I think everyone has a favorite rendition of "O Holy Night." It's every soprano's song -- we all have our own version of it. I have loved singing it in past years with the Texas Tech Choirs at our annual Carol Concert. One of the faculty sings the solo, and the choirs sing four-part backup. It's so lovely and serene. It brings me a feeling of peace and silence.

 

The rendition that makes my heart ache with beauty, though, is not even in English -- it's in French. I speak some French, and I am enamored of the language. I first encountered this version on a recording by pianist Jim Brickman; it's sung as a duet by Marc Devigne and Julie Crochetiere. The first time I heard it, I was entranced. Here is this familiar carol that we all know and love, sung in a language I love. I listened to it for a couple of years without knowing the meanings of the words. Then, last Christmas, I was given the chance to sing a verse of it in French, so I hunted down a copy of the sheet music. I was instantly caught up in the beauty of the French text. Idiomatically, the gist is the same as in English — and maybe it’s because of the unfamiliarity, but I cannot get over the incredible depth and poignancy of the French text and translation. It’s taught me a little more about Christmas.

Here is your deliverance!

How shall we tell Him of our gratitude?

Pay attention: your deliverance is here.

This Christmas, I keep thinking about Christ the Deliverer. I keep thinking about the Great Rescue, the Great Quest. Those ideas come from this text. We have been delivered -- we have been redeemed -- and how shall we tell of it other than those words? How shall we tell of it other than singing to our Redeemer?

This is what Christmas is about.

It's about the solemn hour when the Incarnate God -- the God-Man -- came to us to erase wrath and filth and darkness, as if they had never happened.

It's about the quiet breaking in of Something Else.

It's about quivering in expectation of the rescue we've waited for all our lonely lives.

It's about hope. It's about a promise. It's about relief.

It's about deliverance.

I want to share this song with you now. Below is the French text, followed by its translation. May these words quietly stamp themselves onto your heart and sink deep into your soul.

Minuit, chrétiens, c'est l'heure solennelle
Où l'Homme-Dieu descendit jusqu'à nous
Pour effacer la tâche originelle
Et de Son Père arrêter le courroux.
Le monde entier tressaille d'espérance
À cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.
Peuple, à genoux! Attends ta délivrance!
Noël, Noël! Voici le Rédempteur.
Noël, Noël! Voici le Rédempteur!
De notre foi que la lumière ardente
Nous guide tous au berceau de l'Enfant.
Comme autrefois une étoile brillante
conduisit les chefs de l'Orient.
Le Roi des rois naît dans une humble crèche;
Puissants du jour, fiers de votre grandeur.

À votre orgueil, c'est de là que Dieu prêche.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur!
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur!
Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave,
La Terre est libre est le Ciel est ouvert.
Il voit un frère où n'était qu'un esclave,
L'amour unit ceux qu'enchaînait le fer.
Qui lui dira notre reconnaissance?
C'est pour nous tous qu'il naît, qu'il souffre et meurt.

Peuple, debout! Chante ta délivrance.
Noël, Noël! Chantons le Rédempteur!
Noël, Noël!
 Chantons le Rédempteur!
 
Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour
That the God-Man descends to us
To erase the original sin
And for His Father to stop His wrath.
The entire world trembles in hope
At this night that gives it a Savior.
People, to your knees! Attend to your deliverance!
Christmas, Christmas! Here is your Redeemer!
Christmas, Christmas! Here is your Redeemer!

The ardent light of our faith
Guides us all to the cradle of the Infant,
As in another time a brilliant star
There conducted the chiefs of the Orient [the Magi].

The King of kings born in a humble crib;
Powerful ones of today, proud of your grandeur,
To your pride — it is there that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has broken all obstacles;
Earth is free and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother whether there was once nothing but a slave,
Love unites those who were enchained in iron.

Who will tell Him our gratitude?
It is for all of us that He was born, that He suffered and died.
People, stand! Sing your deliverance!
Christmas, Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!
Christmas, Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!

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