Day 5: O Holy Night

This is probably my all-time favorite Christmas hymn. It wasn’t in my hymnal growing up, but I have always loved it.  Originally written as a poem in French in 1847, it was later put to music, and then translated into English.  The first stanza is probably the best-known, but it’s the third stanza that proclaims the power of the gospel the best.

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,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord!
Forever, ever praise we;
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

In Stave One of his A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens writes of a midnight visit to Ebenezer Scrooge of the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley. Bound to chains for all eternity for not acknowledging his fellow man, Marley visits Scrooge in hopes of helping him avoid a similar fate when Scrooge’s day to die one day comes.

Over the course of visits by three spirits, Scrooge’s heart is in fact changed, and he awakes on Christmas morning as a new man – freed from the pending chains and alive to celebrate his new life. He does so by loving all he has formerly mistreated.

The parallels to our new life in Christ are clear. However, one thing is missing in Dickens Carol. It is not by looking at our own chained lives that we are freed to live and love, but by recognizing that Christ suffered for us to break our chains of sin. Only by seeing this will we be truly free.  And when we do, and when we are, then we will praise his holy name with all our hearts.

This is what is behind the hymns of praise sung by Saint John as he opens his written revelation:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come,
and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,
and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead,
and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom,
priests to his God and Father,
to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.

(Revelation 1:4-6 ESV)

This is the true reaction for one who is free!

Christ is the Lord!
Forever, ever praise we;
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

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