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Advent Devotion: Love

Story told by Paul Homeyer on December 23, 2018

His Law is Love

The cherished Christmas hymn "O Holy Night" is not only replete with biblical substance and tradition,
but the history of its making and dissemination is also a fascinating story.

Commissioned by a French parish priest, the poem Cantique de Noel was written by poet Placide Cappeau.
Ironically, the poem was set to music by Jewish classical musician Adolphe Adams. The song was performed for the first time
at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1847 in a small French village. Initially well received in France, church leaders
later deemed it unfit after Cappeau left the church for political reasons and it was discovered that Adams was Jewish. 

Writer and abolitionist John Sullivan Dwight introduced the English version of "Oh Holy Night" to America
during the Civil War where it became popular in the North in part due to the line “Chains shall He break
for the slave is our brother.”

On Christmas Eve 1906, "O Holy Night" was the first song ever sent via radio waves by Reginald Fessenden-
-a 33-year-old university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison. After reading the
Christmas story as told in the gospel of Luke, Fessenden played the carol on his violin to an amazed radio
audience.

Since its composition in 1847, "O Holy Night" has become and remained one of the popular and most
beloved pieces of music ever created and is sung around the world every Christmas season.
The third verse of the song begins “Truly He taught us to love one another…” These words are not just
another sentimental holiday notion reserved for the last four to six weeks of the year. They are taken
from scripture and are words to live by. The essence of scripture and the Gospel is LOVE.

When we peel back all the trappings of the season, both good and bad, we find that at its essence, LOVE, 
is the true message of Christmas. The very nature of our God is LOVE (1 John 4:12). He demonstrated his
sacrificial love to the world by giving us his one and only Son. (John 3:16).

Distilling down what is required of us, Jesus tells us “‘LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is
like it: "LOVE your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two
commandments.” (Matthew 22:37).

Jesus also tells us that LOVE will be a mark of his disciples: “A new command I give you: LOVE one
another. As I have loved you, so you must LOVE one another. By this everyone will know that you are my
disciples if you LOVE one another.” (John 13:34-35). His law is LOVE.

This Advent, let us remind ourselves that it is LOVE that was made manifest in the person of Jesus on
that Holy Night 2,000 years ago and recommit ourselves to radically loving God and one another.