For 24 days, we’ve dug deep and we’ve explored this story from so many angles. I can only pray it has served you and changed you in the way it served me and changed me to write these words for you.
Today is Christmas Eve, this is technically the last day of Advent. And I thought for a long time about how to end this journey together. And then I decided to keep it simple, like the Christmas story itself, and end with the thing that made me want to begin writing and researching my way through this story in the first place: A Christmas carol.
A Christmas carol that came out of France in 1847.
Written originally in poem form by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, the poet decided the words needed to be transformed into an anthem. And the anthem was written by one his friends-- Adolphe Charles Adams.
The song gained power and steam throughout France in the late 1800's but when the church found out that the writer of the song was Jewish, they tried to bury the anthem.
At this point, burying this song was impossible because it struck chords in the hearts of whoever heard it. The song was banned for two decades in France.
However, the story goes that on Christmas Eve 1871, in the midst of the Franco-Prussian War and endless fighting between the armies of France and Germany, a French soldier emerged from the trenches and began to sing the carol in German. He had no weapons in his hands. Both sides stopped. They lowered their weapons. And for 24 hours, the two armies ceased all fighting-- all war-- to observe Christmas Day with one another.
Nearly 40 years later, on Christmas Eve 1906, a man named Reginald Fessenden, in partnership with another man named Thomas Edison, did something never done before: he became the first voice to ever be broadcasted over the radio.
Radio operators everywhere were confused and befuddled as Reginald spoke out the Christmas story. He read directly from the Book of Luke and concluded the broadcast by picking up his violin and playing that same Christmas carol banned by the French and sung in the middle of the battlefield: O Holy Night.
It was the first song to ever be played on the radio.
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 appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels' voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine, o night
O night divine
Somehow this song about a weary world rejoicing surpassed all human understanding and took over the world with its message.
Only God could use a man who did not believe in his Son to pen the words.
Only God could stop the fighting.
Only God could use an anthem to advance technology in ways we never thought possible.
So I hope you’ll end by listening. By yourself or with family. I hope you’ll pause in the midst of a crazy day or two up ahead and remember why we celebrate. Why this day means so much to us. Why we spend 24 days preparing for the coming of a King.
I think the words of “O Holy Night” make it clear why this matters: for a long time the world was weary, and maybe we still are at times, but he appeared in the middle of the night, born to a Virgin in the dark of a stable and suddenly, suddenly the people of all kinds-- all ages, all races, all backgrounds, all walks of life-- found worth.
Something to rejoice over.
Something to hope for.
Something to die for.
A thrill of hope that could not be erased or blotted out of the history books.
I hope you feel this today and every day to come. I hope you know that your soul has eternal worth and I hope it can feel the weight of that worth. I hope it brings you to a point where there is nothing left to do but fall upon your knees and hear the singing of angels as they belt out, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
There’s no more waiting. There’s simply the invitation, meant to be extended to all souls: come and see. Just come and see what God has done.”
Thank you for this honor of scripting my heart and spirit out to you over the last 24 days. I have definitely felt the worth of my soul through every typed sentence and period hung on these pages. May you be merry and bright as we enter into Christmas and a new year. And may you always know, without a doubt or fear, that you matter in this place.