The Songs of Christmas: O Holy Night (Luke 1)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 2: O Holy Night by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877)
Scripture References: Luke 1:49-54 (Mary’s Song); Luke 1:68-75 (Zechariah’s Song) 
These are the notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/2/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Have you ever played the Telephone Game? A person whispers a sentence into a person’s ear, who then whispers it into another person’s ear, and so on and so on until the last person whispers it into the first person’s ear. What usually happens? It’s nothing like what the first said. As things get passed along, they get lost in translation

In our Preschool Chapel, I asked the children what Christmas is about. They responded presents, Santa, lights, reindeer, cookies… It makes sense.  This is the dominant story in our society. Radio is full of Santa Baby and Holly Jolly Christmas. TV is full of Frosty and Rudolf. This same story of sentimentality, gift giving, and you better be good, goes on for months. We start hearing it around Halloween.

zombies in manger cartoon

Our understanding of Christmas gets lost in translation. In the midst of so many other Christmas stories, how do we continue to know and share the Christian point of view of Christmas?

We read the scriptures and sing the story, but it can even happen to beloved Christmas Carols.

O Holy Night
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear’d 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 divine, O 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 come the wise men from the 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 weaknesses 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.

How O Holy Night Came to Be

  • In Roquemaure France at the end of 1843, the organ in the church of St. John the Baptist the Evangelist was renovated
  • To celebrate the event, the parish priest asked Placide Cappeau, to write a Christmas poem which would be set to music by the renowned composer, Adolphe Adam
    • Placide Cappeau was a local poet, lawyer, and wine merchant. He was a free thinker with no interest in Christianity or any other religion

Cappeau accepted the commission anyway. To prepare he read the gospels, especially the Christmas story (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1).

Did Cappeau find something secular and commercial, no
Did Cappeau find something saccharine sweet, no
Did Cappeau find something soft and sentimental, no

  • Verse 1 O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
  • Verse 2 Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, with glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
  • Verse 3 Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.

The sweet, soft and sentimental came with John Sullivan Dwight’s translation of Cappeau’s poem into English.

Cappeau read the Gospels, and this is what he found:

  • Mary the mother of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, magnifying and rejoicing in God her Savior
    • for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, (Luke 1:49-54)
  • Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming
    • Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75)

Cappeau found the Christmas story powerful and prophetic and that’s what he wrote.

o holy night verse 1o holy night verse 2o holy night verse 3

Though he never placed his trust in Jesus, Cappeau had a chance to because he heard the real story. He saw the truth of Christmas-

  • God coming in the flesh to deliver us, rescue us, and redeem us
  • God dying and rising again to break the chains of sin, shame, prejudice, and isolation
    • Especially powerful given O Holy Night was written in the age where many were fighting to end slavery
    • Especially powerful since the song was banned for a time because Cappeau was a nonbeliever and the composer, Adolph Adam was Jewish

Don’t let Christmas get lost in translation.
Take time to read the scriptures, sing songs of faith, set up a nativity. Claim and share this story – the story of God’s truth, grace, and hope. This is why we sing and celebrate the coming of Christ. This is why we bow before him in reverence and faith

CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

O Holy Night reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Like our sister Mary, a Christmas Affirmation


Like our sister Mary, we say yes

Yes to your favor
Your presence
Your blessing

Yes that we are enough just as we are
Where we are

Yes to your calling
and the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon us to fulfill it

Yes to bearing and birthing
Your Word and your Promises and your Kingdom
in this time and place

Yes to all things being possible with you

Like our sister Mary we say
Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant
As you have said, let it be done to me
in me
through me

Like our sister Mary we sing and celebrate you
Our God, Our Liberator
For though we are your humble servants
You have noticed us

This affirmation is offered for all, but especially for those who lead God’s people during the holy-days of Christmas. It can be an weary and stressful time. It’s easy to miss the wonder and grace of God’s intimate presence with so much responsibility. The stakes feel sky high. Breathe, trust, receive brothers and sisters. The promises are for you as well.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! – Lisa <><

Like our Sister Mary © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Based on Luke 1:26-48, The Voice translation

Jesus, the Coming Messiah- Son of God and King (Psalm 2, Luke 1)

Jesus, The Coming Messiah
Jesus, The Coming Messiah: Advent Readings from Old Testament to New
December 7: The Messiah as Son of God and King
Readings: Psalm 2; Luke 1:35

Psalm 2:10-12a The Voice
So leaders, kings, and judges,
be wise, and be warned.
There is only one God, the Eternal;
worship Him with respect and awe;
take delight in Him and tremble.
Bow down before God’s son.

Luke 1:35, The Voice
The angel Gabriel to Mary
The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Most High will overshadow you. That’s why this holy child will be known, as not just your son, but also as the Son of God.

Hallelujah to Jesus!
You are the Son
Long awaited child of promise

Hallelujah to Jesus!
You are the Son of David
Born to a specific people
A specific culture
A specific time and place
A long awaited covenant fulfilled
For them and for all

Hallelujah to Jesus!
You are the Son of God
Eternal Word made flesh
Fully Human, Fully Divine
Humble servant, King of Kings
The most marvelous mystery of God’s
Unending, Ultimate, Unconditional Love

Come, Lord Jesus, Come


Thank you for setting aside times this Holy Season to seek the One we celebrate.

Jesus, The Coming Messiah is an Advent Bible Reading Plan highlighting the Old Testament prophesies and passages which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.

As you read each passage, consider how this description of Jesus the Messiah reveals his character, motivation, and purpose. How does this description inspire you to trust Jesus and his promises? How will you apply and share what you have discovered? I look forward to your comments.

If you’re in Sarasota, please drop by Trinity United Methodist Church for one of our seasonal events or services or just to say, “Hi.” You’re always welcome and wanted.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! – Lisa <

The Messiah as Son of God and King © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording- Mary’s Song (Luke 1)


Message: Mary’s Song 
Scriptures: Luke 1:46-55
Offered 11/27/16, the first Sunday of Advent, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

Click Here for the video of Norah and Mr.Dan

Perhaps what we need most is a transforming vision, a vision that’s deep enough, one that can take us from where we are to a new place; one that opens the future up to hope. More than anything, we must become people of hope. – Miriam Therese MacGillis

We have hope because God will right the wrongs.
Mary describes this in terms of reversal.

  • The lowly are raised and the lofty are brought low, so all may know the saving grace of God (vs 52)
  • The hungry are filled with good things and all that is not good is revealed to be empty (vs 53)

This isn’t socialism and it isn’t a sunshine and lolly pops reversal of fortune, this is reversal of future.

  • Sin separates, so God in Jesus reverses it, bringing reconciliation and relationship, breaking down the dividing walls.
  • Sin breaks, fractures, shatters, so God reverses it, mending and re-membering
  • Sin disorders and creates chaos, so God brings order and peace
  • Sin twists a good gift of God into something it was never meant to be, so God reverses it to it’s rightful use. The rightful use of medicine, food and drink, love and sex, buying and selling. The crooked are made straight and the rough places, a plane
  • Sin wounds and sickens our soul, so in Jesus God restores our innocence and brings us healing
  • Sin disintegrates. Everything falls apart. Everything goes to ash. God reverses it. Salvation means wholeness. In Jesus, we become integrated, wholehearted people. People of integrity. God breathes life into dust.
  • Sin brings death. In Jesus we are raised to life- new life, true life, eternal life. Reversal is redemption and resurrection.

From Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body by Missy Buchanan
Lord, I need a big dose of hope today.
None of the pie-in-the-sky kind.
Not even a pretty-sure guess.
I need the real kind of hope that brings lightness to a heavy day.
I am tired of gritting my teeth,
trying to swallow the pain that is my reality.
When I look back on my life,
I see how you proved faithful time after time.
There were moments I thought you had forgotten me
only to discover you were holding me so close I couldn’t see.
So if the stubborn pain refuses to subside for a while,
I will still whisper your name in praise.
Refocus my mind on you, Lord. Only on you.
It is there I find hope.

Click Here for the Live Hope, Give Hope December devotion described at the end of the message.

Click Here to check out Incendiary Magnificat by Steve Garnaas Holmes

I long to bear your justice, O God,
to the captives and captors,
to the bullies and the bullied.

I long to balance my life, O Christ,
to be fair and faithful.

I long to stand with
the falsely accused,
the poorly loved,
the cruelly silenced.

I long to speak your justice, O Spirit,
to sing Mary’s song,
to sit with poor shepherds,
to whisper God-with-us,

I long to bear your justice, O God,
to be clothed with mercy
and emboldened by truth.
This is my Advent prayer. Amen.
– Pamela C. Hawkins, Prepare the Way

I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Reader’s Theater: Jesus’ Birth Foretold, The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)

The Christmas Story readers theaterReader’s Theater: Jesus’ Birth Foretold (The Annunciation)
Based on Luke 1:26-38 NRSV
Parts: Narrator, Mary, Gabriel

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said,

Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

How can this be, since I am a virgin?

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.

Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.

The Christmas passages from Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2 are “tidings of great joy for all people.” A great way to embody this truth is through multiple readers of multiple ages voicing the beloved story. I hope these simple scripts will help you to do just that. Merry Christmas and may the promises of this Holy Season strengthen you throughout the year! – Lisa <><

Click the link for a master pdf of all The Christmas Story scripts
Reader’s Theater The Christmas Story

Adapted from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Reader’s Theater: Jesus’ Birth Foretold (Luke 1:26-38) © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.