Silent Night is a perfect carol to end our series, as this Christmas season has recently come to a close. While the radio plays “holly jolly” Christmas music all throughout the hurried shopping and family get togethers, Silent Night can help us be still and reflect on the holiday that just passed us by. This carol centers around the birth of Jesus and those affected on that holy night.
Its verses tell of the shepherds’ awe and the heavenly hosts praising God, derived from the account in Luke 2:
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”
Silent Night, one of our most well-known carols, had an unexpected beginning. Its words were written (“Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht”) in 1816 by Joseph Mohr, a young priest assigned to a pilgrimage church in Austria. It’s said that two years later, his church’s organ may have been inoperable on Christmas Eve, so he determined to perform a carol instead to guitar accompaniment.
Mohr brought his lyrics to organist and choir director Franz Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar music within a couple of hours, for the upcoming service that night. Silent Night was then first performed on Christmas Eve of 1818 at St. Nicholas Church’s midnight mass in Oberndorf, Austria.
Organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived weeks later to repair the church organ; once he finished, Gruber tested out the instrument with Silent Night. Mauracher took copies of the music back to his own village, where two popular families of musicians, the Rainers and Strassers, heard it and added it to their repertoire to perform across Europe and the United States.
Gruber’s “Authentic Account” regarding Silent Night has no mention of any specific inspiration for the writing of the song, except for the fourth verse. This verse expresses a great longing for peace and comfort, telling us how “Jesus lovingly embraced the peoples of the world”. We can take full comfort in the fact that Jesus came into this world as our Messiah, promising peace to us, saving us from sin and darkness. Even the darkness you may be walking in the midst of at this very moment. The darkness in your heart or the darkness of brokenness surrounding you.
No matter the circumstances of the Christmas season you just experienced, He has come. Rest in your promised heavenly peace.
“Simeon: And because of His visitation, we may no longer desire God as if He were lacking: our redemption is no longer a question of pursuit but of surrender to Him who is always and everywhere present. Therefore at every moment we pray that, following Him, we may depart from our anxiety into His peace.” -WH Auden, For the Time Being
Recommended Track of the Week: “Silent Night” by Lauren Daigle