Monday, December 5, 2011

More than a Melody: O Holy Night

I've come to realize as an adult that there are volumes of my memory occupied with lyrics to songs.
It is not at all uncommon for me to notice that I am singing along with a song and have to stop to think about what the song is and where I might have heard it. This happens most with songs from my jr high and high school years and usually produces some embarrassment as I realize for the first time what some of the long filed away lyrics actually mean (read:Madonna).
I've had the revelation over the last few Advent seasons, though, that this also holds true for Christmas songs. Some that I am sure were tucked away in my long-term memory while I was a mere babe in the children's choir at church have come to allow for meaningful times of worship on this side of the short, white choir robes with the big red bows. (If you missed singing with the other children of the congregation while wearing said robes, please add to the metal picture you are conjuring up the fact that the only surviving family photo of me singing at Long Point Baptist Church includes evidence that I'd apparently had to sneeze at some point during the performance and that big red bow had been the only, shall we say, kleenex available -- bless me).
Those worship times in anticipation of celebrating the coming King have been especially sweet lately with O, Holy Night.
Apparently it's what you might call an American standard. An iTunes search yielded well over 800 results from artists as varied as Jessica Simpson, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and something called the Barking Dogs (wow).
I found that these sweet words, that have been in that internal lyrics filing cabinet of mine for years, are striking the exact chord that the Lord is playing in this season of life.
I love that the first verse jumps right from the night of our dear Savior's birth to what that Baby means for humanity. A thrill of hope. The weary world rejoices. Far too often I have tried to celebrate Christmas and have left that Baby in the hay. He grew up, y'all. And the salvation that He brings, it is a thrill of hope. And my own weary bones can rejoice. All of humanity can rejoice 'cause when He appears; our soul feels its worth!
But, oh, the second verse.
Truly He taught us to love one another!
His law is love!
His Gospel is Peace!
The slave is our brother - and in HIS Name, all oppression will end!
And from these truths - from the Good News that Jesus brings love, peace and freedom - oh, this is the jumping off point for worship.
Sweet hymns of joy.
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Praise His Name forever!
I'll never hear it as a tired old Christmas carol again.
But if our culture wants to count it as such; if the likes of Patti LaBelle and Mariah Carey want to put it on their 'Holiday' albums, we can sing along, knowing that it is Truth.
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

O Holy Night

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd 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! O hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

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.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

* John Dwight's English-language rendering of a French poem by  Placide Cappeau (

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