I love Christmas carols. In fact my favorite download right now is a Michael W. Smith “Christmas Essentials” album, filled with some of the classics.
But when we sing the age-old Christmas songs at this time of year, are we really paying attention to the words? Or are we going through the motions? Is it an act of worship of the newborn King or just another carol?
One of my favorite all time songs is “O Holy Night.” At the conclusion of our Christmas Eve service every year, one of our gifted worship leaders, Rebecca Hart, performs a powerful rendition of “O Holy Night.” When I sing along, I get caught up in the words and it becomes an act of worship. I imagine what it would be like to be in the presence of the Savior of the World and the lyrics, “Fall on your knees: O hear the Angel voices!” become very real to me. I often get teary when I sing this song, and do feel like I will fall on my knees when I come face to face with the one who made it possible to spend eternity with my heavenly Father.
However, the background story of “O Holy Night” may not be as reverent as what you would expect. According to belief.net, the song was penned in 1847 by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, the commissionaire of wines in a small French town. Placide, known more for his poetry rather than church attendance, was asked by the Parish Priest to pen a poem for Christmas mass. He used the gospel of Luke as his guide and imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Let’s say the Spirit (not from the wine) overtook him and “Cantique de Noel” was birthed.
But after writing this anointed poem, Placide thought it should also be a song, so he asked a composer friend, Adolphe Charles Adams, to pen music to accompany the words. Adolphe happened to be Jewish, so 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, but he accepted the challenge and wrote the score to “O Holy Night.” The song was performed for the first time, just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It was introduced to America ten years later.
As a media person, what I find interesting is this same song, “O Holy Night,” was played on the first ever radio broadcast on Christmas Eve in 1906. Using a new type of generator, Reginald Fessenden, a thirty-three-year old university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison, spoke into a microphone, read from the gospel of Luke, then picked up his violin and played “O Holy Night.” That was not an accident. Despite the somewhat secular beginnings of the song, it was the act of Fessenden’s worship that mattered to God and set an example for the rest of the United States.
Hebrews 12:28–29 says, “Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”
This Christmas when you sing the songs of old, will you lay aside the last minute to-do list, the family Christmas schedule, and think about the words you are singing—really pay attention to them, and worship and revere the newborn King? It doesn’t matter who wrote the song or why it was written, it’s what’s in our heart that matters to God.
I am asking God to help me renew my worship of the Christ child this Christmas season because He is our eternal hope that entered this world over 2000 years ago, and praise God, Jesus is still at work in our lives today!
Oh come let us adore Him…
Categories: Devotion of the Week