Leonie Quayle discovers an unexpectedly beautiful deeper meaning behind one of her favourite Christmas carols.


Leonie Quayle is a Community Development professional, passionate about justice and the local Church, currently working for Hillsong Aid and Development Australia. 

Today's reading is Isaiah 61:1-2

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but for many years I pretty much ignored Christmas carols. Each year I would hear the familiar melodies and just tune out.

In recent years though, I'm glad to say that I’ve been paying more attention. I’ve discovered anew how beautiful it is to hear through music the different perspectives on Christ’s arrival; some familiar, some unexpected. And I’ve got a personal favourite that resonates deeply with me as it celebrates the night when a different kind of King entered our world:

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease

For years I’d sung O Holy Night, knowing the story of Christmas was the gift of our Saviour. But it took time before I could personally identify with the slave and with God’s agenda of ending oppression.

In today’s reading, Isaiah prophetically announces the mission of the promised and long-awaited King. It is a passage that Jesus later quotes when He declares his mission to “bring good news to the oppressed” (Luke 4). Undoubtedly it was this declaration that a French poet used to guide his penning of O Holy Night in 1847, originally commissioned by a local priest for a Christmas mass. The Catholic church banned the carol because of the author’s political alliance, and the composer’s Jewish heritage, however, people kept singing it. The song was later used in the abolitionist movement and is said to have caused a temporary ceasefire in the midst of World War I (Google it!). This carol speaks of a story far beyond a single event in Bethlehem. It speaks of a kingdom of love and peace that has powerful and tangible social consequences.

King Jesus came into the world as a vulnerable newborn. He told stories that infuriated the religious and made the powerful uncomfortable. He washed His disciple's feet and prioritised outcasts. He humbled himself, even to death on a Roman cross, giving us the ultimate image of non-violent beauty in response to the dominating and forceful way of the empire. Jesus modelled a revolutionary and transforming kind of kingdom and as He was sent, so are we. We are instructed to pray His kingdom into reality on earth and commissioned to follow Him in bringing it about.

In this kingdom, everyone is treated as having been made in the image of God. Through Jesus, relationships between man and woman and all of creation are reconciled, ending oppression and establishing justice. Those who were once slaves become family, and to a weary world Jesus announces profoundly Good News for the oppressed.

Truly it was a divine and holy night that saw the arrival of this King of kings. Singing about this at Christmas fills me with reverence and anticipation that those who mourn will be comforted, ruins will be rebuilt, and the Lord who loves justice will cause righteousness to bloom and praise to rise.

Daily Reading Isaiah 61:1-2

61 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;

Unexpected Beauty: An Advent series from Common Grace