Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Silent Night! Holy Night!


Good hymns, those marked by sound theology and a fitting match of text and music, have endured because they are timeless and because they are based on scriptural truth. Silent Night! Holy Night! fits the description of a good hymn. Here is a brief reflection on the story behind this hymn followed by the self-explanatory words.

The Christmas Eve of 1818 was at hand. Pastor Joseph Mohr of St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria decided that he needed a carol for the Christmas Eve service. He surmised the little poem he had written two years earlier while serving another church might work. Perhaps this poem could be set to music?

Pastor Mohr hurried off to see his friend, Franz Xaver Gruber, who was a schoolteacher and also served as the church's organist and choir master. In a few short hours Franz came up with the hauntingly beautiful melody that is so loved and revered to this day. At the request of Joseph, who had a special love for guitar, Franz composed the music for guitar accompaniment. Just a few short hours later, Franz stood with his friend the pastor, Joseph, in front of the altar in St. Nicholas church and introduced "Stille Nacht" to the congregation! Pretty amazing if you ask me.


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 the holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Silent night! Holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing
alleluia to our King;
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Christ, the Savior, is born!

Very simply, This hymn reflects on the how the extraordinary nature of Christ’s birth (Holy) compels reverent reflection (Silence).

Every year Redeemer has a Candelight Service of Six Lessons and Six Carols. We conclude the service singing Silent Night. It is a precious time of worship and reflection bringing Advent to conclusion with the arrival of Christmas.

5 comments:

The Last Mohican! said...

Silent Night is beautiful no matter what language it is sung in. The last few days I must confess that I am struggling with secular Christmas. I went to Topeka over the weekend with my wife as she had her army duty there. The traffic was horrible and everywhere I went people were like ants. I got so depressed I retreated to my hotel room.

Today we spent way too much money for the Christmas meal at our house. By the time we finished buying gifts my anxiety rendered me exhausted. In my passive aggressive mind, I scowled at all the santas and snowmen and felt like choking all the elves.

Then my wife wanted to decorate the family room and dining room. I helped but I felt so empty. She asked me what was wrong and I told her "I just can't get into this secular Christmas." Yes around the two table on Christmas Day I will be grateful that all the extended family can gather at my place and eat so heartily and laugh. But I think I need a divorce from Christmas.

After Christmas I am going to issue my manifesto informing everyone that I will no longer accept gifts next year nor give any (except to small children). I will suggest that we adopt families with small children and give to the food kitchens downtown.
No more secular stuff for me. Give me my Christmas Eve service and let me sing the great songs that have been offered here on the blog.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all thing must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.
Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1

the last mohican

Rick Calohan said...

If there is one hymn or Christmas Carol that gets me every year at Christmas Eve Service it is this one. I normally tear up since this is usually the final hymn in most Christmas Eve Services, part of it is remembering Christmas past of loved ones whom by His Grace are in His arms, and the words this advent that you have used that sums it up “joy and solemnity” of it all. It seems to be the third stanza that gets the water works going for me.

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love's pure light
radiant beams from the holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Don’t ask me why it just does.

Malcolm said...

Rick said it perfectly regarding the Christmas Eve service at Redeemer and the 3rd stanza of Silent Night. Just wait until you have grand children at the service and get to hear your son be one of the scripture readers. Waterworks!

Woody Woodward said...

Recently listening to Chuck Swindol’s historical editorial of this most Holy of all Christmas Carols, Swindol’s investigation uncovered this interesting tidbit that by the way, beautifully ties to the reasoning for the name. Just before that Christmas Eve, at the tiny mountain top Austrian church, Pastor Mohr discovered and then informed organist/guitar player Franz Xaver Gruber, the ole pump-organ was broken! They were suddenly struck with the realization that on this most holy of nights, the organ would be “silent” during worship. After quick collaboration, Pastor Mohr’s filed away poem was put to music, written out, and copies were given to the Christmas Eve worshipers. From a difficult situation, combined with such a humble beginning, emerged this unforgettable hymn, the most sacred and the most sung Christmas Carols of all times.
So Woody concludes, “Praise the Lord for the ole’ busted organ, ‘for a BROKEN and contrite heart O God, You will not despise!’”

Zach said...

Indeed, a wonderful hymn. In 5th grade, I played the role of Father Mohr in a play that dramatized the composition of "Silent Night". My dear mother hand-made my black cassock. I don't think she looks back on that cassock with quite the same fondness that I do. :)

For those reasons and the ones mentioned by Tony and Rick, this one is probably my favorite, too. God bless you all this Christmas . . . enjoy the snow!