Recently an article of note ran in the British paper The Guardian. Guardian Media Group is a British mass media company owning a variety of media outlets across the ocean.
The group would not be considered a conservative perspective on the news, often being described as “leaning left of center” in its opinions. The article noted that faith is becoming more and more popular around the world, and attempted to uncover the reasons why.
Their facts pointed that 84% of the world’s population identifies with a religious group. They noted that members of this demographic are younger than those who claim to have no religious affiliation. Despite what some would have you believe, the world is getting more religious, not less.
Boyd Matheson, in an opinion piece for the Deseret News, wrote, “Faith and religious activity are not the only answer to what ails society, but they create valuable connections.”
We are taking a few weeks during the holiday season to pause and think about the message contained in some of our favorite Christmas carols. To this point, our thoughts have centered upon the carols, “Silent Night” and “It Came upon the Midnight Clear.” One of our favorite hymns bids the faithful to come. Let’s take a few minutes to explore the story of “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
This beloved carol has its origins in a rebellion. The Jacobite rising was fought for control of the throne of England, but the strife also played out between the members of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. As such, John Wade, a devout Catholic, was caught in the middle. Fleeing from the United Kingdom for his life, Wade took refuge in France, but found himself without a home, family or an income.
Wade was a musician and a calligrapher. In the 1700s writing and copying music was done by hand. The rebellion destroyed many of the Catholic historical records, including their hymns. Wade was employed by the church to research, record and preserve the hymns and liturgies of the faith. With the flair of a calligrapher, Wade’s copies of music gave unique life and style to the old hymns. Through his beautiful detail, the priest re-introduced hymn-singing to the people in France.
Wade also wrote new hymns as he was engaged in his work. For years the belief was that Wade had discovered a hymn from a couple of hundred years prior, but recent findings lead us to believe that Wade penned the Latin words and music himself. Seven original hand-copied manuscripts of a Latin hymn beginning Adeste Fidelis have been found, all bearing Wade’s unique style and signature.
John Wade died on Aug. 16, 1786 at the age of 75. In his obituary, the paper honored him for his “beautiful manuscripts” that could be found in chapels and homes throughout the countryside.
Over time, English Catholics began to return to Great Britain, and some of the returning believers brought Wade’s hymn with them. Anglican minister Frederick Oakeley, preaching at a church in London, was moved by the words and music. He undertook the task of translating the Latin words into English. His first published translation began “Ye Faithful, Approach Ye.”
You’re right — it didn’t catch on. But Oakeley was going through several changes himself, including converting to Catholicism. After studying a little more vigorously in the nuances of the Latin language, Oakeley continued working on the words and finally settled on “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” What an amazing invitation!
O come before God, you who are faithful. Come before Him in a manner that is both joyful and triumphant. Our natural tendency is to approach God the way we walk down the hallway when we have been summoned to the principal’s office. Set aside the fears and apprehension. A child in a manger paved the way to the Father with grace and love.
O come together, you who are faithful. Life is better lived when supported by others with faith. Even in the midst of disaster, the faithful find hope and secure vision together. Did you see the national news broadcast from the parking lot of a church in Mayfield, Kentucky? While their church stood in rubbles, the members of the congregation gathered and shared hugs and communion.
O come to the rescue, you who are faithful. Within hours of the news of the tragedy, at least one church in Louisville had sent a generous gift to the area. Other churches were sending volunteer nurses, electricians and clean-up crew. Carpenters were securing supplies and heading there.
Come, you who are faithful, to a small village close to Jerusalem called Bethlehem. This will be a sign for you. You will find a baby in a manger. Worship him now, because you are going to see great things from this child. The child is going to change your life.
Come, you who are faithful. This isn’t about theology and dogma. It isn’t about law-keeping or good works. Faith is about a relationship with a God who, in an unheard of act of grace, became one of us. We are humbled and honored to come and see the child.
Jesus said everything written in the Law and the Prophets boils down to two things. Love God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Sometimes we make faith too complex. O Come, you who are faithful.