O Holy Night– Unique History, Watch Beautiful Performance

O Holy Night– Unique History, Watch Beautiful Performance December 24, 2015

“O Holy Night,” one of the most beautiful Christmas carols worshipping the birth of Jesus Christ, was written by an atheist.

Not just an atheist, but an avowed atheist and vocal anti-cleric.

In 1843 a local parish church in Roquemaure, France, completed renovating its organ. To celebrate the joyous event that coincided with Christmas, the parish priest asked Placide Cappeau (1808-1877), a wine merchant, poet, and native of Roquemaure, to write a Christmas poem for the celebration. Cappeau agreed, although he was a well-known anticlerical and atheist.

On a carriage ride from Paris to Roquemaure, Cappeau read the Gospel of Luke as his guide to imagine what witnessing the birth of Jesus Christ would be like. He completed the poem by the end of his carriage ride, calling it, “Minuit, Chrétiens,” (Midnight, Christians).

Later, in 1847, Adolphe Charles Adams put to music the words of Cappeau’s “Minuit, Chrétiens.” Opera singer Emily Laurey premiered the new carol, “Cantique de Noël,” in Roquemaure in 1847.

In 1855, Cappeau’s French text was translated into an English singing version by the Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight and editor of Dwight’s Journal of Music. Dwight’s translation is what is widely sung today. Dwight’s “O Holy Night” was first widely introduced to North America via a Canadian inventor, Reginald Fessenden, who first aired a rendition on AM radio on December 24, 1906.

Thankfully, today in America many renditions of the carol are sung to worship the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians owe a bit of gratitude for such a beautiful song gifted to them by an atheist.

This Holiday Brite Session featuring Jillian Edwards, Ellie Holcomb, and Rebecca Roubion (at Forty-one Fifteen Studios in Nashville, TN) presents a beautiful version of “O Holy Night.”


Placide Cappeau’s Cantique de Noël

Minuit, chrétiens, c’est l’heure solennelle,
Où l’Homme Dieu descendit jusqu’à nous
Pour effacer la tache originelle
Et de Son Père arrêter le courroux.
Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance
À cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.
Peuple à genoux, attends ta délivrance.
Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur,
Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur!
De notre foi que la lumière ardente
Nous guide tous au berceau de l’Enfant,
Comme autrefois une étoile brillante
Y conduisit les chefs de l’Orient.
Le Roi des rois naît dans une humble crèche:
Puissants du jour, fiers de votre grandeur,
A votre orgueil, c’est de là que Dieu prêche.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur.
Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave:
La terre est libre, et le ciel est ouvert.
Il voit un frère où n’était qu’un esclave,
L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînait le fer.
Qui lui dira notre reconnaissance,
C’est pour nous tous qu’il naît, qu’il souffre et meurt.
Peuple debout! Chante ta délivrance,
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur,
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur!
Literal English Translation:
Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour,
When God as man descended unto us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Saviour.
People, kneel down, await your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!
May the ardent light of our Faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Guided the Oriental kings there.
The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
The Redeemer has broken every bond:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.
People, stand up! Sing of your deliverance,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!
John Sullivan Dwight’s Version:
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’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.

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