The Lead Singer
The sound of ripping paper was deafening. Finally, the meal of ham, sweet potato casserole, and dressing was sufficiently completed enough that the adults allowed us to begin! We always had to wait until after dinner to open the gifts because that was just the way it was done (though us kids didn’t see the need). Boxes being torn open, wrapping paper being crumpled and thrown around, excited laughter and exclamations, and a baby crying in the background were the ambiance of the house. Somewhere around eight different households plus some visitors were all present for the family Christmas party that was being held at the home of one of the oldest uncles in my family. My 12 year old heart was full of joy and just being in the room felt electric. The gifts had been passed out to us youngsters and we were having a blast! The adults were no exception either. You could hear them laughing along with the clinking of dishes being cleaned up after the meal. The smell of coffee and spiced apple cider was hanging heavy in the air along with a hint of smoke from the smoldering fireplace. One particularly loud voiced aunt was laughing her big laugh at a joke my father was telling. Two teenage girls were whispering among themselves rolling their eyes at the silliness of the event. All was a bustling cluster of noise and cheer. That is until…
Softly in the corner of the room, my Uncle Olan, a very quiet, gentle man began to sing. His voice was so soft and tender that at first no one hardly noticed.
“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth…”
No music, only the sound of his gentle baritone voice began to pierce the room with a sense of “…wait, what? Is someone singing? Where is that coming from…”
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth…”
Almost with an automatic amnesia, we all forgot the presents in front of us. Boxes, paper, toys, coffee cups and forks were being put down.
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…”
The ladies washing the dishes, turned the water off and walking into the living room. Every eye was focused on Olan and every ear was tuned in. Silence fell over the family as his words floated through the air.
“Fall on your knees, o hear the angel’s voices…”
Suddenly I looked down and noticed something that I had never noticed before. Right now, as I write this, the memory is so clear that I am noticing it right now even as I did that night. The hair on my arms was standing straight up as chills overwhelmed me.
“O night divine, o night, when Christ was born…”
I begin to hear sniffing and see grown men wiping tears. Ladies were laying their heads over on the shoulders of ones they were standing next to. Children sank into the arms of their parents. Softly people began quietly singing along.
“O night, o holy night, o night divine.”
I learned a LOUD lesson that night in the soft silence that fell over the room as Olan turned and sat down on the sofa. For a good five minutes all that could be heard was soft sniffing and “I love you’s” until Olan looked up and softly said, “Merry Christmas, my family. I love you.” I learned that the greatest gift ever given didn’t come in a box wrapped with paper. It came on a very special, silent and holy night. It came to us as Emmanuel. God was born as a baby to show us how to live and to die for the sins of all mankind. He was the God of that room, and He is the God of my family. He is the gift of God to us all and He is my God! Is He yours?
May we indeed fall on our knees and join the angel chorus as we worship, praise, and serve this King born in a manger, not only at Christmastime, but every day of our lives!
Placide Cappeau, a poet and French wine merchant, wrote the poem in 1843, that was later put to music that was composed by Adolphe Adam around 1847, to celebrate the renovation of the church organ in the town of Roquemaure, France. The tone and style of the song is written in such a way that the listener almost feels transported to the Bethlehem hillside where Jesus was born. Upon hearing the song, read and meditate on Luke chapter 2 for a fresh and renewed observation of the greatest gift God ever gave us.