#718. O HOLY NIGHT (23/12/22)
Leading up to Christmas Day, I thought it would be good to look at 15 of the most popular carols (chosen by Classic FM listeners) and consider the content and what we can learn from them.
A reflection based on O HOLY NIGHT, number 1 in our chart of most popular carols.
O holy night the stars are brightly shining It is the night of the dear Saviour'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 world 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 power and glory Evermore proclaim His power and glory Evermore proclaim
I don't think I've ever taken the time to think about the words of this carol before. I find the words beautiful and moving. Originally composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847, the lyrics for the carol were written by a poet named Placide Cappeau. John Dwight later adapted them from French into English in 1855. Its popularity has surely been helped by numerous popular artists releasing versions of it and it being standard fare on those singing competition shows.
SIN AND ERROR
The carol begins by reminding us of our world in ‘sin and error’. This is the reason for Jesus’ birth. He came to save sinners. His coming, not for the righteous but for the unrighteous, leads us to sing, “And the soul felt its worth.” We are loved by grace. Our worth is revealed by the sacrifice of Christ coming into this world to save us in our disqualified condition.
THE LIGHT OF FAITH
I love the way that ‘the light of faith’ is likened to ‘the light of the star’ in the second verse. As ‘the wise men from Orient land’ were led to Christ, it’s our faith that brings us to Him. By faith, we receive the benefits of His life and death. By faith, we receive Jesus - born in humility and dying in humiliation - as our king.
HEAR THE ANGEL VOICES
The first chorus encourages us to respond:
“Fall on your knees O hear the angel voices.”
In Luke we read of the angel’s message:
'But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord…Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.'' (Luke 2:10-11, 14)
Let’s be reminded that Jesus has come to a world of sin and for sinners. He is the ‘Saviour’. If you have received Him, His ‘favour rests’ on you. May this ‘good news’ fill us with ‘great joy’.
HE KNOWS OUR NEED
If we are undergoing difficulties at the moment, if our faith is being tried, let the light of faith guide you back to Jesus. See and sing again:
“He knows our need To our weakness is no stranger Behold your King.”
HIS GOSPEL IS PEACE
Finally, we are reminded of the result of our coming to Christ by faith: coming to Jesus results in peaceful, loving relationships:
”Truly He taught us to love one another His law is love and His gospel is peace.”
His coming to save sinners is our model for how to relate to others. The author goes on to write:
“Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother And in His name all oppression shall cease.”
This was written at a time when slavery was still practiced in the USA, and this carol became very popular among abolitionists. Knowing Jesus will lead to love for those who are under oppression. Within the church, if Jesus is our Lord, all divisions should be recognised and prayerfully removed as we seek to realise our brotherhood in Christ.
TAKE A MOMENT TO LISTEN TO THIS CAROL:
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Hopefully, see you on Christmas Morning from 10:00-11:00.
There is no service on 1st January.
What has God been speaking to you about from your Bible reading recently?
3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group
On Sunday we looked at what it means for Jesus to be Immanuel.
Please read Matthew 1:18-24
Matthew gives us three names or titles for Jesus:
Jesus - God Saves
Messiah - The anointed King
Immanuel - God with us
WHAT DOES IMMANUEL MEAN?
1. IMMANUEL - GOD WITH US IN THE PAST
Immanuel, which means 'God with us', refers to the belief that God, in the form of Jesus, came to Earth as a human being. This event, known as the incarnation, is celebrated during Christmas. The Chalcedonian Creed, a statement of Christian belief from the 5th century, affirms that Jesus had both a divine and human nature, without mixing or altering either.
Jesus’ divine and human natures are beautifully set in the carol, O Come All Ye Faithful:
‘God of God Light of light Lo He abhors not the virgin's womb Very God Begotten not created’
2. IMMANUEL MEANS: GOD WITH US IN THE PRESENT
In addition to Jesus' presence on Earth in the past, the term Immanuel also refers to Jesus' presence with us through the Holy Spirit in the present. He has promised:
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:15-121)
3. IMMANUEL IS THE PROMISE OF HIS FUTURE PRESENCE FILLING ALL THINGS
Finally, Immanuel speaks to the promise of Jesus' future return and the renewal of the Earth with God's glory. According to the book of Revelation, this will be a time when God dwells among people, wiping away all tears and pain, and creating a new heaven and earth."
‘Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”’ (Revelation 21:1-5)
i. Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?
ii. What does it mean for Jesus to be Immanuel?
ii. How can we ensure that we focus and help others to focus on Jesus being Immanuel during this Christmas season?
ii. How does the title Immanuel bring comfort and joy to us?
PRAYER AND SIV
SIV - Do you have any encouraging stories of sharing your faith?
SIV- Let's pray for those that God has put on our hearts.