I’ve got about 40 or so versions of O Holy Night on iTunes. There are hundreds more online and in the iTunes Store. It is the carol we will looking at this coming Sunday. So, I have spent about over 3 hours listening to the differing versions. And each one is inspiring. Andrea Bocelli’s version (in French) was as smooth as it gets … tears were forming (but not falling) and I couldn’t even understand a word. Mariah’s version probably has sold the most, close to Celine’s, but I seemed to enjoy Collin Raye’s and Reba’s (her simplicity and country tug just gets ya). But I returned several times to Kari Jobe. You go girl.
I wonder how some even got into my collection.
But this isn’t about my music taste. It is about the interesting history behind the song. An un-named priest at a catholic parish in France asked a local, yet not too consistent attendee, to write a poem for Christmas mass. The poet and wine commissioner took to the challenge and tried to write as if he had been an eye witness to the events on that first Christmas. He wrote it all in one buggy ride to Paris. But he also realized that this work needed some music to match the solemn and haunting tone of his words. He asked a local musician … and the work was finished and approved by the musician, the poet, and the priest. (Sounds like the start of a bad joke.).
And on an 1847 Christmas Midnight mass, O Holy Night, debuted to a wonderful reception. As its popularity rose throughout Europe, something interesting happened. The poet left the church and joined the Socialist party, basically deserting the church. Then it was discovered the musician was a practicing Jew, not believing Jesus was the Christ child. The church banned the song, tried to ridicule its beginning, and cast disparities on the authors. But the song, banned from being sung in church, grew in popularity with the people.
A song that called “His law is love and His Gospel is peace” seemed to cause anything but peace among the clergy.
So … should it have been sung or should it have been banned? Does a great work lose its truth and its impact if those who created it don’t believe the truth? Is the merit of something tied to its creator?
Now, I know things like sports records made by those dope-ing is downright cheating. Or medical advances made at the expense of inhumane ethics should be re-examined and stopped. And that profits made by business people who traffic humans should be penalized (and the people too should be penalized) and their methods should not be emulated. But does a work of art’s mastery depend on the lifestyle of the artist? I am not sure if any answer will please everyone, but I do know this … these two artists may have created a great work and know they created a great work … but it does not seem they knew the greatest part of their work – the Christ child they wrote about. And that is a tragedy. I hope they did grasp that reality before it was too late.
Let me look at this another way. Does my worth, and God’s love for me, depend on how I behave? To that, I say no. He loves you and me in spite of our messiness and stupidity. If God waited for anyone to live up to His holy standard before He came to earth, we would never have had the first Christmas. He loved us and came to bring peace on earth and good will to men.
He came to reconcile man to Himself. And that is peace … a peace with God. And because we have peace with God, we can have the peace of God. And know this … there is no peace of God without the peace with God.
Oops, I am giving my sermon away early. You’ll have to be there Sunday (snow allowing) to hear the rest. And there is some great “more” stuff.
Merry Christmas … Todd