Andrea O Smith
Commentary on a Christmas Carol: O Holy Night
My favorite Christmas Carol is O Holy Night! I love to sing it, marinate on the words, embrace the imagery and struggle to hit that high note. Haha! Line by line, this is my breakdown of why this is the BEST song.
O Holy Night! - Holy means "set apart." Indeed it was.
The stars are brightly shining - Who doesn't love a clear night where the sky feels endless.
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth! - This was long anticipated and will forever be celebrated.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining - Gosh! Aren't we living that right now? We are constantly searching for purpose. We are surrounded by sinful nature, including the battle within ourselves. We keep making mistakes we don't want to make. We keep hurting and being hurt. We are longing for perfection, but are held captive in a shell that atrophies despite our best efforts of self-help books, gym memberships, carbohydrate avoidance and botox parties.
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth - Wow. Wow. Wow. God incarnate arrived and the soul felt its worth. Felt known. Felt cherished. Felt as it was always meant to be...with God. This is a feeling by which Christians are blessed. We are privy to the wholeness we feel when the Holy Spirit is with us.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices! - When we are caught in the midst of despair, when we are fighting to take each step and then someone shows up to save the day, to hold us, to fix it all...this, this is Christ the Lord. (Did you sing that last part from another Christmas Carol like I did?)
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn - This wasn't just a new day. This wasn't just a new baby. This wasn't just a generational legacy. This was the ushering in of a new world! A world without having to sacrifice animals for sins committed at the temples anymore. A world that would experience a deity walking its streets for a few decades. A world that just welcomed a long foretold, long awaited King; a king the likes of which (aside from a brief stint in the Garden of Eden) the world had never seen!
Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices! - You would think the weight of the world would have us on our knees, but the weight of the world being lifted is what makes us weak at the knees. We drop down in full submission. We collapse in awe. We can't hear the angels singing, but we can imagine how a choir of heavenly beings harmonizing the word, "Holy!" might sound.
O night divine, O night when Christ was born - It was a perfect night orchestrated by the Master Creator; happening in real time on Earth. Honestly, it wasn't likely Mary's ideal for how she would deliver her firstborn, but she trusted God in a way that most of us wish we could. She knew that despite the unseemly entrance this baby was literally Heaven sent. Every mother has a birth story for their child. No doubt Mary told this one many times over the years while laughing about how they ended up in a stable while winking at Joseph and teasing him about his poor travel planning skills. Little did they know that this birth would be retold for generations. This birth story would have statues of the scene in porcelain, lawn decorations of the silhouette, stickers, inflatables and even sweaters reading, "Go Jesus, It's Your Birthday!" The long awaited, long prophesied birth had finally come to fruition!
O night, O Holy night, O night divine! - This perfect, holy, divine evening remains the most magnificent in history.
We'll skip ahead now to verse 3:
Truly He taught us to love one another; - John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
His law is love and His Gospel is Peace - Jesus instructed in Matthew 22:37-38 "And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment." If we follow this guideline, we will experience a Peace that this world cannot offer.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother - This epic event put everyone on a level playing field. It brought to light that God wasn't just sending His son for those practicing the Jewish faith, but for everyone; Rich or poor, Jew or gentile, freeman or slave. It didn't matter! This was a gift for all! How liberating to know that it doesn't matter what circumstances we are born into, we are all equal in the sight of God. He wants us all to be free from the bondage of sin and shame. He wants us all to dwell in His presence. No one can offer the kind of equity that is offered through the salvation of Christ where the most vile of all humanity can be redeemed just as fully as the innocent children.
And in His name, all oppression shall cease - If we truly love Him with all our being and love each other, then there can be no more oppression. We know that we are all on the same playing field. We are all sinners saved by grace. None above the other.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we - How can we not sing?!? How can we not be joyful when all hope was lost and now everything is made new?!? We shout our gratitude! We sing our praises! We rejoice that the Lord has come to make the poor rich, the blind to see and the deaf to hear (not all of these things are simply physical, but our spiritual poverty, blindness a unwillingness to hear).
Let all within us Praise His Holy Name - Sadly, this is one of the instances where we fall short. I hear more people using His Holy name in vain rather than in praise. I hear believers barely squeaking out songs at church instead of using their whole being to worship. Not everyone is a singer, musician or dancer, but we can all kneel, raise our hands or shout praise. I've seen the same people whoop and holler, high-five and even cry at sporting events somehow remain completely unresponsive in a worship service. Let's work at letting ALL within us praise His Holy name!!
Christ is the Lord; O praise His name forever! - We say He is the Lord. Is he really? Do we really submit each day to His will over ours? Do we remember to go to Him for advice? Or do we only use Him like He is a genie in a bottle that we petition for our wishes and wants? Regardless of our level of submission, He continues to reign on high. Surely His name will be praised for eternity!
His power and glory evermore proclaim - Let's do it. Let's keep saying it out loud. Let's share the good news, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Doesn't everybody deserve the freedom granted through salvation? Don't we all want our loved ones to experience the euphoria of an encounter with the Holy Spirit? Don't we want to live with them in the presence of God for our time in eternity? If so, then we must, must, must proclaim it. We have to talk about it. People deserve to know.