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Religion: O Holy Night

By Pastor Phillip Howle
web posted December 2, 2015
RELIGION-- Merry Christmas! We are going to be looking at the stories behind the music of some of my favorite Christmas carols over the next few weeks. The carol of the week is “O Holy Night.”

The story of the hymn begins in France in 1847. The local Priest asked the local wine merchant who was known more for drinking wine than attending church, to compose a poem to read at Christmas mass. The man, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, was a talented poet and agreed to do so. So Placide thought what it would have been like to be present on that night of Jesus birth. He composed the poem in French and named it “Cantique de Noel.” The poem was a hit.

So Placide thought it would great to set the poem to music as a song. So he turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams to compose the music to go along with the song. The issue was that Adolphe was Jewish. He did not see Jesus as “Lord at thy birth.” But because of his friendship, he agreed.

The song was an instant success. It was being sung all over France. The only problem was the Catholic Church in France did not like the origins of the song. Placide the composer had left the church altogether and joined the socialist party. So the church ruled the song was “as unfit for church services because of its lack of musical taste and total absence of the spirit of religion.” But the song continued to grow in popularity and was sung widely.

Then the song was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight. He was a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, and was a Unitarian. They deny the divinity of Jesus. He was so afraid of preaching he would get sick each time before he preached. So he devoted his time to starting “Dwight’s Journal of Music.” Where the song was first published in English.

One more tidbit as well: Then in 1906, Reginald Fessenden was a 33-year old Canadian professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison who did what many people thought was impossible. In his own garage he made a make-shift generator, plugged a microphone into it and broadcast the very first AM broadcast in the history of the world on Christmas Eve in 1906. He read Luke chapter 2 and played “O Holy Night” on Violin.

What do we learn from this? That the three men most involved with this great carol, wrote, sung, and composed a powerful song all about Jesus but did not trust Jesus as their Savior or Lord. They were very familiar with the story of Christmas, but missed the true reason of the celebration. Be very careful that this is not you this season. Knowing about the birth of Jesus is not the same thing as being born again by Jesus! Pastor Phillip

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