I've been quiet in this space for a while. This has been a challenging season for me, and I've had difficulty putting the struggle into words. I feel I've found my voice again. Thanks for your patience.
Y’all, I grew up in church. As in, I can’t remember when I wasn’t familiar with the layout, the smells, and the people at the brown brick building with white trim at the corner of South Wayne Ave and Rudisill Blvd in Fort Wayne, IN.
So when I say I know a bit about Christmas carols, trust me. I’ve sung them since I was old enough to perform in the Christmas program. I’ve harmonized with my family--two altos, one soprano, and a tenor--in the second pew on the right every Sunday for 20 of my 49 years. I heard my parents sing them in Christmas cantatas, including the long version of Handel’s Messiah.
For a few years now, “O Holy Night” has been my favorite Christmas carol. Remember when I said that I needed a tangible expression of God’s love but was having trouble finding it? Well, this carol has played on the radio, in my Pandora mix, and been sung at my husband’s staff Christmas party in the past few weeks. It has made a difference. Why? The words.
It is a well established fact that I’m a words person. And “O Holy Night” has powerful words that speak to my soul’s most challenged places.
O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
I love how this sets the scene. I’m intrigued by stars and love a studded sky on a clear night.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
If ever I have been forced to stare at sin, it is this year. It has felt as though the entire world is pining to be delivered from its devastating effects. I sense humanity is choking on its depravity and longing. They just don’t know that they’re waiting for the appearing of the Savior.
I sing this stanza with deep conviction. These aren’t just words to me. I agree with the author: until Jesus appeared, my soul didn’t know its worth. What a thrill of hope to know that there is deliverance at hand for my weariness--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 divine, O night, O night divine.
This chorus contains both an imperative and an invitation. Falling on my knees is the a response of worship when in the presence of Divinity, and Christ was both God and human at His birth. The invitation to stop and quiet myself to hear the angel voices, declaring, “Unto you, Jenn, is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” is so welcome right now. Fourteen years in retail can create a very jaded spirit, and it’s easy to be cynical about the “most wonderful time of the year.”
The angels beckoned those going about their normal lives to stop what they were doing and “go see this thing that has happened!” Instead of focusing on the “sleigh bells jingling, ring ting tingle-ing too,” the season can be put in its proper perspective when I accept the invitation.
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.
For a long time (most of my adult life, really), the practice of my Christianity was all about laws and little about love. I have come to know that His love is what enables me to love all others, and that acting from this experience is the only way peace will be found in this world.
Thanks be to God that He will break every chain and I think the world has come a long way in realizing that the slave is our brother. There are so many ways to aid organizations confronting human trafficking and sex slavery. I can’t wait for the day when, 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 power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
Here is the second invitation to action. Raise a grateful chorus. Praise His Name forever. Evermore proclaim His power and glory. Would you help me remember to practice these the other 11 months of each year?
Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite Christmas carol and why?