The Creation of “O Holy Night”
The most wonderful time of the year is here: Christmas! During this time of year my playlist shifts to strictly Christmas music. My favorite song is “O Holy Night.” Whenever I hear this song, I’m instantly reminded of the reason for the holiday, the birth of Jesus. The song is so beautiful to me. The song has been performed by many and has several different arrangements. My favorite version, though, is that of Mariah Carey. I’ve listened to it for years and I recently became curious how the song originated.
Well, the song started as a poem written in French. The writer was a man named Placide Cappeau who was contacted by the Parish Priest to write a Christmas poem in southern France back in 1843. The writer used the bible for inspiration. Following are a few lines of the song and bible scriptures that inspired him:
O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
"And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." (Luke 2:8)
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:19-21)
Fall on your knees. Oh, hear the angel voices.
"So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11)
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease.
"No longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother--especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord." (Philemon 1:16)
After writing the poem, Cappeau realized how beautiful the words were and reached out to his friend Adolphe Charles Adams to compose the poem into a song. The odd fact about the pair is neither Cappeau nor Adams were Christian. When this discovery was made the church denounced the song. In 1855, the song was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight. John was an abolitionist and found the verse “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.” It spoke to his anti-slavery cause. Now, knowing the story behind this song, it puts it into a brand-new perspective, doesn’t it? I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!