Well, a winter storm has arrived and covered much of the area with snow and bitterly cold winds. With only 2 days until Christmas, it looks like we might as well just hunker down and stay indoors. If you haven’t picked up my present yet, it’s okay. You can give it to me next week. Some of us are frantically trying to ensure everything is wrapped and the stockings are hung with care. Others have been ready for days and are just relaxing to the sounds of Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis.
As we come toward the end of Advent and the beginning of Christmas, I wanted to share with you the story of my favorite Christmas carol. In fact, it’s probably my favorite hymn of all: O Holy Night.
In the mid 1800’s a parish priest in France asked a local poet and wine merchant named Plaucide Cappeau to write a poem based on Luke 2 that he could use during the Christmas services at the church. Luke 2, as you probably known, is commonly referred to as “the Christmas story” in the Bible. So Plaucide wrote a beautiful poem. But here’s the catch: Plaucide wasn’t even a Christian!
Plaucide knew the story found in Luke because back then, in a majority Christian country, most people simply knew the story. If they weren’t raised in a Church-attending family, many had religious instruction in school. Beyond that, Christianity had a much bigger cultural impact than now. Cappeau wasn’t chosen because he was a godly man with a heart for Jesus, he was chosen because he was a good poet.
After writing the poem, he asked his good friend Adolphe Adams to put the words to music. Guess what: Adolphe wasn’t a believer either! But the church had a new organ and they were eager to try it out. And the song became an instant hit. People came to the services just for that song. It spread quickly to other churches. But when people found out that this beloved hymn was written by two unbelievers, each wo had a bit of a reputation, there was an effort to remove the song from circulation. But the cat was out of the bag.
Fast forward about 50 years or so to 1906. Reginald Fessenden, a 33-year-old Canadian professor and inventor was playing around with a new invention called the radio. On December 21, 1906, Reginald read Luke 2:1 on the air and then played “O Holy Night” on his violin. It was the very first voice and song broadcast over the radio.
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.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, Oh night when Christ was born.
Here’s something to think about today, friends, as we are a mere 2 days from Christmas: The two people responsible for writing the words and music to one of the most well-loved Christmas hymns did so without knowing Jesus. Oh, they knew the story! But they didn’t have a relationship with Christ.
How many people we know, or even us ourselves, get a little teary-eyed when Linus recites Luke 2 and yet still miss out on who Jesus really is?
Jesus said in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know [God] the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [he] has sent.” Don’t be satisfied with just knowing the story. Trust in Jesus today. Get to know Him. Follow Him with your whole heart.