Devotions, WRITING

“Oh Holy Night” The story behind the song.

This song is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I’m drawn to it because the words in it are so amazing. What I find interesting is that this song is all about Jesus being born into the world to bring us redemption and its recognized as one of the top Christmas songs. It makes me wonder do people listen to the Christmas songs that they are singing. I don’t know how you can listen to many of the popular Christmas songs that are out there and not acknowledge Jesus as your savior.

So after hearing “Oh Holy Night” for the second time today and really enjoying the lyrics I decided to look it up. Who wrote this song? Where did the inspiration behind this song come from?

First take a look at the lyrics of this song and really think about them and you will see what I mean. This is an amazing song of Jesus redeeming the world of our sin.

“Oh Holy Night”
composed by: John Sullivan Dwight

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.

So after looking over these lyrics I decided to do a more research into where this song came from and oh did I love what I found. This song was originally a french poem. The poem was then taken and made into a singing edition. So check out the original lyrics to the poem translated into English of course.

“Cantique de Noël
written by: Placide Cappeau

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!

The ardent light of our Faith,

Guides us all to the cradle of the infant,

As in ancient times a brilliant star

Guiding the Oriental kings.

The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;

O mighty ones of today, proud of your grandeur,

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!

Wow did you see those original lyrics from the poem! What a beautiful poem I can see why they turned it into a song. My favorite lyric: “People kneel down, wait for your deliverance. Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer, Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!”

What a powerful song of worship and drawing us in to worship Him as our saviour!

As a writer I wondered. What inspired this man to write those words. What drove him and caused him to in his own life recognize the saviour. So I did a little research and I couldn’t believe what i uncoverd. The man’s name is Placide Cappeau he was a well known french poet and author. Well when he was really young at about 8 years old he suffered a horrible injury. He was playing with a young friend of his and they were playing with a gun. The gun went off and injured Cappeau’s hand. He ended up losing his entire hand to this incident and had to have it amputated. Because of the loss of his hand he could no longer carry on the family business so he turned to being a scholar. He was an amazing scholar. While in school despite his disability he recieved the FIRST prize in drawing in 1825.

When he wrote this song he wrote it in a stage coach on his way to Paris. It had been a personal request from the priest for him to write a Christmas poem. So inspired by what he had written he decided that what he had written was more than a poem and needed to be put to song. It became a well known song at the time in Christmas services at the church. But there was a catch. The musician that he had asked to help him put his poem too was a jew. When the church found this out they tried to bury the song. The song couldn’t be buried though. Even though the church had removed it from mass and Christmas services the french people had heard it and kept singing it.

Many years later an American writer John Sullivan Dwight decided that everyone needed to hear this song. What drew Dwight to the song wasn’t just the message of salvation but a paticular lyric in the song, “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.” This was during the time of slavery in the south and he wanted to use this song to end slavery. Here is where this story gets truly amazing! During the time that Dwight was using this song in America to point out that slavery was wrong it was still being sung in France and France was in the middle of a war too.

On Christmas Eve 1871, in the midst of fierce fighting between the armies of Germany and France, during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of his muddy trench. Both sides stared at the seemingly crazed man. Boldly standing with no weapon in his hand or at his side, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and sang, “Minuit, Chretiens, c’est l’heure solennelle ou L’Homme Dieu descendit jusqu’a nous,” the beginning of “Cantique de Noel.” (Oh Holy Night)

After completing all three verses, a German infantryman climbed out his hiding place and answered with, “Vom Himmel noch, da komm’ ich her. Ich bring’ euch gute neue Mar, Der guten Mar bring’ ich so viel, Davon ich sing’n und sagen will,” the beginning of Martin Luther’s robust “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.”

The story goes that the fighting stopped for the next twenty-four hours while the men on both sides observed a temporary peace in honor of Christmas day.

History was made! And many years later it was made again! With this same song!

In 1906 the first radio broadcast was made using voice. It was the first time EVER that a voice was heard over the airways. Reginald Fessenden was the man on the radio and he recited the story of Jesus birth found in Luke. When he finished he picked up his violin and played the song “Oh Holy Night”. This was the very first song EVER to be sent over radio airways. The signal was received all across the nation. It was on Christmas Eve and people were flocking to their radios to hear this man on the radio for the first time ever. The were later serenaded with “Oh Holy Night”.

Now here is what I find amazing about this story which I accumlated from many websites and will list them at the end of this post.

  • As a young boy he was disabled and lost his hand. In that time it would be the end of his career but he didn’t let that stop him and went to school to become an amazing scholar and writer of this poem.
  • This song was not only written by a handicapped man but composed by a Jew in a time that Jews were persecuted.
  • This song brought peace in the middle of a war in Germany and brought comfort to slaves in the times of slavery here in US.
  • It was the very first song ever broadcast over radio waves! Starting a whole new medium for radio broadcast.

Wow! I’m just in awe! I knew this song was powerful you can feel it every time you hear it. But now I know truly how powerful it is. I will never forget all these things when I’m singing it. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed sharing and researching it. What an amazing story behind such a wonderful song!!!


A comment was left on this blog post with a free download of his recording of the song “Oh Holy Night” You really should download it! Its beautiful. Thanks Charlie!!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.