Advent Devotional: Do You Recall Placide Cappeau?

December 19, 2013

Scripture: Luke 2:6, 7 NIV

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in strips of cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:6, 7 NIV).

Is the name Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure familiar? It so happened that in the year 1847 Cappeau’s parish priest in the little town of Roquemaure, France, asked him to write a poem for Christmas. Cappeau asked his friend, Adolphe Charles Adams, who happened to be Jewish, to set his poem to music—the music of my most beloved song, “O, Holy Night.” The American writer John Sullivan Dwight translated the words and introduced the song to America.

On Christmas Eve, 1906, it became the first music ever transmitted through the air over radio waves. Radio operators and wireless owners on ships and in offices, who had never heard anything but code on “the wireless,” sat in shock as they listened.

I distinctly remember learning the words to this beautiful song many years ago when I was in grade school rehearsing for a Christmas program.  I had never heard it before but the feelings that it brought have never left me. The words and the extraordinary music still express to me the wonder and the joy of that night in Bethlehem so long ago. The night that changed the world.

“Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!”

Can you hear it now? I know I can.

Author: Sallie Wells and her husband, Claude, moved to Wilmore from Atlanta last November and joined WFMC the following May. Their daughter and her family are close by. They are overjoyed to be spending time with their grandson now.