Hi, this is Pastor Ken. Generally, on Thursdays I bring you my thoughts about some currently notable subject or personal story from my life and connect it to a scriptural truth. However, for the past three years on the Thursday before Christmas I have shared with you a Christ-centered Christmas poem or Christmas story by another author that I found valuable. This year I decided to bring the words of a well-known Christmas Carol and the back-story behind its writing. So here are my Christmas thoughts on this Thursday, December 21st, 2023…Silent night.

Allow me to begin by reading the words from the now famous song. I find that we often sing songs that are well known almost automatically giving voice to the lyrics. This auto-response to the melody sometimes conceals the depth of each stanza’s true meaning. So I thought…its Christmas…let’s open the gift of the originally intended meaning and expose each verse free of its melodious wrapping.

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 host sing al-le-lu-ia. Christ the savior is born; Christ the savior is born.

Silent night, Holy night. Wondrous star, lend thy light. With the angels let us sing, Al-le-lu-ia to our King. Christ the Savior is born; Christ the savior is born.

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.

In the New Living Translation Isaiah 7:14 says, The Lord Himself will give you a sign, Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and call Him Emanuel (which means) God is with us. Just two chapters later we read in Isaiah 9:6-7; For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called; Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s armies will make this happen!

There can be no argument that the evening that the virgin Mary gave birth to the Lord was indeed a Holy night. That night the glory of God was revealed in human form! The word of God recorded for us in Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled on that Holiest of nights. Was it a silent night? That I am not so sure of. A baby was born, in a stable…in the small city of Bethlehem. Luke 2:1-7 tells us about it. At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

We do know that it was not a silent night out in the pastureland where the shepherds were. Luke 2:8-20 tells us about all the noise in the normally quiet fields outside the city. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. It was a Holy night to be sure…Silent? Not so much…at least not as far as the angels and shepherds were concerned. Their excitement and jubilation was however the only reasonable response to finding out that the Messiah had finally come to set His people free, once and for all time!

So what is the back story for this well-known Christmas Carol? Allow me to set the stage. It was Christmas eve in the Alps. A new church had just been built in a small village near Salzburg Austria. In the new church Father Joseph Mohr prepared for the midnight service. He was upset because the new church organ was not working properly yet which he felt would ruin the musical part of the Christmas Eve service. Father Joseph was about to discover that our problems are often the hand of God working in ways we do not yet understand.

It came to Father Joseph that he should write a new song, one that could be easily sung without the organ. He hastily wrote down the words, “Silent night, Holy night all is calm, all is bright”. Taking those and the words that followed to his organist, Franz Gruber, Father Joseph explained the need and asked Franz to compose a simple tune for the new song.

That night, December 24th, 1818 “Silent Night” was sung for the first time as a duet, accompanied by a guitar at the aptly named Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf.

A short time later a craftsman named Karl Mauracher came to repair the organ. There he heard the story of the new song that the broken organ had made necessary. He acquired a copy of the lyrics and melody and spread it throughout the Austrian Alpine region. He called the song, “Tiroler Volkslied”

The song came to the attention of the Strasser family who had four children who sang the song at many fairs and festivals. They were once even invited to perform it for the king and queen of Austria which ensured the growing fame of the song. As a result of their regular performances of the tune, they became famous folk singers in the region much like the Von Trapp children a century later.

“Silent night was first published in a German church hymnal in 1838. It was used in German churches in America and first appeared in English published in a book of Sunday School songs in 1863. If it had not been for a broken organ in a newly built church 45 years earlier…there would have been no “Silent Night”.

I have become accustom to closing out my podcasts by telling you to “Go Be Awesome” But this week I think I will simply wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year filled with Hope. However, I do think it fitting just this once to borrow a different sign off line, one much more famous than mine. As the late Paul Harvey would have said at the end of a recording such as this one about “Silent Night”…”So now you know the rest of the story…Good Day!”