Friday, December 23, 2011

O Tarnished Night?

No Christmas music is more beautiful or emblematic of Christmas than O Holy Night. Even people who aren't Christians love to sing it.

But a few of the words have always rubbed me the wrong way, especially, "'Til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth".  Some have unofficially tweaked the words to "felt His worth".  Many other hymnals opt to omit this hymn altogether.

Today I learned from Wikipedia that the song was originally written in French.  John Sullivan Dwight, who produced the English "translation" that we sing today, was a Unitarian transcendentalist.  That explains several things about the lyrics.

Here is a more literal translation of the original French hymn (again, found on Wikipedia).  Sadly, these don't rhyme and they're not singable.  But see if you notice the slight but important differences in wording:

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God-man descended to us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Savior.
People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!
May the ardent light of our Faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Guided the Oriental kings there.
The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
The Redeemer has overcome every obstacle:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.
People stand up! Sing of your deliverance,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!


  1. quite a different message...hope my life message accurately portrays the true gospel


    sings the french words found on Wikipedia above. marvelous tenor voice. Enjoy

  3. Thank you, Daniel. That was enlightening! I always change it to soul felt His worth. Love that song.