O Holy Night

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 soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O 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 came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to 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 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 pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

Words by Placide Capeau, 1847
Music by Adolphe C. Adam,


And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Luke 2:1 – 14


Have you ever heard a song that simply moved you as you listened to the words. A song that made you feel that you were experiencing the story being told. There are three key components to a song having this impact. The first is the words. They need to paint a picture that is so vivid you can see it all. The second is the music. Does the music draw you into it? Do you feel yourself moving emotionally with the music? The third component is that the words and music communicate the same message, that they fit together. When the picture drawn in your head by the words corresponds directly with the emotional movement of the music, you find yourself becoming part of it yourself. This is the case with Placide Capeau’s “O Holy Night.”

Now in full disclosure, this is my favorite Christmas hymn of them all. The words and music seem to transport me to that night so long ago. When I here this song performed by a singer who truly understands the dynamic flow of the music I am left silent and humbled with a vision of God’s gift in Christ.

So as we look at the words we are presented with what I believe is one of the most incredible pictures of the meaning behind Christmas. The hymn begins by setting the stage of what is to come. “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining; It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!” That is the foundation of Christmas, what the angels declared in Luke 2:11, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

The birth of the Savior is not done in a vacuum, however, but in a world in need. The hymn writes, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.” Since the fall as described in Genesis 3 the world had been slowly falling apart, waiting for the hope of a Savior. This is what Paul tells us in Galatians 3:22 where he says, “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.”

Their hope was not in vain, for Christ was coming. The song tells us that the world was on a downward spiral, “Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” There are many things that people try to use to fill the void within them but they are all meaningless. As Solomon told us in Ecclesiastes 1:2, apart from God everything is “’Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’” But in Christ, there is hope, there is meaning, there is worth.

As the hymn continues, the music of Adolphe Adam changes tone for we have moved from the dark sadness of a lost and pining world, to the joy and excitement of the message of a new hope. The music combines with Capeau’s words, “A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” You can feel and hear the excitement, excitement that come from hope that is based in the truth. This is the message we find in Psalm 119:147, “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.”

Again the music changes tone to that of awe and wonder as the words declare the only true response we can have before this Savior. So Capeau writes, “Fall on your knees, O hear the angel’s voices!” This is our response before God, as Psalm 95:6 says, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” The maker of the world had come to earth and we fall to our knees before him in response to the message from the angels, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

The hymn continues to tell us that this Christ has made brothers of all those who believe. As the writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 2, verse 11, “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” For we are not just brothers to one another, but with Christ himself.

Oh, on that holy night, so long ago, Christ was born that we might be free from sins dark hold. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:14) Therefore, with “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!”



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