At the age of 8, he lost a hand to a shotgun accident. As a result, he turned his attention to fields of work that would not require two hands, including poetry, journalism, and wine-making. He would become well-known for each, but certainly not for being a man of faith. However, his background did not keep his local priest from asking Placide Cappeau to write a poem to be sung during their Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1847.
Cappeau accepted the challenge and while riding in a carriage to Paris, imaged himself as an eyewitness to the birth of Christ. The result? “Cantique de Noel”. However, not being a musician, himself, Cappeau asked a friend, Adolphe Charles Adams, to write the accompanying music. Their collaboration premiered that Christmas Eve.
If asked, I would say it is my favorite Christmas carol. In 1906, it was the first song ever played on the radio. Yet, it was once banned by church leadership because the lyricist was a wine-maker and the composer an unbelieving Jew. However, the common people refused to let the song die. It was so full of hope and inspiration, that they sang it frequently during the Christmas season. In fact, legend has it that on the Christmas Eve of 1914, French forces sang it on the front lines and the German forces were so moved that they responded by singing hymns written by Luther. Together, both troops laid down their arms in an unofficial ceasefire, and sang of Christ’s birth throughout Christmas Day until ordered back to their posts the next day.
Today, we know it as “O Holy Night.” The song written by a wine peddler, set to music by a Jew, banned by the church, kept alive by the common man, and a source of peace among warring troops. Amazing how God moves in the lives of common people, even those who don’t know Him, to produce praise to His name. –Dave
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the 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 soul 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, O holy night, O night divine!
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