O Holy Night is not a new Christmas carol for me. I’ve heard the song many times. I had the honor of performing with a small brass ensemble for several Christmas candlelight services during my short, but memorable career as a tuba player. It’s a beautiful song.
Many artists record this song and use it to show off their technical prowess and amazing vocal range. I also remember a Christmas service that our high school student ministry put together during my Senior year. One of the music ministers from our church sang O Holy Night right before a friend of mine was baptized. It was the climax of the service, as a baptism should be – especially during the Christmas season. It was a powerful, powerful moment and it’s been etched in my heart’s memory for the past 20+ years.
That being said, I don’t know if I’ve really felt a deep connection with the song until this current Advent season.
This song was written by a guy in France and it was first performed in 1847. That’s 170 years ago. That’s a long, long time ago. And it was translated into English shortly before the Civil War. That’s still a long time ago. You know?
But it feels like it could have been written yesterday by a neighbor just down the street. Because in the first verse, it sounds like he could’ve been talking about me.
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…”
I used to think this was written with just the Second Temple Jewish Era in mind. Everyone was looking for the long-promised Deliverer. “He’s coming,” they said. For more than 700 years, since the oracle from the Prophet Isaiah, they watched, and waited, and continued to proclaim “He’s coming. He’s coming.”
And surely the waiting and watching and waiting wore them out. Especially when Nebucadnezzar and Cyrus the Great and the Romans occupied their land and oppressed their people.
“Our Deliverer. He’s coming.”
And for the longest time, the Promised One did not show up. It had to be exhausting. And frustrating. I’m sure it wore on the entire Jewish world. Shoot, it wore down all of creation. Weariness is the perfect word. All of creation had to be weary in anticipation of the arrival of the One Who Would Make All Things Right.
A weary world, indeed.
I don’t know about you, but that word also describes me. I’m worn out. Exhausted. I’m weary. The last few years have worn me to the bone, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’m weary.
I’ll be honest. Other than the chorus that requires some significant vocal talent, I really hadn’t paid that much attention to the lyrics of this carol. But I noticed them this year, and they’ve reminded me what to do when I’m worn out and weary.
Fall on my knees. Join in the heavenly chorus. Cling to the thrill of hope.
This isn’t just any hope. It’s not like the hope I have when I really really really hope my favorite basketball team beats their arch rival. That’s trivial hope, at best. No, this hope is the hope in the Everlasting God keeps His promises. This hope is the hope in the life-changing, life-giving, life-affirming power that comes from the One who spoke life into being. This hope is the hope that all things will be made right again. It’s the hope that was fulfilled in that out of the way feeding trough in the middle of an unknown town, watched by unknown shepherds and a faithful married couple.
That hope in that baby boy is the same hope we have today. It’s the hope that God is not done with me. And He’s not done with you. He continues to make all things new and give us hope today.
“He’s coming again.”
“He’s coming again.”
And in the meantime, even though I’m weary and worn out, I will cling to this hope that God is at work, even in me. I’m glad I heard O Holy Night so many different times this year. And I’m thankful that the lyrics hit me right between the eyes.
Because even though I’m weary, I need to remember to continue cling to that thrilling hope promised to us by the coming of the Christ Child Himself.