A Weary World Rejoices
(Read Isaiah 9:6-7, Romans 13:12)
By Guest Author
One Christmas Eve many years ago, my sister and I drove about 30 miles to attend a friend’s church instead of our home church. Neither one of us actively worshipped at the church we grew up in as children. For that matter, neither one of us actively worshipped anywhere except maybe on Christmas and Easter. I don’t recall why we decided to drive all that way on Christmas Eve, but I will never forget the divine experience from that night’s service.
This church featured a very talented music ministry. There were choir arrangements, instrumentals, and ensemble performances. Music can be very moving by itself, but when the message behind it is equally strong, it becomes exponentially more meaningful. As long as I live, I will always remember an a cappella performance of O Holy Night.
“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.”
I had heard the song before but I had never really listened to it. Never opened up to it’s significance. “O Holy Night” was originally a French Christmas carol, written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaur and Adolphe Charles Adams in 1847. Several years later, it was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight. The song opens by capturing the holiness and brilliant display of God’s glory that fateful night and then highlights our weary world’s need for a Savior.
“’Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.'”
Jesus was born to pay a debt we’re not capable of paying. He gave us a voice and gave us value in God’s eyes. “Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.” This verse still resonates deep within me. I remember hearing this for the first time thinking that I was made worthy. Jesus gives us purpose, peace, and perfection. We all have weakness, sensitive spots. We’re all vulnerable in one way or another, but Jesus fills our holes. He lifts us up.
My sister and I used to be close. During my high school and college years, she was actively involved in my life. She and her husband gave me a ton of love and support at a time when I was struggling living with my parents. They were always fighting. One night after another heated argument, my Dad threw a glass at her and I thought I would have to break it up when it escalated to the next level. My sister and brother-in-law were a beacon of light in my life. They gave me hope.
Up until the performance of O Holy Night, the service we attended while enjoyable, was largely unremarkable. By the time the middle-aged tenor echoed the end of the first verse, I knew this moment would be a tipping point in my life. My sister and I looked at each other with our mouths wide open. This guy was amazing. He was not in the same class as the other performers. There was such a tone of clarity and blessing to his voice. It was as if an angel was singing to us.
“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
The Prophet Isaiah promised the birth of a Savior. It illuminated searing hope in a dark foreboding world ripe with sorrow, pain, and hate. Sadly, the world during Isaiah’s day was not much different from our world almost 3,000 years later. 2020 has been an especially hard time for many. We can deny, reject, or hide the darkness or we can let the hope brought to us in Jesus, transform our weary world.
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
That next day when Jesus was born, the world saw God in human form for the first time. With his birth, we were assured eternal freedom as children of God. A spike of light driven into a helpless, troubled world. Perhaps that’s why Christmas delivers so much hope to people of all kinds in a variety of ways?
For our family, Christmas Eve church services were a traditional thing to do when something else more important wasn’t happening. We arrived at the church in a fun, playful mood but we left in a state of awe and humility. Our hearts were open but we were not expecting anything momentous. I literally got chills when the soloist reached the pinnacle of the song. It was so powerful, not just as an emotional moment of artistry, but a profound moment of epiphany.
“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.”
This part of “O Holy Night” is referred to as the Crescendo — a part of a song that gets louder and louder, reaching a climax. It’s also the peak of excitement. Our response to Jesus’ birth should also be full of wonder, excitement, and surrender. When we submit to him this way, we’re allowing our hearts to be receptive. We’re listening to his angels and his voice. It’s not a moment to stand tall, but to bend down and welcome him in. It’s a moment to recognize the, “night divine.”
“…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”
The literal translation from French to English says, “People on your knees, await your deliverance.” Christ delivered us as children of God from the day of his birth and individually each day of our lives from that moment forward. Being open to God’s will allows him to transform us to what is best for us. Those were the feelings my sister and I felt so many years ago. We were transformed from wanting to be entertained to being empty vessels for his offering. Unfortunately, we are no longer close. Circumstances and misunderstandings put a wall between us, but I cherish the memories of that Christmas Eve nearly 40 years ago. It was truly one of those God-wink moments. Maybe God wanted us to experience that message and save it for a time when healing would be needed.
Our long-awaited Savior was born! The dawn after the Holy Night is when the weary world saw the Messiah for the first time. Christians today have hope for another glorious dawn when Jesus will come again.
“The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
This world needs help. It’s too easy, even tempting to only see the darkness. Look to Jesus’ birth with hope and rejoice. The sheer hope I felt worshipping with my sister that night, I still feel now. Indeed, the night was divine.
- Read Isaiah 9. Focus on the passages of hope of the coming Messiah. Do you have the same hope in your life that you read in Isaiah? Rekindle your hope in Christ. He will come again.
- Be open to suggestions that break your normal traditions. I am always surprised when I experience something that I would otherwise reject too quickly. In our Christmas season of lockdowns and isolation, find a new way to connect with Jesus. Discover a Bible reading plan, join an online study group, watch another church’s online service. Don’t just watch, but allow it in.
- Let hope in your life. Let hope rekindle your bruises. Let hope transform your weary self into the wonderful, beautiful person God made.
Where else in your life can you live out the teachings of Christ? Look for next week’s Devotion.