We all know the words of this classic Christmas song on the birth of Jesus: Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, all is bright, Round yon virgin, mother and child Holy infant, tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace. I am reminded of the paradox presented in the birth of Christ. It was a time of great peace because of the fulfillment of the one who promised to deliver His people. But on the other hand is was not a time of peace and tranquility.
The carol is a poem written by Josef Mohr set to music composed by Franz Gruber in December 1818. It just so happens that a band of actors that were traveling through the Austrian Alps were scheduled to re-enact the Christmas story in the Church of St. Nicholas in the town of Oberndorf (near Salzburg). The scheduled re-enactment was moved to a private residence due to a broken church organ.
The presentation of the account from Matthew and Luke touched the assistant Josef Mohr. It was on his journey home that snowing evening overlooking a town below that he remembered a poem that he had written several years earlier. Mohr pondered using his poem for a carol at the Christmas Eve service the following evening. But he faced a challenge, he was not a musician.
He enlisted Franz Xaver Gruber the church organist for help. Franz’ challenge was to compose a melody that could be sung and accompanied by guitar. They now had a carol that could be sung without an organ for Christmas Eve. That Christmas Eve in 1818 a congregation sang the favorite carol accompanied by Gruber on the guitar. It was not until 1863 that the Christmas carol would be translated and sung in English.
Silent Night and how it was created captures that parody of the very first Christmas and every first Christmas. The accounts recorded in Mathew and Luke of the darkness of that night. A young couple smothered with false accusation of a pregnancy outside of marriage. The burden was compounded by traveling in the last month of pregnancy during a busy time. The birth in a manger with the noises and smells from the animals seemed anything but celestial.
Yet the Divine Son of God had brought the light of hope into a world of brokenness, despair and darkness. The very first Christmas was a true silent night because of God’s work among humanity!
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)
Let me encourage you this Christmas season to see the season from the Creator’s perspective. Merry CHRISTmas!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson