Christmas Songs #10: O Holy Night

Today’s song has an interesting history. According to one of my Christmas carol books, it was written by a nominal Catholic in France, known for his poetry more than his church attendance, and he got his Jewish friend to set it to music. Then it was translated into English by a musician in the Northern USA who was partially attracted by what appeared to be its antislavery message. It became popular in the North before the South, naturally. Despite these disadvantages, it captures some of the flavor of Biblical history by emphasizing the world-changing event of the birth of a Savior. How could all history not be different after God came into his world!

On the other hand, the message of the Gospel is cloudy in this song. Like It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, it seems in this song that the Gospel is seen as not much more than a new, refurbished Law, telling us to love one another. Tomorrow’s song will be more clear on that point.

This song was the first piece of music ever transmitted over radio, on Christmas Eve, 1906.

I couldn’t find any recordings on Rhapsody where someone sang all the original verses, so let’s hear the incomparable Bing Crosby sing a couple of them anyway!

(To hear the song, click the link or paste into your browser. Finally, where it says “Don’t have a Rhapsody account?”, push “Play Now.”)

Lyrics (

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!

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