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Article: O Holy Night


How would you respond if you witnessed the birth of Christ? Such an occurrence would elicit a range of reactions from all believers, but one treasured Christmas carol highlights one of these reactions. O Holy Night sings of the precious night when the son of God was born into this world, eventually to suffer the wrath of God. The carol contains three verses, each emphasizing something different about the implications of Christ’s birth, and a chorus containing the emotional climax of the Christian life.

In the first verse, the emphasis lies on the world up until the birth of Christ. The past years without Christ mirror the lives of people before coming to know Him personally as our Lord and Savior. This verse describes the world as “in sin and error pining” and desperately in need of a redeemer. The appearance of Christ brought worth into a worthless world and brought “a thrill of hope” to the hopeless, “weary” soul. When we sing this song, we should be reminded of our lives before Christ. In remembrance of the magnitude of the sacrifice of Christ, we become more grateful for what Jesus has done for us. We celebrate Christmas with more rejoicing as we commemorate the entrance of Jesus into the world to ultimately save us from our sins. If we feel worthless or hopeless or some variant, let us be reminded of the truth of the birth of Christ.

The second verse speaks of the sweetness of the presence of Christ. This verse describes how the “light of the star sweetly gleaming” led the wise men to the feet of the manger. Once in his presence, the wise men felt the radiance and warmth of Christ. Even at that moment, the wise men recognized the significance of Christ being born as a baby to be our friend, even amid our trials. The birth of Christ invites us all to be a friend of Christ. This reminder stuck out to me as I considered how often I view myself as an enemy of Christ because of my sin, but this gesture of friendship draws me in the same way the star drew in the wise men.

The song composer considered his own reaction to the birth of Christ, and in the final verse, he concludes by looking forward to what this baby will do in the world. This verse describes the life of Christ, which consisted of his “law of love” and “gospel of peace”. Jesus would go on to break the shackles of sin and end all oppression. The freedom from sin and oppression comes as a result of the truth in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”1 The response to what Jesus would do for us is grateful joy and praise for his Holy name. There is great joy in anticipating great things, but there is even greater joy to look back on the great things he has done for us. Even though we anticipate the coming of Christ again, we experience greater joy knowing sin and death have already been defeated by the death and resurrection of Christ.

This sweet hymn brings us to a place of remembrance of our lives before Christ, the friendship of Christ, and the amazing work of Christ. The chorus echoes the phrase “Oh night divine,” multiple times, showing us the special nature of that day. Then, in the phrase “Fall on your knees,” the hymn reveals our righteous response to witnessing the birth of Christ.2 Falling on your knees is an act of both surrender and worship, which acknowledges his greatness and our need for him. While we are not witnessing the birth of Christ for ourselves, this song can lead us to put ourselves there. We can feel the emotions of the moment, receive humility as our Savior humbles himself, and fall on our knees.