The other day I was looking through Spotify for different versions of the Christmas song “O Holy Night.” It is one of my favorite songs of the season because I love that high and beautiful note at the end (“O night, divine...”). I was exploring for more recordings to hear different artists sing the song and belt the note.
As I searched, I was surprised by the results. There were many recordings. Literally dozens upon dozens of options showed up. But it wasn’t the amount of tracks that surprised me, but the various types of people who sang it that was shocking.
I expected to see the versions by the classical Christmas voices such as Andy Williams, Perry Como, and Bing Crosby. I also figured to find the many recordings by modern Christian artists.
Rather than these, what surprised me was the many mainstream artists who recorded the song. Here’s a small sample list of what I found. “O Holy Night” was recorded by Mariah Carey, Pentatonix, Celine Dion, *NSYNC, and the Glee Cast.
Look at that list again. Each one of them recorded and sang the song which blatantly mentions Christ’s name, which talks about worshipping him (“fall on your knees”), declares that “Christ is the Lord,” and which states over and over that the night he was born was a “divine night.” And then these artists’ songs were listened to by the millions who follow their music. Or in the case of Glee, the millions who watch their show.
This is incredible.
The Unknown Exalting of Christ
Isn’t it amazing that this song (and many Christmas songs like it) has been so widely sung and distributed, even among those who do not expressly believe or live according to the words in the song? Again, you can hear for yourself right now *NYSYNC and the Glee Cast singing about how “Christ is the Lord” who will be “praised forever and ever.”
I’m not making the point that these are necessarily bad bands or shows, but they have never shown any interest in exalting the glory of Christ. Yet on Spotify right now, they are unknowingly doing it.
But these recordings caught my attention for a sadder, deeper reason. The Spotify search results were a symbol of the spread and suppression of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Spread of the Gospel
Think about these three facts:
- 1. Jesus of Nazareth is the most influential and famous person who has ever lived on this earth. This is essentially an indisputable fact.
- 2. The Bible itself is by far the most sold, bought, and read book in all of history.
- 3. Jesus-centered songs, such as Christmas songs (like “O Holy Night”) or traditional hymns (like “Amazing Grace”), are widely known and sung all over the world, at times even by non-Christians.
These facts prove that the gospel of Jesus has spread in the world more than we sometimes admit. (Now, I recognize that this is predominantly the Western world, and that there are thousands of people groups still unengaged and unreached. But the points above still stand.) This means that God has not let his good news happen without any news coverage. The good news is being recalled, known, read, and even sung about—even if people don’t know what they’re singing.
God’s witness is loud and clear. As we sing in “O Holy Night”: Christ is the Lord, his name will be praised, and his power and glory will forever more be proclaimed. Or as even our US presidents have sung in “Amazing Grace”: God saves wretches like us by his amazing grace. This is the good news. It has been widely spread.
The Suppression of the Gospel
So why is this a sad thing? It is true that we should be thankful and praise God that the gospel is spreading. “Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
But it is saddening because the gospel has spread and yet so many suppress it. The facts above show that this news about God, us, our sin, and Jesus the Savior are at least decently well known. And yet so many people continue to snuff our God, to suppress the Savior, and to savor their sin. This is heartrending.
The spread is evident, but so is the suppression:
- 1. Jesus is the most well-known person in the world, but the overwhelmingly majority of people who know his name do not care at all about the gospel of love he accomplished for the world.
- 2. The Bible is the most sold, bought, and read book in all of history, but so many people have read parts of it, not been interested, and lived a life without caring about the living God of the Bible.
- 3. Jesus-centered songs are sung by presidents, mainstream music stars, and by the cast of TV shows, but the people who both sing and listen rarely grasp the gospel of glory and love in the songs.
The Sadness We Should Feel
This, therefore, is a tragedy. Christ is known. Christ is rejected.
Christ is being proclaimed “among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15). Christians and non-Christians know of Jesus, they’ve read parts of the Bible, they sing “O Holy Night.”
But he is also being rejected by so many. It is a sad, scary thing. As the passage above continues: Christ is being proclaimed “among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one [that is, those ‘perishing’], a fragrance from death to death, to the other [that is, those ‘being saved’] a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:16).
Why This Breaks My Heart
This changed the way I listened to these songs. It was musically pleasing to hear Mariah Carey or Pentatonix or the Glee Cast sing “O Holy Night.” But it also now breaks my heart.
It is heartbreaking because they do not know their loving Savior, even though they are singing beautifully about him.
It is heartbreaking because they sing about Christ as the Lord, but they have not bowed down to him in this life. And they each will one day admit his reality and his lordship (Philippians 2:9-11).
It is heartbreaking because in their recordings they wonderfully declare the true life that is available through this divine King, but apart trusting him, “the wrath of God remains on [them]” (John 3:36).
Hear with a Broken Heart
Unfortunately we Christians often don’t feel the proper heartbreak we should for those apart from Christ. We either try to brush the thought of hell off, or just get angry at those who share a different worldview because they don’t believe in Christ.
But our main response, like Jesus’s (Matthew 23:37), should be heartbreak. Why? Because the glory of heaven is real, and so is the fearfulness of hell.
As a result, when we hear Jesus mentioned in the media, in songs, in shows, in movies, in books, etc., I challenge all of us to take the opportunity to feel sorrowful because people are rejecting him. Feel sad that he is being suppressed. Let the truths we believe really sink in. Pray for them. Yearn from them to know what they’re reading, saying, and singing.
For one day soon, this Christ the Lord will return to finally judge. He will justly save and condemn. And out of love, we want any and all to be saved. We don’t want them to bear their sins when the cross is available for them.
In short, we deeply desire them to exclaim from the heart now what they often hear and unknowingly sing–that it is true that "Christ is the Lord," that 2,000 years ago the "Savior's birth" was a "divine night," and that he is worthy for us to "praise his holy name."