We have spoken of the way, in 1818, this carol came about. From the majestic heights of the Austrian Alps we see the image of the village covered in snow and the profound silence that the snow brings.
While the carol is a calming influence in a season of tumultuous activity, the carol is also calming because of its sound theology. Let us look at the words of this carol and consider the Scripture that relates to each stanza.
- 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.
The prophet Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 7:14:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
This prophecy was quoted in Matthew 1:23 with a small addition, the meaning of the term “Immanuel”:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to her son, Jesus. Indeed, she confirmed that this prophesy was being fulfilled when she said, in Luke 1:34:
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
Then there is the phrase “Sleep in heavenly peace”. Jesus is, truly, the source of peace. When His disciples were afraid, He said:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
The peace Jesus provides is overwhelming, and is 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!
While the Holy Scripture does not use the word “quake” to describe the shepherds on that hillside, the Scripture does support the concept in Luke 2:9 where we read:
“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.”
I have to say, if I saw an angel of the Lord, with the glory streaming from the angel surrounding me, I believe that I would be filled with fear and would likely “quake” too!
Then we read in Luke 2:13-14 that there was great singing by the heavenly host:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
I can’t write these words without smiling and hearing in my soul the choir singing these words during Christmas anthems. Another way to say “Glory to God” is by use of the word “Alleluia” or Hallelujah meaning “God be praised”.
“Christ the Savior is born”. The angel told Joseph that Jesus was going to be the Savior of men when he announced to him that his betrothed was with a heavenly child.
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
The angels also announced this to the shepherds on that hillside so long ago:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
When Jesus became an adult, He ministered three years and then “set His face toward Jerusalem” so that He could fulfill the mission assigned to Him by the Father — being the sacrificial lamb crucified in atonement for the sins of His people. He was, is and forever will be our Savior.
- 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.
It is true that the babe in the manger was the Son of God, and it is also true that He was “love’s pure light”. Jesus said:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
I doubt that the Babe in the manger had either a radiant face or a halo around His head as depicted in religious art. But radiance does apply to our Lord. Think of the description of Jesus when He was transfigured before three of his disciples. Matthew describes it as follows:
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
Redeeming grace was truly brought to earth when Jesus was born. Paul sums this up in Galatians 4:4-5 where he says:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
The carol concludes with the profound statement “Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.” This is, too, an accurate statement and it is an affirmation of faith and belief in that wonderful Babe.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11. Jesus is Lord of all, and He was Lord even as the Babe. He gave up His heavenly place so He could save us from our sins; but He was no less Lord when He was a man than when He was in heaven. The God/Man Jesus Christ is and always has been part of the Triune God, from the time before time began and He will remain such when time no longer exists and we are in heaven for eternity. Jesus is Lord. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!
Yes, the beautiful carol “Silent Night” sums up the theological point that Jesus is the Son of God, Who was born of a virgin and Who came into this world for the purpose of redeeming us from our sin. The Babe Who is the Lord of all. The salvation story is on full display in this beautiful carol. Praise the Lord!
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. Unfortunately, we cannot be still so that we can know God when we are running frantically in hyper-mode to get everything accomplished that we think needs to be done. Nor can we be still so God can make Himself known to us when His voice is drowned out by the cacophony of electronic beeps and tones, television’s call to view programs of no redeeming value, malls demanding that you purchase goods that you think will satisfy hunger and need but which will only wind up stacked against the wall, unused. You can likely add other scenarios that keep you from being silent before God.
Remember the silence of that holy night when Mary and Joseph looked with loving eyes at the Babe Who was born so miraculously.
Perhaps listening to Silent Night will get you into the stillness mode. Here is “Silent Night, Holy Night” as sung by Saint Michael Singers on the album Gloria.
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, thank You for Your Word that tells of the birth of Jesus even hundreds of years before it occurred. Thank You for Your Word that speaks to us today, thousands of years after Jesus was born, telling us of His birth, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return. 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. Give me the grace to “Be still”, even when chaos reigns around me, through the power and love of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior.