When it comes to raw theology in Christmas carols, nothing compares to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” It’s an intellectual tour de force, and believers marvel at how Wesley was able to capture so much Christian truth in a single hymn. But when it comes to raw emotion, few carols can compete with “O Holy Night.” The beloved “Silent Night” is certainly up there with it, but little else from the Christmas repertoire can capture the heart to such an extent. “O Holy Night” can bring tears to the eyes, send chills down the spine, and put believers on their knees in praise and worship. It’s that effective.
For Pastor Tim, “O Holy Night” is doubly emotional because it happened to be his mother’s favorite carol. When it came time for Cherie Valentino to pass from this life to the next, his family gathered around her hospital bed singing this very hymn. In fact, all her medical equipment “flat-lined” right as they were singing the words, “O hear the angel voices.” She died, and then she did—she did hear the angel voices that very moment, as she left this world with an abiding faith in Christ. It was a deep and precious sorrow for all who were there for that sacred moment.
For all that, “O Holy Night,” as we have it today was the result of a joint effort among individuals who would not, by any standard, be considered orthodox Christians. Yet the result is still a masterpiece of seasonal beauty. Journey with us as we look at various aspects of—and the story behind—this beloved Christmas Carol.