Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
December 23, 2018
Fall on your knees!
Scintillating! That word comes to mind when I hear someone sing the
magnificent Christmas carol, “O Holy Night.” While I love many of the familiar
carols, this is my favorite. It stirs my soul in ways no other carol does.
composed it? I decided to find out, thinking it might have been Bill Gaither or
Charles Wesley. I was surprised to discover the music was composed in 1847 by a Frenchman, Adolphe Adam.
Even more surprising
was the fact that the words are from a French poem written by a wine merchant
and poet, Placide Cappeau,
a contemporary of Adam. Cappeau wrote it when a parish
priest asked him to pen a Christmas poem. Using the Gospel of Luke as his
guide, Cappeau composed the words while traveling in
a dusty coach down a bumpy road on his way to Paris one evening.
The song has no
mysterious meaning. Its message is clear. It begins with the “holy night,” with
the stars “brightly shining,” when Christ was born. Then we are invited to
“fall” on our knees because of the hope our dear Savior brings to a world made
weary by sin. The holy moment of the song for me comes with the words, “Fall on
your knees.” Chills run up and down my spine as those stirring words touch my
the gospels and you notice many people falling on their knees when they came to
Jesus for help. To kneel before another person is to admit one’s need of what
the other person has to offer, as when a man kneels to ask a woman for her hand
During this journey called life, I have been on my knees many times,
usually seeking God’s help and guidance. Dean and I got on our knees together
more than once to save our marriage or to ask for help with life’s problems. It
is a humbling experience driven usually by desperation. But is can also be a
good way to humbly thank God for his mercies.
Christmas is a good
time for us to fall on our knees and give thanks for our blessings, especially
the mercy God extended to us by sending his son to save us from our sins. Many
of us will be on our knees when we receive holy communion on Christmas Eve.
Eve memories are special to me. Every yearI remember
Charles and Jennifer Jones and their family in Opelika. They never missed
communion and they always arrived at the same time – just as the service was
Robert, an attorney now, was seven he pulled a good one on me. As he approached
the altar he became conscious of the wad of bubblegum in his mouth. The
resourceful little fellow did not panic. Without missing a beat, he discretely
removed the gum from his mouth and with a sly smile handed it to me. Only the
most observant souls saw the transaction occur. Ever since that night I have
felt good about Robert. He has what it takes to handle the ups and downs of
life and keep smiling.
Not everyone receiving the sacrament on
Christmas Eve will be as carefree as little Robert was that night. Some will be
teary-eyed, knowing that this may be the last Christmas they will have with
someone they love dearly. None of us knows how many more Christmases we will
share with our loved ones and friends. So it behooves us to remember that
because life is short we should do our best to squeeze the last drop of joy
possible out of every moment.
Life is not
a cakewalk. We have to embrace it all – the good and the bad, the bitter and
the sweet, the joy and the sorrow – and like Robert, walk on and keep smiling.
We all struggle. We all suffer. We all hurt when families are torn apart and
the end of suffering is nowhere in sight.
can get on our knees and give thanks! Despite our pain we have much for which
to be thankful. Nothing is gained by cursing God and allowing cynicism to ruin
our lives. Bitterness is a dead-end street. Its end is always gnashing of teeth
and lonely darkness. As long as there is one sip of joy left in the cup we must
not let bitterness rob us of its sweetness.
On aging knees then, before Santa shows up, I
will find a place to get on my knees and thank God for all my blessings,
especially my wife and my family. At my age it is not easy to get up from being
down on my knees but it is the best position in which to pray. It is a way to
acknowledge the sovereignty of God when sorrows are tearing your heart out.
When bad things happen, it helps to remember
that God is still God and he is able to bring good out of bad. Christmas is
a great time to praise God for relationships that have been healed and
restored. To thank him for the reconciliation that his grace provides and to
ask him to give sweet reconciliation to those who still need it.
tears on the cheeks of genuine thanksgiving? Of course. Tears come quickly when
we recall God’s mercy and realize we did not deserve it. Tears gush freely when
we recall times when things did not go as we had hoped but somehow we found the
strength to go on. Broken things were picked up and unseen hands helped us put
life back together.
As long as
old knees will bend, and stubborn hearts become submissive, there will be
reasons to bow down and offer thanks to God. Christmas may mean more this year
if you follow the poetic advice of Placide Chappeau: “Fall on your knees!”
You may not hear “angel voices,” but you might
hear your heavenly Father whisper, “Merry Christmas, my child; I love you.” + + +