On Christmas Eve, 1906, at 2100 hours, the first live broadcast of the human voice occurred, crossing miles of ocean to transmit something never before heard into the earphones of a few surprised shipboard radio operators along the Eastern seaboard.
Prior to December 24, 1906, no radio transmissions had been broadcast besides Morse code. Reginald Aubrey Fessendon, a Canadian inventor and the son of a minister of the Church of England, had worked closely with Thomas Edison before being laid off in 1890. Landing a job with the United States Weather Bureau, Fessendon began experimenting with the use of coastal radio stations to transmit weather information without the use of existing telegraph wires. Using a crude microphone from his wireless station in Brant Rock, Massachusetts, Reginald transmitted a piece of music by George Frideric Handel from a phonograph record. After a pregnant pause Fessendon picked up his violin and began to play what is reported to be the first live broadcast performance in human history. Through the popping static and temporary losses of signal, the dark and quiet sea was awakened with song, bringing news of the birth of a child. His selection was the familiar hymn by Adolphe Adam, O Holy Night. Fessendon finished his broadcast with a reading from the book of Luke:
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will. -Luke 2:14
On that Christmas Eve in 1906, there were only a few who were reported to have heard this world changing broadcast. This story pierces me with both its ancient and modern day parallels. Humbly, patiently, in hope, an infinitely loving God broadcasts in innumerable ways his invitation to a sleepy and hurting world. And he uses us, the crudest of instruments, to carry his message. How divine.
O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining. 'Til 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! Oh, hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born.
"Jesus, you are light in my darkness. You are love spoken into my silence. You are healing in my brokenness. You are my hero forever."