Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mostly, O Holy Night!

So, there are some great Christmas songs out there and there are some not so great ones and then the snarky and the all out anti-Christmas ones. The ones that rail out against poverty and cry out in pain like Father Christmas by the Kinks. It is a pretty angry song but not unlike much of the brokenness in this world behind that anger is a whole lot of hurt.
This year has been different for me. The brokenness of human relationships has pounded my mind and torn open scars in my heart. Usually, the music of the season is going so long (an October start) and so loud in my car and in my home that by December 14th my family is pretty much done with me and my Christmas music.
October came and I did started to listen to Christmas music a little bit. I texted a friend to see when she started to listen to the songs of celebration and she responded with "the day after game day" which would be 2 days after Thanksgiving and then she wrote, "Mostly O Holy Night." I have that one by 7 different artists. It is really the only one that I have paid attention to this season.
Going to my computer I wanted to find out the history of the song. These are the words we normally sing:
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,
'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 angels' 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 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 weakness is 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.

Incarnation: Emmanuel, God is with us. Strangely, I have felt at a loss at how to celebrate and acknowledge that the Creator of the Universe took on flesh and walked among us. I guess you might say I am on a search for simplicity.
The above words of O Holy Night is John Sullivan Dwight's translation. The original song was derived from French poet Placide Cappeau. Here is the literal English translation:
Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God-man descended to 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 Savior.
People kneel down, wait for 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 overcome every obstacle:
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!

This is the first year in many years that I did not purchase any additional music to add to my December collection. I never got off the ground with my usual listening tradition. A couple of Boston radio stations started their holiday tunes in November and I found myself changing the station once I heard the voice of Johnny Mathis or Bing Crosby or The Carpenters.

I came very close to abandoning all of the usual traditions. However, we had already made plans with extended family and I had committed to hosting one side and attending the other side's festivities. I did manage to enjoy being with extended family. Of course, we are very happy to have our "girls" home even while having to continue to adjust to their adult status. The relatives wanted to see them too.

I really want to think about revisiting the idea of simplifying Christmas for 2011 perhaps in February. There are traditions that are worth keeping: like reflecting on the Babe in the Manger, singing and enjoying Christmas music, seeing relatives and friends.

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