Oh Holy Night: Chante ta délivrance!

Midnight The Solemn Hour
Midnight
The Solemn Hour

I try to be positive. I really do. I usually appreciate any attempt at singing. Song is a free gift that can be enjoyed by anyone. But to me some songs are sacred, holy, set apart and meant to glorify God. They are not meant to be recorded by pop singers with no sense of phrasing, or breath control, who have inadequate diction and obviously no emotional connection to the lyrics, and then piped through the aisles of Stuffmart to create background noise for harried shoppers who don’t give a damn. I’ve threatened to go postal if I hear Santa Baby in the produce aisle one more time -but that’s just irritating. It’s hearing one of the greatest hymns/carols of all time massacred over and over that makes me want to plop down on the floor by the gift boxed baubles and weep.

(Rant over)

When I taught singing my students often asked if they could work on “Oh Holy Night.”

“Not for a few years yet,” I told most of them. “And when you do it will  in the original language.”

“Why?”

“Because your voice isn’t ready and because you have heard it so often in English you can’t hear the words anymore. Most versions drop half the lyrics anyway. I want you to study it, to translate it, to concentrate and savour every note and every word.”

Like songs that are sung year after year and have lost their flavour like chewing gum on the bedpost overnight, we can become so familiar with the goodness of God we cease to grasp the depth and height and width of it. We fail to comprehend the massiveness of His love. We take it for granted. We develop a sense of entitlement, as if God owes us freedom, and deliverance from slavery to sin. We fail to pay attention.

Translations that have to fit the meter and accents of a set piece of music are never entirely accurate, but here is another English translation of Minuit, Chretien. Listen to the words again.

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God as man descended unto 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 Saviour.

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 broken every bond:
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!

Attend ta Délivrance Pay Attention
Attend
ta Délivrance

From the English version:

Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

(Link to video in comments)

7 thoughts on “Oh Holy Night: Chante ta délivrance!

  1. Powerful stuff. Taking Jesus for granted may be worse than just ignoring Him. “O Holy Night” is a favorite. The translation you offered adds even more depth. God bless you this Christmas!

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  2. Lois

    Thank you for calling this to our attention! A friend sent me the words in French and English so that I can be blessed by the original meaning. I can see why you are pained by current English interpretation.

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    1. Oh dear, Lois. I must not have communicated very well. I am not all that pained by the usual English translation (although the original French is stronger in my opinion.) My frustration is that such profound truths are seldom heard when songs are not valued. It’s kind of like not taking items with a low price tag seriously because we assume they must be cheap. (This song is often thrown in the same bin as Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer or Santa Baby or even Jingle Bells for example. And sometimes we just miss special gems due to over-familiarity.

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      1. Lois

        So sorry to have misinterpreted your intent! Anyway, I’m happy to know the original meaning, and I will listen more carefully, whether the English or the French is being sung.

        Like

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