Backstory for My Favorite Christmas Hymn

My favorite Christmas song is the much loved O Holy Night.   Through a  blogpost by Clint Archer (see HERE)  I learned that there is a rich history behind the hymn.  That backstory is related masterfully by author Ace Collins in his book: Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

I wrote to Mr. Collins and he kindly gave me permission to share his research into the genesis of the hymn in this post.  I believe you will find his account of the song fascinating.

[You may also be interested in checking out Mr. Collins’ website (Here).  It contains a link to a YouTube video where he discusses his approach to storytelling.  (HERE)  I believe you’ll enjoy viewing it.] RMF

O holy night!

By Ace Collins

Ace Collins


The strange and fascinating story of “O Holy Night” began in France, yet eventually made its way around the world. This seemingly simple song, inspired by a request from a clergyman, would not only become one of the most beloved anthems of all time, it would mark a technological revolution that would forever change the way people were introduced to music.

In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was the commissionaire of wines in a small French town. Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Placide when his parish priest asked the commissionaire to pen a poem for Christmas mass. Nevertheless, the poet was honored to share his talents with the church.

Placide Cappeau

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France’s capital city, Placide Cappeau considered the priest’s request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, “Cantique de Noel” had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his “Cantique de Noel” was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician’s hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help.

The son of a well-known classical musician, Adolphe had studied in the Paris conservatoire. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world. Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Newton and the Christmas Message

Christians know that the miracle at the manger was not complete until the incarnate Christ of the cross declared that “It is finished.”  By His statement Jesus referred to His marvelous act of redemption whereby God’s saving and sustaining grace became available to all through faith.  That redeeming grace was nowhere better exemplified than in the life of John Newton.  I love the following retelling of Newton’s salvation story by Wesley Pruden.  It is a reprint of a prior article which appeared in the Washington Times as: The amazing grace of Christmas morn.  RMF

The amazing grace of Christmas morn

By Wesley Pruden

Wesley Pruden
Editor in chief emeritus
The Washington Times

The malls and the Main Streets fall silent. The ringing cash registers and the happy cries of children are but ghostly echoes across silent streets as hearths beckon in the fading light, gathering friends and families.
But in the clutter of Christmas morn, the Christ born in a manger 2,000 years ago lives, liberating the hearts of sinners and transforming the lives of the wicked. The redeeming power of the Christmas message is nowhere more vividly illustrated than in the incredible life of an English slaver named John Newton.

John Newton
Detail of a portrait
by John Russell

John Newton was born 300 years ago into a seafaring family in Liverpool. His mother was a godly woman whose faith gave her life meaning. She died when John was 7, and he recalled as the sweetest remembrance of childhood the soft and tender voice of his mother at prayer.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

My Friend Dean Walley

My Friend Dean Walley

Dean Walley

Dean was a dear friend.  We met while we were students at the University of Missouri. At the time Dean was just transitioning from the UM School of Law to the School of Journalism (J School).  We were members of the Beta Theta chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon (The Tekes) fraternity. A favorite memory of Dean was during a Thanksgiving break when I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with Dean at his family’s home in Hannibal and learning about his childhood adventures and seeing his favorite haunts during the visit. Dean was a real gentleman and I wish I could have maintained closer contact with him after our years at Mizzou were over.  Unfortunately our contact following our time at Mizzou was by long distance communication.  I miss Dean. 

Dean was a great writer.  See his obit below and you’ll see what I mean.  The following is one of my personal favorites of his writing – a poem called Hugs.  I believe it is especially appropriate for times of sadness such as when you lose a friend – a good friend like Dean Walley.  RMF


By Dean Walley

It’s wondrous what a hug can do.
A hug can cheer you when you’re blue
A hug can say, “I love you so,”
Or, “I hate to see you go.

A hug is “Welcome back again.”
And “Great to see you! Where ‘er you been?”
A hug can soothe a small child’s pain
And bring a rainbow after rain.

The hug, there’s just no doubt about it —
We scarcely could survive without it!
A hug delights and warms and charms;
It must be why God gave us arms

Hugs are great for fathers and mothers,
Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers;
And chances are your favorite aunts
love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them, puppies love them,
Heads of states are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier
And make your travel so much merrier.

No need to fret about your store of ’em;
The more you give, the more there are of ’em.
So stretch those arms without delay
And give someone a hug today!

Here is the obituary as it appeared in the Sept. 29th edition of the Hannibal Courier~Post, Dean’s hometown newspaper:   Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas the Holiday is a Holy Day

I’m so very happy that the Washington Times carries Rebecca Hagelin’s “Inside the Culture” articles. They’re wonderful, God honoring, pieces that are so very refreshing as they appear right in the midst of an essentially secular newspaper. Ms. Hagelin’s article in this morning’s issue is especially timely as it reminds Christians and informs nonbelievers of the prophecies that preceded the arrival of Jesus and their abiding significance.  May we, as the author suggests, pay close heed to Scripture and not supplant it with religiosity and manmade rules as if we had no need for a Savior at all.  May God’s Word, both written and incarnate in Jesus, teach us justice and truth.  The article appears at: washingtontimes as: Christmas is the Holiday.  RMF

Yes, it’s the ‘holiday’ season — and the holiday is Christmas
By Rebecca Hagelin

“For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given;
“and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
“and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
~ Isaiah 9:6 ~

The Jewish people must have thought that Isaiah had gone mad.

Written some 700 years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah lived at a time when his people were desperate for a savior. Throughout history, Jews suffered tremendous persecution, frequently enslaved and treated brutally. They constantly watched and waited for the one who would come to conquer their enemies once and for all, as was promised to their forefather Abraham so many years earlier.

They imagined their savior would come as a mighty warrior-king who would trample their persecutors, establishing his kingdom above all others. Most were certain their salvation would be complete and final, won in battle through a fearless leader who the people would adore, allowing them to finally live in everlasting peace and prosperity.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Real Peace in an Age of Turmoil

The Christmas season is an excellent time to consider the nature of Jesus’ presence with us.  The prophet Isaiah described Him in the following way:

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Jesus’ designation as the “Prince of Peace” is especially comforting to me as there are so many distractions and world events which have the potential to rob our Peace and our Joy.   Here is a timely and useful article by April Cassidy which appeared at: peaceful  as:  7 Keys to Finding Real Peace.  My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior and learn to cast all your cares and anxiety on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).  RMF

7 Keys to Finding Real Peace

By April Cassidy

April Cassidy
The Peaceful Wife

It is really easy to let our circumstances, problems, and disappointments in other people to rob us of the peace we can have in Jesus.

Some of the main ways I find peace are in things like:

1. Thinking about God’s character.

(For verse references about God’s character, please check the post at this link from

He is eternal.
He is completely good.
He is incapable of evil.
He is love.
He is truth.
He is holy.
He is just.
He is kind.
He hates sin.
He is righteous.
He exercises wrath against sin, He cannot ignore it.
He is omnipotent.
He is omniscient.
He is omnipresent.
He is Spirit.
He never changes.
He is One.
He is sovereign.
He is kind.
He is merciful,
He is gracious.
He alone is God, there is no other.

2. Praising God.

I want to praise Him out loud whenever possible – every day. Including singing praises at the top of my lungs to Him. There is so much power in our praises to God. Satan and demons hate to be around the praises of God’s people. They tend to flee at the sound. Our praises make our lives welcoming and cozy to the Lord and hostile toward the enemy. There are thousands of beautiful worship and praise songs we can access so easily today. I encourage you to make singing to God and making music in your heart to Him a big priority all throughout each day.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Christian Perspective on Immigration

I greatly respect Pastor Bob Russell’s views on matters of opinion in contemporary issues. Here is an article dealing with illegal immigration and what to think and do about it. The article appeared at: as: ASK BOB: How Should Christians Respond to Immigration Issues? RMF

Pastor Bob Russell

Occasionally people ask my opinion on various personal or church issues. I recently received the following question which I have reprinted below, followed by my response.

Bob,   I have a question about immigrants that enter the US illegally. Some may or may not commit crimes but nevertheless are often protected and provided for in sanctuary cities. My questions: 1) Why do many clergy and churches seem to side with the view that it is ok to not obey US immigration laws and defend immigrants that break them? 2) Is there some biblical reference to justify disregarding or not obeying the current laws of the land as it regards to illegal immigration?


You are right. Many preachers, including evangelical ministers, are sympathetic to the concept of open borders and sanctuary cities, even if it means disregarding the Scriptural teaching about obeying the law of the land. I think there are several reasons for that position.

(1) The Old Testament repeatedly encouraged the Jewish people to treat the alien with respect and generosity. “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Learning to think is a worthwhile pursuit

Feelings and emotions are God-given components or our human nature.  So also are the ability to reason and to think.  Somewhere along the way the former seem to have gained the upper hand in the lives of many with the consequence that truth seeking has been left in the dust.  The following is a thoughtful article by Dr. Everett Piper on the role education should have in righting the situation.  The article appeared in:  The Washington Times as: Bringing light to the dark halls of the ivory tower.  RMF

Bringing light to the dark halls of the ivory tower
(Why children should not be in schools that teach pablum)
By Everett Piper

Wasted College Education
(Illustration by Greg Groesch)

Dr. Everett Piper

Since the release my book, “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth,” I have been asked over and over again by the likes of everyone from Pat Robertson and Adam Carolla to Glenn Beck, Dennis Prager, Dana Perino and Jim Dobson: “Okay, Dr. Piper, you’ve identified the problem in our colleges and universities, now what’s the solution?
My answer?
Stop sending your children off to these institutions that teach this pablum. The solution to self-absorption, narcissism, intellectual vacuity and moral nihilism is simple: Stop teaching it.
Adam MacLeod, associate professor of Law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., stands nearly alone in shining a light in the dark halls of today’s ivory tower. In his recent article, published in The New Boston Post, Mr. MacLeod says this: “I increasingly find that most of [my students] cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings.”

Professor Adam MacLeod

He goes on, “Before I can teach [them] how to reason, I must first teach [them] how to rid [themselves] of unreason Reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of [us] have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. [We] have learned to associate truth with [our] subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only [ours], and which are constantly changeful.”
Mr. MacLeod is absolutely right. Education should not be about the propagation of your feelings. The best education is not about pandering to what makes you “feel good” but, rather, it is about confronting you with the facts about what “is good.” Truth should be the goal of an educated people, not emotions, not opinions, and not feelings.
When I officiate commencement at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, I don’t pat you on the back as you graduate and give you a diploma in “opinions.” You don’t earn a degree in “feelings” at OKWU. No, after four years of study at my university, I actually expect you to leave here with at least some measure of truth above and beyond what you had when you started. I actually expect you to learn something. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment