How Silent Was It That Silent Night

In 1818 a group of traveling actors was re-enacting the story of Christ’s birth throughout Austria. On December 23rd, they arrived at a small town near Salzburg to perform at the Church of St. Nicholas. But on that night, the church organ failed to work and so the presentation took place in a private home rather than in the sanctuary.

On the way home that evening, Assistant Pastor Josef Mohr took a longer walk home looking out over the quiet countryside. As he took in the picturesque scene he remembered a poem he’d written a couple of years before.

The following day Pastor Mohr gave the poem to the church organist, Franz Gruber.  A few hours later, Silent Night was sung to guitar accompaniment at St. Nicholas’ Christmas Eve Service.

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 Al-le-lu-ia!
Christ the Saviour is born!
Christ the Saviour is born!

Silent night, holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light!
With the angels let us sing
Alleluia to our King!
Christ the Saviour is here,
Jesus the Saviour is here!

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.

I have to admit, Silent Night is one of my favorite Christmas Carols; however, although silence may have aptly described the Austrian hillside in the early eighteen hundreds. I seriously doubt that these words give an accurate depiction of Bethlehem at the time of the nativity.

Crowded village, animals, child-birth, angels, shepherds . . . not quiet. Definitely not quiet.

But.

Christ the Savior is born. 

This is not something about which to be quiet.

This must be announced.

In the first century, the 21st century, those between, and beyond.

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.”
Luke 2:13-14

 

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