Even An Atheist Can Articulate the Gospel The mid 1800s were approaching and a church organ in the south of France had recently been restored. The parish priest asked a friend to compose a poem to celebrate the event. That friend was a professed atheist named Placidde Cappeau. His poem was entitled “Midnight, Christians”. It was soon set to music by Adolphe Adam and would later be translated into what we now know as “O Holy Night”.
It’s been my number one favorite for many years now, although recent arrangements of “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Go, Tell It On The Mountain” by the acapella group Pentatonix now threaten its reign. Cappeau’s original text clearly marks Christmas as a celebration that God sent Christ to the world to eradicate the stain of sin. Wiki it and you may be astounded that an atheist could comprehend the facts of the gospel. Or, you may just be saddened that he, like many, would understand the facts, yet not respond as even he commands his listener:
“Fall on your knees,
O hear the angel voices.”
How Will You Surrender? One day, we will all see the Christ, the risen Lord and returning King. The Bible teaches us that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. It doesn’t say “every believer will bow”. It says “every knee”. In other words: whether we hear the gospel message and believe on it unto salvation or reject it as Cappeau did, we will acknowledge Christ as king.
From that point, we will either know Him as Savior King or Supreme Judge. The question is, will you surrender to the truth of the former while there is still time or surrender to the latter after time runs out? As we approach the “New Year”, I want to encourage us all to remember – Christ is returning. Some say as early as this week. Others say years or generations off. Regardless, the gospel call is this: fall on your knees in surrender to the Lord as redeemer, savior, brother-slave, and coming King today. Celebrate His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection not only at midnight on a day that’s not even His real birthday, but everyday. What Is Surrender? I’ve long believed the Bible to be a collection of inspired and inerrant (in their original manuscripts) books that all ask the same question from the perspective of God: “Will you trust me?” That’s what this kind of surrender is all about: full time dependence on and trust in Christ. Not just uttering niceties one day or a few weeks out of the year…
We all have a tendency to be event oriented rather than process oriented. Salvation is both an event and a process – depending on how you understand “sanctification”. We err when we spend so disproportionately our money, time, and effort on one event when the eternal Lord is Lord of our process. Christmas shouldn’t be relegated to just one day or even a season – ransom from sin and death should be an everyday joy. I pray that now that “Christmas” is past (or approaching in another couple of months, depending on what sources you believe) that we (myself included) may begin to celebrate our Savior more fully regardless of the day of year. Merry Christmas today, tomorrow, and everyday.
On our knees before the Savior,
My bad – here’s my favorite arrangement. North Point Community Church’s ten year old recording has held my #1 spot for a decade now. Thanks, to everyone who made it possible and Jeff Scott for the “money note” at the end.
My “Final Four” – #4 The Little Drummer Boy Trivia Fun Nothing you can’t find in a quick Wikipedia search, but noteworthy enough for holiday chit-chat around the egg nog bowl. Written in 1941, first recorded in 1955 by who? The Trapp Family Singers. Yep, that quaint little family who brought you “Doe, a Deer, a Female Deer”, made Julie Andrews a household name, and currently has Carrie Underwood looking… out of place. Based on a Czech tune and originally published as “Carol of the Drum”. Theological Significance: Though Jesus isn’t the main character, I’m still okay with playing and singing it because Christmas is the season when Holy God became incarnate: the earthly merger of the magnificent with the mundane. The story juxtaposes wise men from far off with the Wisest of all, who would now come nearer than any earthly man would have ever known. Great men, great gifts, cow dung, and a precious and Holy King in an animal’s feed trough – magnificent, meet mundane. Perfect, meet profane. Yet, God ordained it all. Enter, Scandalous Child The religious people of Jesus’ time had become so emphatic about the law, they were drifting from true relationship with the Law Giver. They’d begun to call worthless many of the things that God truly valued. Women and children in this time were “to be seen and not heard”.
Yet, the scandalous Christ would later scold (in three different gospel accounts… OUCH!) His own disciples: “Let the little children come to me!” Mt. 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16So, what an insulting scandal that a little boy, bearing no tangible gift would be given audience with the King of Kings? Isn’t it already scandal enough that His birth to a virgin mother was proclaimed first to lowly shepherds (not exactly the top of the socio-economic ladder of the day) and his birthplace a barn? Hallelujah, yes! Bring on the scandal. And, so the scandal of the gospel is proclaimed in this song – that a little child, in the face of the wise who offered great, majestic gifts, would bring but a humble song, yet would garner the smile (favor) of the child born to live, suffer insult, and die to erase the scandalous sin of the rich, the poor, the wise, the foolish and all in between! Wow. Majesty amidst the mundane.
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor. 1:20-21)
Here’s My Favorite Version – What’s Yours?
I’ve been through a few favorites on this song – first time I heard Candi Shelton (then, Candi Pearson, on North Point Community Church’s first Christmas CD) do her acoustic version, my jaw dropped. “Who does that to that song?!” If you look around the iTunes store, Grooveshark, or even Pandora, you might get yourself a listen.
When I heard these next two versions, I thought the exact same thing. “Who’d have thunk THAT?!” The following videos are my #2 and #1 favorite versions of this song for obvious reasons. Alicia Keys at Rockafeller Center in ’09 and my new favorite – Pentatonix.
Drop us a comment below with your favorite version, will ya? Merry Christmas, and may Christ be at the center for you this season and all year long.