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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"O Holy Night"



I admit that I laugh out loud at "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" and love "The Hannuka Song" by Adam Sandler. But one of my favorite Christmas carols is "O Holy Night."


To hear Celine Dion sing "O Holy Night" please click the link below:


O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
Noël, Noël,
O Night, O Night Divine.

The soaring musical composition is by Adolphe Charles Adams (1803-1856), a successful composer and friend of Cappeau's .



I love most of the Christmas songs, but "O Holy Night" touches my heart in a totally different way from most of the others.

Last week, I was listening to the song while I drove down a country road to work, and I think we all listen closer to our music when we are isolated in our cars on lonely highways. I realized that this song PRAISES God and Christ's birth in a whole-hearted, breath-stopping way that makes you really feel it.



Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was a wine "Commissionaire" in a small French village in 1847, when the parish priest approached him to ask for a poem for Christmas mass. Though not known for rigorous church attendance, Cappeau said he imagined what it would have been like to be in Bethlehem for the birth of Christ.

He pictured the humble worship of the shepherds and the soaring praise of the heavenly angels. I, too, could imagine people and angels dropping to their knees and lifting their arms as the words "Noel, noel" bursts from their mouths in praise and gratitude for this wonderful gift. I believe that the writer, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, experienced worship while writing these lyrics. I envy him that exquisite spiritual moment.



Later in his life, Cappeau drifted from the church. I don't know, of course, whether Cappeau turned from God or only from organized religion. But I wonder about a man who could imagine and write such thrilling lyrics about the birth of Christ. Obviously, just like all the rest of us, he wasn't perfect.


I often feel inadequate as a Christian. I'm willing to work myself nearly to death in high temperatures and humidity when I'm involved in Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief, yet am tongue-tied in the face of grief and loss. As a vessel, do you sometimes feel shallow, inept, broken? So do I.

Maybe we should ponder Cappeau's story. Surely he struggled with the same questions and fears that we do. He was not perfect. Yet, when we listen to the awe-inspiring lyrics that this fragile vessel left for us, words that take us back to the very beginning of our faith, we may be comforted by thoughts that we, too, can serve our God.


(All art by Holly Harbin Simpson, my daughter.)

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