“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’”
Luke 2:13-14 (NIV)
This carol is world renowned for its beautiful tune and words. It was written by an Austrian priest called Joseph Mohr. On Christmas Eve in 1818 in the small alpine village called Oberndorf, it is reputed that the organ at St. Nicholas Church had broken. Joseph Mohr gave the poem of Silent Night (Stille Nacht) to his friend Franz Xavier Gruber and the melody and music for Silent Night was composed with this in mind. The Silent Night music was therefore intended for a guitar and the simple score was finished in time for Midnight Mass. Silent Night is the most famous Christmas carol of all time and its beautiful lyrics convey the essence of peace and love.
That being said, was the night the Saviour of the world was born silent? Anyone who has given birth or attended a birth will testify that the event is never silent. As the mother to be experiences her pelvis stretching to allow the new child to enter the world she will at best groan in agony or scream due to the relentless pain. When the new-born infant makes an entrance, the pain is immediately replaced by exclamations of joy. No silence there.
A stall where animals are sheltered is hardly a peaceful place, cattle lowing, mules and asses braying, mice scurrying, hens clucking. No sooner was the infant born than visitors arrived, shepherds possibly with some of their flock. No silence there.
That amazing night was not silent, it was a cacophony of noise. But the greatest noise of them all was the heavenly hosts suddenly bursting forth with praises to the God of the universe, celebrating the birth of the Saviour of the world, as we read in the scripture at the beginning.
We appreciate that Joseph Mohr understood the beauty and poetry of silence and the birth of Christ is a time for quiet reflection as well as celebration.
Thank you, loving Father, for the gift of your son. What a wonderful night that was. We will never be worthy of Him, but we do thank you with all our hearts. Help us to comprehend the significance of the Saviour’s birth.
Study by Irene wilson
About the Author:
Irene Wilson is a Deaconess in the Watford Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK, where she also serves on the Pastoral Council.
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