What you should know about ‘O Holy Night’

‘O Holy Night’ has always been my favorite Christmas carol. It moves me every time I hear it. I saw the following video on wzippler’s blog (Smart Christian.net). The story was so inspiring I needed to share it here. Pastor Reza Zadeh and Chaz Miles show us why ‘O Holy Night is not only one of the most influential songs of all time, but how only God could’ve brought it about.

If you Google the song lyrics, you get the Mariah Carey rendition. While she has a beautiful and powerful voice, this version is sadly lacking. In my opinion, it omits some of the most powerfully inspirational lyrics ever penned.

Here are the original lyrics (translated from French into English):

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Chorus
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming;
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand:
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land,
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend;

Chorus
He knows our need, To our weakness no stranger!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! your King! before him bend!

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!

Chorus
Christ is the Lord, then ever! ever praise we!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!

Here’s a brief history of the song from Wikipedia:

The music was originally set to a French poem, ‘Minuit, chrétiens’ (Midnight, Christians) and released under the name ‘Cantique de Noël’.

Adam was a French composer and music critic who wrote mostly operas and ballets. Alongside the opera Giselle (1841), ‘O Holy Night’ is one of his best known works.

Placide Cappeau, the author of the French lyrics, was a wine merchant and poet. Although he was never particularly religious, Cappeau was asked in 1843 to write a Christmas poem to celebrate the recent renovation of the church organ in his home town. He obliged and, soon after, Adolphe Adam composed the accompanying music.

By the way, the song’s composer, Adophe Adam, was of Jewish descent.

Here’s where it gets interesting. It was the following verse that inspired a Unitarian minister and dedicated Abolitionist, John Sullivan Dwight, to translate the song into English in 1855. He did this in order to expose the Gospel’s view on modern day slavery in America:

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!

Fifty-one years later, the first time a human voice was ever broadcast over radio waves was on Christmas Eve 1906. The man they heard read Luke chapter two and then played ‘O Holy Night’ on his violin.

Pastor Zadeh sums up this incredible story perfectly with this concluding statement from the video:

“I want you to think about this. The song was requested by a French priest, the words were written by a drunk poet who ended up leaving the church; the music that we hear was written by a Jewish composer who doesn’t believe the story or celebrate the holiday; it was brought to America by a Unitarian pastor to expose the Gospel’s view on modern day slavery; it was the first song ever broadcast over radio waves. Only God can use a song that depicts the night that changed the course of history, to accomplish all of this.”

Please watch the video. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me, and may it give you a deeper appreciation of this most beloved Christmas carol.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 39 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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3 Responses to What you should know about ‘O Holy Night’

  1. ColorStorm says:

    Great backdrop story. Great hymn of truth and power.

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