The familiar carol “Silent Night” was performed for the first time on December 24, 1818. Joseph Mohr, a young priest in Austria, wrote the original six stanzas for the song in German. On Christmas Eve, he took the words to his friend, musician and schoolteacher Franz Gruber, and asked him to write a melody and guitar accompaniment. Every year since then, people all over the world have been finding God in ‘Silent Night’.
On that long-ago night at Midnight Mass at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, the two men sang “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!” backed by the small choir repeating the last two lines in harmony. Sometime later, an organ repairman took a copy of the composition home with him, and the carol began to circulate around the world. “Silent Night” has now been translated into hundreds of languages and is sung by millions every Christmas season in every setting imaginable.
We forget that God sometimes moves powerfully in quiet, humble settings. A Christmas carol that has touched the hearts of people around the world arose from a modest curate and a musician known only within their village. In a similar way, God stepped into our world through a baby born in a stable in an obscure village. This event, which would change the world forever, occurred in quietness and humility except for the host of angels praising God in the sky before the shepherds.
When another Bible character Elijah needed a touch from God, God sent a mighty windstorm, an earthquake, and a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in any of these. God’s presence came in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12), soothing and refreshing the weary prophet’s soul. Our modern Christmas celebrations are often like a powerful windstorm or earthquake, full of too much noise and clamor. And God is often lacking in them. What many of us need for Christmas isn’t more gifts or activities, but a silent night so we won’t miss finding God in his gentle whisper.
This devotion is adapted from Dianne’s book, One Year on This Day (Tyndale House 2005). Used with permission.
(Vienna Boys’ Choir singing “Stille Nacht”)