still in bondage all around us.
Those are not physical chains, but the chains of sin and death. Jesus said…
“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” John 8:34
Sin enslaves so many people today. Just because you can’t see the chains anymore does not mean there are not on people.
But just as the carol expresses the truth that there are chains upon people we have Freedom in Christ!
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
We have freedom in Christ! Jesus Christ came to earth to set the captive free from sin and death!
Are you set free? If so don’t fall prey to that yoke again!
Just as Dwight used this song to help create a movement toward freedom from slavery in the US; allow God to use this song in your life to remind you there is freedom from the slavery of sin!
We have seen there are three men used to reach many people with the words of this song. Two who didn’t believe in the Gospel and one who wanted to start a civil movement. But the history of this song doesn’t stop there…
Then in 1870 back in France, the French where fighting the Germans in the Franco-Prussian War. As the war continued the French and Germans were in trenches battling. But in 1870 on Christmas Eve one French solider was tired of the fighting. He stood up on the top of the trench in full view of the Germans and began to sing!
He began singing O Holy Night; as he sang into the darkness everyone waited and listened. They stopped fighting and there was peace in the middle of that war. Once he finished a German solider stood up and began singing a common German Christmas Carol. History is not 100% sure this is a true story, but there is enough evidence to show something along these lines happened that Christmas Eve.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Jesus was born into the world as the prince of Peace. When the world is turned upside down because of the hate and sin Jesus is the peace we need through the chaos.
Do you feel as though your life is a war zone right now?
We create trenches and hide behind those walls hoping the enemy will not find us. But this Christmas follow the leading of that solider who was willing to stand for truth and find the great peace that he wanted so badly.
It may be the scariest thing you ever do, but allow God into those sad, dark places in your heart and mind so He can fill them with his love and peace.
This song has one more historical story that I want to point to before we move into today.
The year was 1906…
Reginald Fessenden, a man who had worked with Thomas Edison; was experimenting with a microphone and a telegraph. He was attempting to connect both to send audio over the airwaves. Until this point the only thing that had be transmitted was moriisecode. But he wanted to try something and he began to read his Bible from Luke chapter 2.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:1-7
Then he decided to stop reading and play his violin. He began playing a beautiful classic Christmas Carol…you guessed it…O Holy Night!
This was the first time anything besides clicks had been communicated over the airwaves! As we think about the significance of this…the first use of technology that would change the world into what we have now was to share the Word of God and a song about the hope we have from Christ!
Now that we have traveled through history; what can we learn from this carol that has done so many amazing things in people’s lives?
The lyrics of the song are powerful, but they are expressed in the history of the song.
God Can Use Anyone
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
The creators of this great hymn where not the wisest or the “right” choice to create a carol to worship the Lord. One was an atheist and one a Jew. These men simply said yes to a job. There is no way they could have thought this song would have influenced so many people.
God can use anyone to accomplish His plans.
Mary was not the “right” choice by the world’s standards. She was a young and simply Jewish girl. She was nothing special and she said…
For He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. Luke 1:48
She was simply a humble servant who was willing to say yes to a job from the Lord. Just as Paul wrote,
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
Are you willing to Fall on your knees and say YES to whatever job God has planned for you?
Don’t ever think you are not worthy or a good enough Christian to do something great for Him! Mary was a humble servant; the men who wrote this song didn’t even believe it’s words! What will you do for God?
Will you be the weak or the foolish who put the wise and the strong to shame?
2. Freedom and Peace through Christ
As the song proclaims…
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
Jesus is the only one who was able to bring peace into the world. Then as this song rang out into the night on that battle field…can you imagine what that solider was thinking coming out of hiding and putting his faith in that great peace!
He could have been shot down as soon as he stood up, but God wanted to do something to minister to those men that night! What will you do with the peace that comes from Christ? Not fearing just as that solider stood for something greater than himself and did not fear!
John Dwight did not fear when he translated the song as a stand against slavery in this country!
What chains need to break in your life that will propel you into action to stand up and stand out from the rest for Christ?
Dwight with this song in his mouth and the conviction of Christ that His Law is Love (Mark 12:31, “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”) in his heart; he propelled a revolution!
Will you stand for Freedom and peace in the midst of the war and slavery of sin that is attempting to consume our country today and start a Revolution…Revival?!?!?
I believe there is a Spiritual Revolution coming! Will you be a part of the revolution or will you stand on the side lines watching as your friends and family fight for what is right?
3. Worship Christ
O Holy Night is a very worshipful song. It is a song that speaks of sin in the world and Jesus Christ coming as a baby to break the chains and set us free from that sin. Because of this we should worship. Jesus Christ has influenced every person’s life; whether they know it or not. He has come and created a world where peace and love abound for everyone.
You may be thinking peace and love are not something you experience much. But it’s because of His great love and mercy that you have breath right now. In your darkest situation Jesus is there for you calling you to Fall on your Knees!
Have you ever been cold? Tired? Hungry? Wished to see friends or family?
Those longings would have been what the men on bouts would have been feeling as they heard for the first time ever the words coming over the airwaves and listened to the message of Christ as baby then the message of this carol to allow Christ to break your chains and give you peace.
The Holy Spirit will meet you where you are…
35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
He is with you in the good times, in the bad times, and in the in-between times! Nothing can separate you from His great love for you. When you feel as the darkness and cold is closing in attempting to consume you remember to worship because Christ is right there with you! Because nothing: death, life, angel, demon, present, future, any power, height, depth or anything else can separate you for His love!
Because of this we worship! Fall on your knees not for the good of this world, but for the God who is Emmanuel “God with us”!
Follow the example of Mary when she said…
I am the Lord’s servant. Luke 1:38a
For her to become the mother of Christ was not going to be easy. To be pregnant and out of marriage, to raise a child; these are not easy things, but she accepted the job. You must not give up if your situation is dark; you must worship the creator! You must not give up if your situation is light; you must worship the creator!
O Holy Night is a song that teaches and has a history of examples of its words that…
God can use anyone
Freedom and Peace through Christ
He will use you if you are willing to fall on your knees and allow Him to break your chains of sin and death so you can worship Him with your life!
God Bless and BetheLIGHT!