“O Holy Night” by Adolphe Adam, 1847
O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining/ It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining./ Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,/ For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!/ O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!/ O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,/ With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by the light a star sweetly gleaming,/ There came the wisemen from the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;/ In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,/ Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King!/ Before him lowly bend!
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.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, /Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,/ His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
This Christmas we will celebrate the moment when God tore open the very fabric of our reality and lowered His Son to earth, that we might receive Him and by Him be healed from sin and death, that as He looked up at the men lowering their friend, we might look up to Him. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining / Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” Notice it was their faith—not that of the paralytic—that provided the space Jesus needed in order for the grace of His mercy to do its work. The compassion of the men met the compassion of our Merciful Jesus and a man paralyzed in soul was set free: “Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother / and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
But the paralytic was not the only one bound by sin; many of those present were bound by sin and their stifling perspectives on sin and the limits of God’s forgiveness. In the minds of the crowd, one’s physical well-being was the outward sign of one’s spiritual well-being: the man’s paralysis, to them, was proof of his sinfulness. If his sins were truly forgiven, why was he still paralyzed? Their hearts were unconvinced: God alone can forgive sins, and this Jesus fellow obviously was not God.
“The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger / In all our trials born to be our friend.” With what love He looked upon the paralyzed man, symbolic of the hearts of those in the crowd, those who could not believe in the mercy of God! Perhaps He remembered the story of His own birth, lying weak and vulnerable in a manger, surrounded by the beasts of the stable, ignored by all the world save His mother and adoptive father. He was born to have mercy not only on the paralytic, but on us all, and so for the sake of all He reveals His authority over sin by showing His mastery over death: “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” “He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger!”
Come to Him with your every need, and do not think He is too distant, detached, or removed to understand or care. He cares more deeply than you can know; He was born for you. There is no Heart in the world, in the universe, more compassionate than the Heart of Christ, and today’s Gospel shows this clearly. He did not come only for the forgiveness of sins; He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) “Let all within us praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever/ His power and glory ever more proclaim!