Anyone who has stood outside while snow is falling has heard “the sound of silence”.
The blanket of snow simply muffles sounds that ordinarily would be heard.
It is a silence that is palpable, beautiful and spell-binding.
That snowy silence was the impetus behind the Christmas carol “Silent Night” which is a staple in the Christmas collection of carols for thousands of churches. Even secular groups will sing the song because of its incredible imagery, beautiful lyrics and soul-calming theme.
Here is the story behind the creation of this beautiful Christmas classic.
In 1818, Josef Mohr was assistant pastor of the St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg in the Austrian Alps. He was in a meditative mood as he walked home after a Christmas presentation in a friend’s home. He walked along the longer path to his home which took him to the top of a hill.
Surrounded by the majestic Alps, from his vantage point over the village, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. He experienced the awesome silence of the night as he looked at the shining scene below him that looked rather like a Christmas card. As he pondered on the scene, he remembered a poem that he had written a couple of years earlier which described the night when angels came to the shepherds on a hillside to announce the birth of the Messiah.
While Mohr had words that he believed would be a good Christmas carol for the congregation to sing at the Christmas Eve service, he did not have any music. So, he went to see the church organist, Franz Gruber. In short, Gruber had to have a melody that could be sung that evening with a guitar since the organ was out of commission. Gruber composed the music for Mohr’s poem and they sang it that evening without the organ. The congregation loved the carol, and it is reported that many of the people had tears in their eyes from its beautiful rendition.
Later, the organ builder came to repair the St. Nicholas church organ, and, when completed, he asked Gruber to play a tune to test the repair. Gruber sat down at the organ and began playing the melody he had written for Mohr’s Christmas poem. Struck by the beauty of the piece, the organ builder took copies of the music and words of “Silent Night” back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers, the Rainers and the Strassers, heard the song. They were so thrilled with “Silent Night” that both groups put the new carol into their Christmas season repertoire.
The rest, as they say, is history. The carol swept the world and now it is sung in over 300 languages worldwide.
The words of the carol are beautiful but their power comes from the fact that the carol is also theologically sound, quite a powerful combination! In the next post, we will examine how theologircally sound this wonderful Christmas carol is. In the meantime, Here is a rendition of the carol by The Piano Guys in their album “A Family Christmas”.
May the blanketing silence of snow cover you, whether literally or figuratively, so that you experience the peace that our Savior brings to your heart and soul even in the hectic days of the Christmas season. The Psalmist says it this way:
Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10. Perhaps listening to Silent Night will get you into the stillness mode. Do whatever it takes to let yourself “Be still”. You will be glad you did and your relationship with your Father will grow stronger this Christmas season.
Father, help me to keep my eyes on You and Your gift to us, the Babe in the manger who became our Sacrifice on the Cross and is now our Savior in Heaven. I pray that my soul would rest in Your peace despite the calendar demands and obligation. Give me the grace to “Be still”, even when chaos reigns around me, all this is through the power and love of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior.