“O Holy Night”, a favorite carol of Christmas, was the creation of Placide Clappeau, the mayor of Roquemaure, France. Clappeau, a winemaker, also wrote poetry, mostly for his own enjoyment. His minister asked him to write something special for the Christmas celebration. While riding in a carriage to Paris Clappeau penned his lyrics. He asked Adolphe-Charles Adam, a classical composer of music mostly presented in secular venues and ballets, to create the melody for his poem, “O Holy Night.” Clappeau’s powerful lyrics so greatly impressed the French composer that he created the deeply stirring music for the song. No one can question that the lyrics and music make a perfect combination for one of the all-time great songs of the season.
In 1847 this song was first presented. It became an overnight success. Later, when the French church discovered Clappeau had left Christianity to follow the social movement of his day, and also learned the music composer, Charles Adams, was Jewish, the hymn was banned. Because it was so popular with the people, who continued to sing it outside the church, “O Holy Night” grew in public acceptance and was reinstated. John Sullivan Dwight later translated the lyrics into English and it became an American Christmas carol favorite. Around the world this song has provided praise and inspiration and has uplifted Christmas celebrants everywhere.
On Christmas Eve, 1906, a Canadian –born inventor named Reginald Fessenden transmitted the first radio broadcast in history from an experimental tower in Massachusetts. Fessenden, who is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Radio Broadcasting,” read passages from the Bible and then on his violin played “O Holy Night.” When he did, he made it the first song ever transmitted over radio waves.
This beautiful carol of the season gives us many lessons. God is able to use those we may consider most unlikely to bring Him praise and honor. God can put together a team that can create something so special it will inspire and bless others globally. God can take something that some would discredit and throw away and keep it lasting and enriching.
The lyrics of “O Holy Night” present that Christmas 2000 years ago as “Divine.” It tells us what lay beyond the manger…darkness dispelled by light…despair pushed away by deliverance…sadness replaced by joy… emptiness filled with abundance…and so much more.
May you discover such a night for yourself. May this inwardly be your greatest Christmas!
Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain