December 24, 1818, the song Silent Night was sung for the first time ever. It was a last-minute selection for the Christmas Eve service at St Nicholas Parish Church in Oberndorfbei Salzburg, Austria. Father Joseph Mohr, the parish priest,had written the lyrics to this now iconic Christmas song, but had not yet put them to music. The day before the Christmas Eve mass, the church organ broke. As a result, the music selection for the evening service had to be reworked. Father Mohr,remembering the simple lyrics he had written two years earlier, took them to his friend, Franz Gruber, the church organist. Father Mohr thought that the quiet message of his lyrics could be suited for the guitar, the only available accompaniment. In a single day, Franz Gruber created a guitar melody that made the lyrics come alive – a melody that we all know and love! I believe that it was the Holy Spirit’s plan for the lyrics and melody to become the song that was first heard 200 years ago today -a powerful encouragement for Believers to worship their Christ and King.
I recently heard that the spread of the song was made by the organ repairman who saw the music when he came to fix the parish church organ. He shared the song with other churches he visited. He must have been very busy because Silent Night has reached all corners of the globe. Each year it is sung in over 140 languages – the beauty of this sweet song is undeniable, regardless of the language in which it is sung! Some may say that the organ breaking “was a good thing,” but I believe that the origin of Silent Night fits squarely in the category of a “God thing!” As He always does, God uses brokenness to make something beautiful!
My favorite fact about this song, and the reason for today’s quick Christmas Eve post, is the way the Holy Spirit once used it to bring about peace. Being married to a soldier, I have heard my husband tell of the Christmas Eve truce of December 1914. The story goes like this: several months after the start of WWI soldiers of both sides of the war had dug in; they found themselves living in parallel trenches, sometimes only 50-75 feet apart from each other. They often smelled each other’s food cooking, heard each other’s conversations and became familiar with each other’s happenings taking place just out of eye sight. On this particularly cold Christmas Eve,and as the day turned into night, soldiers began singing Silent Night. Before long, and all up and down the opposing trenches throughout the battlefield, men joined in singing this carol in their own language. In the midst of war, the ugliest of human atrocities, God’s love shone in the darkness! Soon soldiers on both sides began singing other songs like,O Come All Ye Faithful too. Some German soldiers held up signs to the British soldiers that read, “You no shoot, we no shoot.” The following morning, Christmas Day, opposing soldiers in some places ventured from their trenches to meet in “No Man’s Land,” the dead space between the trenches, to share food, play soccer and enjoy a day of peace. I am certain that the commanding officers were perplexed. Since December 1914, this familiarity with the enemy has been discussed in countless military classes across the globe. Yet, there is no denying that it happened – in spite of their circumstances, God’s spirit brought peace to those men!
As I ponder the significance of what happened on battlefields across Europe 104 years ago, I can’t help but think that there is a lesson here for us. If soldiers who did not know each other and who only hours earlier had been shooting at each other could call a truce to celebrate the birth of Christ, then all of mankind can do the same too! There can be no exceptions. In your own marriage, lay down your weapons, your hurts, your cross words, and your revenge. Clasp hands with your spouse and allow God’s peace to take over your marriage. Focus on the significance of the event … God becoming man … and let that thought quiet any anger within you. Lay down past grievances with parents and in-laws and love each other with the “dawn of redeeming grace!” This is the time to forgive and start again.
On this day, when all of Christendom celebrates the entrance of Christ into our broken world, heed the peace-filled words of Silent Night. Let us all simply stop quarreling and instead cling to the hope that Jesus brought to us. Let us all rest in the thought that “all is calm, all is bright.” Let us all rest in the thought that God is in control and sitting on His throne. And maybe, just maybe, if we all do this for this one day, then we will all get hooked on living this way and something will flip inside all our hearts – we will actually walk in the truth of the Gospel and will not just give it lip service.
You may be living in the trenches of a bad marriage, or are in a bad circumstance with your family, or are feeling defeated at your job, or are forgotten by your children. If so, lay your hurts and burdens down at the feet of Jesus and trust that He loves you! Rest in the peace of the knowledge that God’s entrance in the world is truly good news … the best news! Although thoroughly sinful, we have a way into the presence of God through His son, Jesus Christ. In the humblest of beginnings, in a smelly manger, with parents who were very young, and without worldly means, Jesus entered our world and became our everything. With that thought, we can all “sleep in heavenly peace!”
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 Savior is born,
Christ the Savior 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.
Merry Christmas my faithful readers! I pray you feel the lavish love of the Father in a whole new way this Christmas!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).”