Monday, December 24
Oh Holy Night
History teaches us that one of the great Christmas Hymn, O Holy Night, began as a poem by Placide Cappeau in 1843. The poem became a song at the hand of French composer Adolphe Adam, and the song was translated to English by John Sullivan Dwight in 1855. History describes Cappeau as a non-religious person who was very surprised when the parish priest asked him to author a poem for Christmas mass. One evening, considering the priest’s request, Cappeau used the Gospel of Luke and imagined what it must have been like to have been present at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. From this encounter with the story of Christ’s birth, the words were penned; the words became a song, and today we are blessed with the powerful and beautiful hymn, O Holy Night.
The backstory of this great Christmas hymn begs the question, “have you had a moment this Christmas season to quieten your heart and to take in the full impact of the night Jesus was born?” Isn’t it amazing that the Christmas story of the Bible could so impact the heart of a wine commissionaire in a small village in France that his written response would become a timeless song for the ages. Today, on Christmas Eve, will you take a moment to personally consider that Holy night?
Consider the setting. Bethlehem (the city of David). The fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy (Micah 5:2). An obscure village. The name of the village referenced the linage of David; to the eyes of the observer, the place was a small and insignificant location. This setting became the pivotal place for all of history. Bethlehem. A place of unmerited glory. The place where our Savior, the King of Kings, entered earth and entered humanity.
Consider those present. Take a look at those who gathered around the obscurity of a feeding trough that held the Christ-child. A poor carpenter and his betrothed virgin wife were positioned quietly by the make-shift bassinet as unsuspecting recipients of a divine order. Joseph and Mary were chosen to physically usher into the world the long-awaited Messiah. Notice that within this humble scene, shepherds – the unsuspecting heralds who were the first to evangelize the gospel – quietly approached the cradle of Jesus with reference and awe. The angels’ intense and magnificent announcement earlier that evening had left a defining silence as this dark and still night wrapped the new born king in perfect peace.
Consider the name of the baby. Jesus. Heaven (through the angel’s announcement) named the Messiah Jesus (Matthew 1:21). Salvation! Deliverance! He is the Savior, Christ the Lord. God in human form, came under the name Jesus to heal the brokenness caused by sin. That night, under the blanket of a dark sky, the swaddling clothes cuddled this tiny little babe: His small hands beginning to unfold to embrace his mother’s finger, his eye lids slowly separating as his eyes focused, his legs stretching, and the gentle and soft whimper of an infant’s hunger echoing through the chamber of their temporary dwelling. This little One! The majestic One! The only One! Jesus. The Savior of the world.
Consider the response of those who were the first recipients of the good news of Jesus. The shepherds made know abroad the saying told to them concerning the child. The shepherds heard the good tidings of great joy first hand from the angel; the shepherds followed the divine instruction to witness for themselves the babe, the Christ-child; the shepherds then spread the news abroad to many people. All those who heard the shepherds report were astonished (Luke 2:18). Astonished! Amazed! Overwhelmed!
Consider Mary’s response. Mary kept these things and pondered them in her heart. In contrast to the emotion of many within the populace, Mary quietly reflected. She treasured every detail silently in her heart. Mary was forever changed by the supernatural presence of the baby in her arms.
So, having personally and quietly considered that holy night, how does your heart become stirred? What sadness or hurt fades under the influence of that miraculous night? What earthly concerns are forgotten? What failures are surrendered? What joys are discovered? Perhaps like the author of that great Christmas hymn, maybe God desires to do something supernatural in you and through you simply because you chose to focus intently on the majesty of the birth of our King. O Holy Night, O night divine. Live astonished at the greatest miracle ever. Merry Christmas.
Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:18-20