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

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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 <

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

The Songs of Christmas: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus (Psalm 34, Haggai 2, Galatians 5)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
November 27: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Scripture References: Psalm 34:4; Galatians 5:1; Haggai 2:7
Theme: Longing for Deliverance

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley 
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

Prayer:
Jesus, we long for you
Watching, waiting, expecting

Jesus, we long for you
You, the hope of all the earth
You, the desire of every nation
You, the key to every prison

You do not merely release the captives
You shatter the bonds of fear and sin

Come Mighty Savior!
We long for your deliverance
Take our strongholds and give us freedom
Take our numbers and give us names
Take our sentences and give us life

Additional Resources:

Psalm 34:4 (NKJV) I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.

Galatians 5:1 (NKJV) Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Haggai 2:7(NKJV)  “And I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,” says the Lord of hosts.

From Wikipedia
In 1744, Charles Wesley considered Haggai 2:7 and looked at the situation of orphans in the areas around him. He also looked at the class divide in Great Britain. Through this train of thought, he wrote “Come, Thou long expected Jesus” based upon Haggai 2:7 and a published prayer at the time which had the words:

“Born Your people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now Your gracious kingdom bring. By Your own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone; by Your all sufficient merit, raise us to Your glorious throne. Amen.”

***********
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 <><

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Come Thou Long Expect Jesus reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Wilderness Prayer (Deuteronomy 8)

wilderness walk

Based on Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 14-16

God of the Ages
Our Deliverer and Provider
We bow in humility before your grace

You feed us with the divine
Your word
Your body

You quench our thirst with living water
A stream in the desert

You guide our feet through snares and snakes

You free us from slavery to sin and self and death

You lead us the long way to holiness and home

Test our hearts
Have we exalted ourselves?
Have we forgotten you?

time of silent reflection and confession

Reveal the truth to us, O God
Exposed by your unrelenting light
Wiped clean with your wilderness wind

Grow in us wholehearted allegiance
that our blessing and devotion may never waver
that we may always recognize and trust your desire to do us good
Amen

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A Wilderness Prayer © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer: Jesus, You Break the Chains

zach-williams-chainbreaker

Isaiah 58:6 The Voice
What I want in a fast is this: to liberate those tied down and held back by injustice, to lighten the load of those heavily burdened, to free the oppressed and shatter every type of oppression.

Jesus, what you want is what you do
You, the Victorious One
You, the Key to every prison
You do not merely release the captives
You break the chains
You destroy the dungeons

Come again Mighty Savior!
Take our strongholds and give us freedom
Take our numbers and give us names
Take our sentences and give us life

Open the doors of our souls with deliverance
Break the walls of our relationships with grace
Release our voices in witness, thanksgiving, and praise
We, the once enslaved, now bearers of your liberation
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!

Jesus, You Break the Chains © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer: You Love Me (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

Ocean Surface Wave, photo by Jon Sullivan via Wikimedia Commons, adapted

Ocean Surface Wave, photo by Jon Sullivan via Wikimedia Commons, adapted

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 NLT
The LORD did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! It was simply because the LORD loves you, and because he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the LORD rescued you with such amazing power from your slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt.

You love me
not because I am mighty
or beautiful
or talented

not because of what I’ve achieved
or acquired

or because of who I am
or who I know
or who knows me

You love me
because that is your way
that is you

You love me

Your love opens me up
raises me up
from every shadow which works to enslave me
every lesser love

How Great is your Love!
How Power-full
Beauty-full
Faith-full
Hope-full
Grace-full

Fill me full
full of your love
so it splashes and spills
and pours and fills
and seeps and saves
our world awash and alive in your love

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You Love Me © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer: O Lord, Awaken Us

DSC_0051

Detail of prayers written at the Chains Human Trafficking Awareness Event at Community UMC in DeBary. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

In recent worship services at Community United Methodist Church, we highlighted the growing problem of modern slavery, also known as human trafficking. The following prayer was written by Nicole Sallee especially for these services. It is printed here with her permission. Following the services, persons were invited to walk through an interactive experience entitled Chains, where they could learn more information, pray, and join efforts to end human trafficking.

Nicole is the director of worship arts for our congregation and the founder of The Community Freedom Project. Their purpose is to bring awareness to the epidemic of human trafficking and healing to the survivors. Their ultimate goal is a restoration home for Central Florida slavery survivors. For more information on The Community Freedom Project, click here or here.

This prayer followed the song Awakening by Chris Tomlin and Reuben Morgan
(Hillsong Music Publishing 2010, CCLI #5677399)

Prayer: O Lord, Awaken us by Nicole Sallee
O Lord
Awaken us
Awaken us to your presence here
Awaken us to your Spirit in our lives
Awaken us to the passion you’ve burned inside of us to be your church

Open our eyes to see the needs of others
Open our ears to hear their cries
Open our mouths to speak up and stand against injustice

We offer our hands to heal their wounds
We offer our feet to rush to their side
We offer our voice to sing peace
We offer our mind to learn your truth
We offer our gifts in support of your vision

For you are the God of the nations
And every person created is your child
We want to be your hands and feet
We want to reach out and hold the broken

So shake these walls
Rattle this steeple
Give us the strength to be bold

Grant us these things according to your will
In the name of Jesus
Who set the example
Who make it possible
Who taught us to pray…
conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

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O Lord, Awaken Us © 2013 Nicole Sallee
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Nicole via Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.