Whenever I hear “O Holy Night!” sung by Nat King Cole, I picture my grandmother’s house at Christmas time. Her home was always impeccably decorated and spotlessly clean. You never made a mess at Dot’s house! Except on Christmas morning. On Christmas morning, Dot would start a wrapping paper fight and leave the mess for the rest of the day. As a kid, I thought this was the coolest thing ever.
As I got older and listened to the actual words of the song, I fell in love with it even more. To me the way the song develops is a beautiful representation of my personal faith walk. We’re so used to the Christmas story that sometimes we forget that that little baby is the Creator of everything. The opening words of “O Holy Night” express a delicate reverence for the holy moment of Christ’s birth. We’re invited in to witness the event but don’t want to disturb the scene. Sounds an awful lot like when I first started attending church in high school: I wanted to be there but didn’t want to get too involved.
At some point I understood that that baby changed everything. We no longer need to live in fear because Jesus came to save us. You. Me. Doesn’t that give you “a thrill of hope”? I feel a fluttering in my chest at the words. And that fluttering grows each and every time that I recognize that I am freed from the weight of my sin.
“Fall on your knees.” As a child, I pictured the classic prayer pose: on my knees, head bowed, hands neatly folded in front of me. Now the image in my mind is more like a guitarist sliding across the stage at the end of a phenomenal solo: arms wide, head thrown back, chest open, spent, grateful. Nothing is held back, total surrender to God.
But wait! There’s more! As Christians, we are called to love one another, and not just in words. We pledge “to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves” when we join the United Methodist Church. “O Holy Night!” says it this way:
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Our personal justification isn’t the end of the faith journey. It’s more like graduating to the next stage. Now it’s time for us to get to work.
We have received the most precious gift. God humbled himself to come to us as a tiny baby so that we could be saved. You. Me. I hope this Christmas you will feel the awe of his birth.
Donna Bartholomew (Director of Pre-Teen Ministries)