Silent Night

Silent night! Holy night!

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and child!

Holy infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace!

Sleep in heavenly peace!

Silent night! Holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight!

Glories stream from heaven afar,

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night! Holy night!

Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!

It wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without Silent Night. For generations, Christians have sung the carol together by candlelight on December 24. Our online Christmas Eve service this year includes a recording of our congregation singing Silent Night last year. Silent Night is a relative newcomer to the Christmas scene, though– it’s only two hundred years old!

Back in 1818, 26-year-old Father Joseph Mohr was the parish priest of a village called Oberndorf. That year, there had been significant flooding that damaged the church organ, rendering it inoperable for the Christmas Eve Mass. Desperate to make a meaningful Christmas Eve service, Father Mohr went to Franz Gruber, the organist of a neighboring town, and asked him to compose music to accompany Father Mohr’s poem on guitar. Gruber worked very well under pressure, creating the beloved Silent Night tune to go along with the words written by Father Mohr.

The song was immediately popular, first reaching the U.S. in 1839. Unfortunately, the original manuscript was lost, and for decades no one knew the true composer of the music or lyrics. An original copy created in 1820 was discovered in 1995, identifying the true creators and telling about the flooded organ.

For two centuries, Silent Night has been bringing people together. Notably, Silent Night was sung by German and Allied soldiers during the “Christmas Truce” of 1914. Barely five months into World War One, then called “the Great War,” the men in the trenches decided that Christmas was no time for death. Across Europe, they laid down their weapons for one night and day. They sang carols across the trenches. They traded rations, cigarettes, and liquor. They retrieved the bodies of their fallen comrades. In one case, they even held a soccer match. When Christmas ended, the war resumed.

Christmas often comes as a respite from life’s trouble. It can be a break at the end of a year, a time-out from winter blues. For children and school staff, it marks a half-way point. Does it make a difference on December 26, though? Those soldiers in 1914 went right back to killing each other the next day.

I pray that Christmas makes a difference for you, not just on one or two days, but every day. I pray that the redeeming grace of our Lord Jesus shines brightly for you all year long. I pray that this Christmas might find you joining with the heavenly hosts singing Alleluia, praise be to God.

Son of God, you shine love’s pure light into my heart. May your redeeming grace transform my life today and every day. Amen.

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