His law is love and his Gospel is peace (O Holy Night)

“O Holy Night” was originally a French carol and is based on Placede Cappeau’s poem “Minuit, Chretians!” (Midnight! Christians).  Adolph Adam composed the music in 1847. It was written to celebrate the renovation of the church organ in Roquemare.[1]

There are at least three English language versions of this now, including a recent version by Sovereign Grace Music.

I love the words in the third verse of perhaps the most familiar version by John Dwight Sullivan .

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.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us praise His holy name.

The line “His law is love and his gospel is peace” reminds us that in conversation with a teacher of the law who had come to test him, Jesus confirmed that the greatest two commandments are

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”[2]

God is love, he has poured out his love and grace in making us in his image and giving us this wonderful world to live in. Our right response to his love is whole-hearted love in return is love for him and love for one another.

The carol carries a strong justice theme:

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.


This reminds us of the second commandment that we are called to love each other. The Gospel breaks injustice, Jesus is the one who came to set captives free.  200 years ago, people like William Wilberforce and John Newton realised that there was an implicit imperative in the gospel message that slavery has no place among us. We are all made in God’s image and if Christ came to die for all mankind then we cannot justify treating any one as lower than us because of race, gender or class.


However, it also reminds us that “the slave is our brother” because like him, outside of Christ we find ourselves as slaves.  We are slaves to sin. It binds us and controls us. It stops us from loving God as we should. It prevents us from loving our friends, neighbours and family as we should. Sin creates enmity between us.


And so we need the good news of the Gospel.


His gospel is peace


Through his death and resurrection, Christ has reconciled us to God.  This is why we call the night when Jesus was born “Holy.” This is why we fall on our knees and praise his name for ever.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Holy_Night

[2] Luke 10:27.