advent devotional: holy night

Holy Night

Galatians 5:14—For the whole law is summed up
in a single commandment,
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

My favorite Christmas carol is O Holy Night. It’s not included in our hymnal though I’ve always thought it should be. When it was first written by Adolphe Adam, the song was attacked and denounced because of its “total absence of the spirit of religion.” Adam himself came from a non-church background but was a relatively well known composer of theatrical music.

I’ve loved the song for as long as I can remember, though I never bothered to look into its background until I was an adult. When I learned of its humble, even inauspicious, beginnings I was shocked.

The English version, translated by John S. Dwight, that we all know includes the verse, “Truly he taught us to love one another. His law is love and his gospel is peace.” Far from a “total absence of the spirit of religion,” this is the very heart of the gospel. To this day it is almost impossible for me to sing that line without beginning to weep. One wonders how the church authorities in Adam’s day could so badly miss the point.

Of course, the religious authorities in 1st century Palestine missed Jesus, missed the point of his whole life. It was the humble and inauspicious that received the message. Special delivery, as it were.

Thought for today: The next time you hear O Holy Night, remember him whose law is love and whose gospel is peace. And how God continues to use the foolish things of this world to shame the wise.

Prayer: God, help us not to miss the point of the gospel.

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