112 Years Ago Today, “O Holy Night” First Song Broadcast Over Radio Waves

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.

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, Fessden 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 to men of good will.” 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.

However, 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!

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