What was the first sound to go out over radio waves? It was the sound of “O Holy Night,” the Christmas hymn, being played on a violin by Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden.
There was a day in America where people put God first, and He was ever close to the hearts and in the thoughts of most people. When Samuel Morse was inventing the telegraph, the first words he ever typed into his new machine was “what hath God wrought?” Likewise, when Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden was inventing broadcast AM radio on December 24, 1906, he sent over the radio waves a bible verse from Luke 2, and on his violin he played the Christmas hymn “O Holy Night”.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:10-14 (KJV)
In the transition from the 19th to the 20th centuries, God blessed America with an outpouring of knowledge and inventions such like this world has ever seen. Those things gave America unprecedented wealth and world power that exists to this day. But somewhere along the way, America has forgotten to honor the God that had blessed them so mighty. In 2018, wishing someone a ‘Merry Christmas‘ is akin to hate speech, and Santa Claus has replaced Jesus Christ as the reason for the season.
America is not a theocracy, and we don’t rule from the bible. But our Founding Fathers made sure to include God every step of the way, imperfect as it may have been. If only we would remember Who it is that has blessed us and sustains our being. Reginald Fessenden invented broadcast radio, and on his very first transmission he gave glory to the God of Abraham.
On this Christmas night, as the darkness from the coming end times rushes at us from all directions, look up and listen. The Master is coming in the clouds as He has promised, and it won’t be long now.
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20 (KJV)
112 Years Ago Today, “O Holy Night” First Song Broadcast Over Radio Waves
FROM PULPIT & PEN: On December 24, 1906, the first radio broadcast was made over what was then brand new technology. Reginald Fessenden was a Canadian-born inventor who did most of his work in the United States. He built a system of wireless transmission using amplitude modulation (AM).
During that first broadcast over radio, Fessenden also played the Christian song, Adore and be Still by Gounod, and finished by a closing Scripture, Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Some accounts recall Handel’s song, Ombra mai fu, being played as well.
Radio is widely regarded as the single greatest and most influential medium in the history of the world, even more so than television and – believe it or not – even the Internet. Radio certainly deserves the award for longest lasting non-written medium. No other medium besides print – which is quickly dying before our eyes – has so largely impacted human civilization as has radio.
From AM to FM, short-wave to even pirate, various forms of radio communication has connected the world, combined continents, reached into fascist regimes, spread democracy and most importantly, spread the gospel. Walls and censors cannot stop it. Long distances cannot readily impede it. It is a form of communication that truly was, and continues to be, revolutionary.
Two millennia ago, the Son of God came into the world and was born in a stable and laid in a manger. Three astronomers pursued him from the East to welcome him (they made it late) and that night, but that night, the only welcome party to Christ were a few lowly shepherds who were tending their sheep by night.
The angels came to those lowly shepherds and and sang the words of Luke 2:14. Few heard it that night. It was a humbling way for the Christ child to enter the world. The news of this baby’s birth would grow throughout the world, and continue to expand, well after that baby’s eventually death and resurrection.
How sweet is it, how surreal, that the first sound going out over the greatest form of broadcast media in world history, would be heralding the birth of this newborn king.
O holy night! the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope – the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!