Day 9: Silent Night

OK, since I sorta dissed Silent Night yesterday, I thought I’d highlight it today. Because while it’s doubtful that the night of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was all that quiet, this carol stands head and shoulders above maybe every other. Some claim it is the most famous carol of all time. I’m not gonna argue that.

On Christmas Eve in 1818, the organ of St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria was broken. In order to assure carol singing that evening, the priest, Joseph Mohr, gave to his musician friend, Franz Gruber, a poem he had written two years earlier. Gruber wrote a melody to be played on the guitar in time for the midnight mass, and the simple yet beautiful Silent Night was born.

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 Saviour is born!
Christ, the Saviour 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.

This hymn strikes me as a nativity scene in music. In one brief snapshot, we see all the participants of this most holy night. The shepherds shaking in fear. The entire army of God’s angels filling the sky. Mary at peace after the heavy ordeal of giving birth to her holy Son. And Jesus – Savior of the world – peacefully, yet brilliantly gazing into his mother’s face.

This hymn is short on theology in many ways, but long on simplicity and beauty.

As the Lord said in Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Silent Night provides the perfect opportunity. It’s no wonder it’s perhaps the most loved of all carols.

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