Does Your Soul Feel its Worth?

1:24 PMHeather

I can remember the first time I wondered about the person singing a song, wondering if they really believed the words they were singing?  Particularly in relation to Christmas carols.  It was when I was a little girl, watching The Brady Bunch.  It was the episode where Carol Brady has laryngitis and cannot talk, much less sing her solo at church for Christmas.  So, little piggy-tailed Cindy asked the department store Santa to give her mommy her voice back.  And...spoiler alert..she got it back.

I remember the awe I felt watching Carol Brady sing that Christmas song at her Christmas morning church service.  And I thought, "Do the Bradys go to church every week like my family?  Does she really believe all those words she is singing?"

Listen, I don't know why this has fascinated me so, but it does.  I over analyze things.  I make up background stories when I people watch.  I wonder about all sorts of details, like whatever happened to those people from that big news story.  It's just who I am.  Embrace my crazy, bloggy friends.  I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.

A recent popular video has reminded me of that Brady Christmas and it got me thinking.  (Yes, dangerous).  You may or may not have seen this video of Pentatonix singing "Mary Did You Know?"  Bonus blog tip here.  If you haven't seen it, click on the link and check it out.  Because it is AH-MAZE-ING.  

And because our family has loved Pentatonix since they won The Sing Off, we think this group is awka-awesome.  So as they are singing about the Deliverer and the Creator of the World and the Great I am, I of course, was thinking.  Do they believe that?  Do they know the Great I am?  

As I pondered all this, I began to think about the Christmas carols we sing.  The ones we sing in church, and the ones we hear celebrities sing.  It is fascinating to me that in our politically correct world, Christmas still brings a time where it is, for the most part, socially acceptable to sing songs of our Savior's birth--whether or not the lyrics are the echo of the singer's beliefs.

And so, my desire to really soak in the Advent season this year has intersected with my fascination about Christmas carols.  The result is my intention to blog about some popular carols, exploring the history of them, their authors, and considering how we can meditate on these great declarations of our faith as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

So, between now and Christmas, I invite you to join me in a blog series that I hope to be a series of devotions or deep(er) thoughts about Christ, spurred by the songs we tend to pull out every December.  My hope is that this is not a daily must-do on top of our already busy month.  But rather, that this blog will be a place to come and rest and soak in the real reason for the season.

First up...O Holy Night.  I just love this song. The powerful words and the music and melody. So, I did some research on the carol and was SHOCKED by what I found out. 

Before we dig further, I want to post the lyrics to this song.  I pray that you read through them with fresh eyes, pausing on the phrases that stand out to you.  So, really stop and ponder these words.

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
'Til He appeared 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!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall 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!
Their name forever praise we

Noel, Noel
O night, O night divine
Noel, Noel
O night, O night divine
Noel, Noel
O night, O holy night

Let's stop on a few key phrases as we meditate on this hymn:  Long lay the world, in sin and error pining.  To me, this speaks to the age old battle of a world plagued with sin and wars and problems, longing for something more.  Does that sound like you?  Are you pining for something?  A dream yet unrealized?  Are you wrestling with discontent or in a season of waiting?

We are not alone in our groanings and longings and pining.  It's a tale as old as time.  Eve wanted more.  Because Paradise wasn't enough.  Abraham pined for an heir.  The Israelites longed for freedom from their Egyptians captors.  Job wrestled with God in seasons of grief and loss.  Jacob literally wrestled with an angel all night long.  

All of it.  Everyone of these stories leads to the same conclusion.  We were made for so much more.  This world can never satisfy.  No measure of success or money or fame or achievement can actually fulfill the eternity that God set in the hearts of all men (Ecclesiastes 3:11) . Which led God, from the very beginning, to offer a remedy for our longing and a solution to our sin and our errors.

And that, my friend, is the stage being set for the miracle of Advent.  That God would dare to throw back the veil of heaven and step into our world through His perfect and Holy Son.  Whose sole purpose from conception and birth and everyday of his life was to die. 

Like the ram caught in the thicket when Abraham had Isaac on the altar to sacrifice. 

God provided a way out.  A substitute.  Therefore, we need not wallow in our pining.

Next, let's pause on these lines: Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth, A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.  For hundreds of years, God had informed his people of a glorious plan.  A Redeemer.  A way out. The entire Old Testament is a picture pointing to the Christ who would come.  A solution for the age old battle between our sin nature, our fleshly selfish ambitions, and the call to follow God whole heartedly.  Like a patient Father, the Almighty God had repeatedly let his people know what was going to happen.  That it would all be okay.  That He had a plan for our good.

And then, like a long promised vacation to alleviate a season of stress... but a million times more... He came.  He appeared.  And His physical appearance on this earth means that EVERY SOUL CAN FEEL ITS WORTH.  Because He is the key.  Jesus is the water to our parched souls.  Jesus is the Bread of Life for our starving hearts.  Jesus is the one who satisfies and fulfills like nothing else.  

Jesus not only appeared on this earth in documented and verifiable history, but his death and resurrection means he appears in our lives everyday, forever.  He shows up in our weaknesses with his strength.  When we choose to follow Him, when we choose to journey toward him, we are actually chasing down the very thing that we were made to embrace. He is the hope for our weariness.  Because no matter how dark or how big the burden or the amount of sorrow, it can all be met with hope.  Everything.  Every struggle.  Christmas means that no matter the hardship, it can always be met with hope.  Because Heaven reached into earth.  And ever since the star announced Jesus' birth, our darkness has been lit by the light of Christ.  Heaven still reaches into earth.  There is no long dark night of the soul that cannot be pierced by God's new mercies, which are new for every single day (Lamentations 3:22-25).

Jesus. He showed up here on that glorious day of his birth, and every day since.  Are you looking for Him?  Are you asking for eyes to see how He intersects your days? Jesus brings the worth and the value and the hope that our soul needs.  Jesus changes everything.  Even our historical calendar marks this change... B.C. to  A.D.  Whatever your Before Christ darkness means, know that Jesus is the pivot point. Because Jesus is Immanuel.  God with us.  Always.  In every moment.  Every defeat.  Every struggle.  Every victory.

Lastly, I want us to dwell on the chorus of this great song: Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in His name, all oppression shall cease.  News flash, pew dwellers.  Jesus' law is not performance or legalism or even man's tradition.  Jesus' law is LOVE.  His message and his gospel--his good news--is PEACE.  His command is to love one another.  

I am ever amazed by our inability to extend grace to each other--both within the church and outside of it. Jesus didn't come so we could point fingers and hold up signs and spark chaos, controversy and division.  Jesus came to pour out the love of God when he poured out his blood for us.  THAT is what his ministry and call on our lives is all about.  Thinking the truest thoughts about His love, so embracing His love and His grace and His peace over our lives that we cannot help but extend it to others.  Continually going back to this thought.  If God chose to love me and make a way for me, then my life must testify of this love.

It ain't easy.  We are a rather unloveable bunch, us humans.  Yet God broke through our failures and our shortcomings and brought complete and utter salvation from our sorry selves.  

That is what we learn to dive into more and more.  Embracing his love more every day, exploring it and believing it and being changed by it. And there, we learn to spill it over to those around us.

The result?  CHAINS ARE BROKEN. Oppression is ceased.  When we are freed from our angry, vengeful, selfish ways and we learn to swim deeply in the oceans of His grace.  Then, we are no longer bound by our fear of man and our efforts to control one another.  We are simply learning to walk in the unforced rhythms of grace.   

That.  All of that.  That is what all this song, O Holy Night, means to me. Which leads me back to my original question.  What is the history of this song?  Surely, the writer must have had a deep faith and an intimate walk with God to so eloquently articulate such truths about the night where our darkness and sin were first conquered because the light of hope was coming upon us.

You'd think.

But nope.  Not according to my research. The song was actually first a poem written by the Frenchman, Placide Cappeau, on request of a local parish priest, in 1847.  The poem was called Minuit Chretien. Cappeau was described as an "outspoken socialist with anti-clerical viewpoints," and was also described as an atheist.  The poem was commissioned to celebrate the renovated church organ.  Soon after, the French musician Adolphe Adam set the poem to music.  In 1855, it was translated to English.  And, an interesting side note...the first AM radio program was played in Canada in 1906, and the second piece of music ever broadcast on radio was O Holy Night.

I just wonder where you might be.  Are you an athiest, no belief in God, yet you might be able to conjure up some eloquent statements of fact about the birth of Jesus, such as the authors of this song?  Is it just a story or historical account to you?  It holds no meaning or emotion and it evokes no change within you. Like a children's fable or a myth.

Or are you a Christian whose life maybe could include these words without completely feeling them?  Without thinking on them?  Without really believing that the night of Jesus' birth was so holy that it literally was the most significant historical event of all time?  How does your life testify to the words of this Christmas hymn?  Do you live in such a way that you reflect a source of hope, even in your most weary of days?  Does Jesus make your heart thrill because you know He changes everything?  Do you live freely and lightly in his love, extending it to others, freed from obligation and chains of oppression?

I am praying for myself and for you...that this Christmas season, we might be freshly aware of the miracle that Christmas means.  That our broken world was visited by a God who came near.  So that we might always know our God is with us, in the midst of our mess.  Our God is the Star of Wonder in our darkest night.  Jesus is the hope for the world.  

And that we may fall on our knees with the magnitude and significance of this truth.

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