Did you know that one of the most sacred Christmas songs was written by a self-proclaimed atheist? Who would guess that in 1843 a parish priest from Roquemaure, France would ask a man like Placide Cappeau to write a poem to celebrate the upcoming Christmas season?
But that’s exactly what he did! This church leader asked Cappeau, a local resident and famous author and poet, to create something special for parishioners. Soon afterward, Adolphe Adam put those worshipful words to music, followed by a Boston minister’s translation into English about a decade later. Here are some of the beautiful lyrics from the song that you’re probably very familiar with:
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til 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.
As I revisit the words in this song, I’m encouraged that the message of salvation comes across so clearly, written by a man who understood the truth of God’s redemption plan. Did Cappeau ever accept that truth personally, not just poetically? We may never know this side of Heaven. Perhaps he had a “thief on the cross” moment before he died at the age of sixty-nine. Like so many others in our lives, we have to simply trust that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Interestingly, the Apostle Paul followed that verse with great reminders for all of us too: “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14)
Which brings us back to the seemingly odd request by that 19th century parish priest. Did he ask for Cappeau’s assistance because he was the only poet in town, the sole citizen who could put pen to paper? Or did he select this secular man in order to share the Gospel, perhaps spending time with him and encouraging Cappeau to understand the message he hoped would be composed?
Again, we don’t know exactly what that priest was thinking, but it’s evident from words like those which follow that Cappeau had a clear understanding of what Christ came here for:
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.
Merry Christmas to you and yours from everyone at Sonkist Ministries!
Thought of the Month
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.From O Holy Night, by Cappeau, Adam, and Dwight