SILENT NIGHT, HOLY NIGHT

I love the cold weather, and I thoroughly enjoy some snow.  Not enough to cause horrible accidents, power outages or massive difficulties, but snow on the trees and bushes and lightly covering the ground.  I love the calming effect and profound silence that falling snow brings.

snowy-tranquility-c
Snowy quiet and tranquility.

One Christmas carol that is calming even in the midst of a season of tumultuous activity is Silent Night, Holy Night.  This calming effect is due, at least in part, to 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. [1] Round yon virgin, mother and child,Holy infant, so tender and mild, [2] Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace

[1]  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?””

[2]  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.”

John 14:27

The peace Jesus provides is overwhelming, and is heavenly peace!

  • Silent night, holy night,  [1] Shepherds quake at the sight; Glories stream from heaven afar, [2]  Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!  [3] Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born. 

[1]  The word “quake” is not found in the description of the shepherds on that hillside.  However, 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!

[2]  Luke 2:13-14 tells 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”.

[3]  “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.”

Matthew 1:21

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.

Luke 2:11

  • Silent night, holy night, (1) Son of God, love’s pure light; (2) Radiant beams from thy holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace, (3) Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

[1] The babe in the manger was truly the Son of God and “love’s pure light”.   Jesus said:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. .””

John 8:12

I doubt that the Babe in the manger had a halo around His head as depicted in religious art.  But radiance does assuredly apply to our Lord.  Consider 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.”

Matthew 17:2 

[2]  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.”

[3]  The carol concludes with the statement “Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.”   This is, too, an accurate statement and it is an affirmation of faith and belief in that wonderful Babe.  Again  Paul writes:

“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!

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.  

Perhaps listening to Silent Night, Holy Night as sung by Nashville Liberty Acappella on their album Christmas Acappella will get you into the stillness mode.    

Do whatever it takes to calm yourself this Christmas.  You will be glad you did and your relationship with your Father will grow stronger even in  the hectic 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.

SILENT NIGHT, PART 2

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.

Snowy branches.JPG
Snow in branches, undisturbed by frenetic activity on the ground below.

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.

John 14:27

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.

Matthew 1:21

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.

Luke 2:11

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 lightRadiant 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.

John 15:12

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.

John 8:12

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.

Matthew 17:2 

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.  

Paul writes:

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.

SILENT NIGHT

Anyone who has stood outside while snow is falling has heard “the sound of silence”. 

big-snow-in-chicago-1967
Chicago big snow in 1967

The blanket of snow simply muffles sounds that ordinarily would be heard. 

snow-driveway-and-yard
Front yard and drive covered in white blanket of snow.

It is a silence that is palpable, beautiful and spell-binding.

snowy-tranquility-c
Snowy tranquility.

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.