Song Talks

Silent Night

  • Song Talks

Good morning, afternoon or evening! I'm sure you've heard the story of Silent Night and how the song came to be. But in case you haven't, there are a few different versions. Some say that Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics in 1816 and then when the organ broke, he ran to his friend and composer Franz Gruber and they composed a simple melody that was set to guitar for the Christmas Eve service in 1818. Another version is that Mohr was coming back from a speaking engagement one evening and was taken aback by the stillness of the moonlight mountains and began to reflect on what the night Christ was born must have been like. He sat down on a hillside and composed these well-known lyrics:

"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."

Providentially the song came into being that Christmas Eve, when apparently a mouse had chewed away the baffles of the organ, leaving Mohr with a conundrum. How was he supposed to lead the Christmas Eve Mass! That's when his friend Gruber came to the rescue, composing a simple melody to Mohr's new lyrics on the guitar to be used that evening.

Well, legend or truth, it's a great story and a timeless song that has been sung at Christmas for over 200 years now. However, being a father of five kids, I can hardly imagine that the night Christ was born was anything but silent! Child birth is not a quiet endeavor! I was easily the loudest one in the room with all five of my kids! I'll never forget the nurses and doctors encouraging me to count to ten encouraging my wife to push for 10 seconds at a time. I never made it to number 6. I cried out loud every time. It was loud and chaotic! Amy (my wife) was the quietest one in the room! The doctor and nurses were energized and shouting out commands and instructions to each other, I was a blubbering idiot and when the babies came into the world, the crying got even louder!

You can imagine that evening so many years ago was probably similar. A dad that had most-likely never seen a human baby born before. A young girl that Mohr calls, "mother and child", had never given birth before much less been with a man. Animals making all kinds of noise in a cave in the side of a hill, and the sounds of the night screaming into the moonlit expanse of Israel. Anything but silent! And that was before the visitors showed up!

What made the night silent, according to Mohr, was its holiness. The uniqueness of it all. After all that is what the word "holy" means. Set apart. Wholly other. In a category all by itself. Alone and silent. That night was different than any night previous and any night to come. Why? God became flesh that night. The holy, wrapped in baby clothes. It was truly THE "silent" night.

Let's celebrate God with us this season. Remembering that the one born through the spirit and blood, would exit the world covered in his own blood, for the sins of many. Glory to God and peace on all to whom his favor rests!



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