Summary: Examining and applying the message of the Carol through the light of Scripture that all our nights may be appropriately silent and holy.
“Silent Night, Holy Night”
Christmas Caroling In The Word – Message 2
Rev. Todd G. Leupold, Perth Bible Church, 12/7/2008 AM
Europe in the early 1800s was a place of great war, turmoil and upheaval. Even after the Napoleonic Wars officially ended in 1815, it’s effects continued to take their toll. The year 1816 was one in which national and municipal borders were divided, changed and reset. Areas, such as the Principality of Salzburg, which had long been ecclesiastical provinces of the Church were put under national authority and secularized. Many industries and trades that certain communities depended upon were decimated by the wars and never recovered – spinning the economies into economic depression.
At this time and in one of these communities, a small-town (Maria Pfarr) assistant pastor and Austrian Catholic Priest, penned the words to a poem that would one day echo through time and space. The words laid dormant, however, for another two years.
Shortly before Christmas in 1818, the organ in Joseph Mohr’s church broke and could not be repaired in time for Christmas. On December 24, Joseph Mohr went to the home of his friend, the musician-schoolteacher Franz Gruber, and asked Franz to write a melody and guitar accompaniment to his earlier poem so that it could be sung at the Midnight Mass. Set to a guitar accompaniment with two solo voices and a chorus, “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!” was performed for the first time in St. Nicholas Church, Oberdorf, Austria – because of a broken organ.
Since then, the song we know as “Silent Night, Holy Night” is largely considered the most translated and sung song in human history. It has been referred to by some as, “The Song Heard ’Round The World.” On Christmas Eve, 1944, on various fronts of World War II it has been reported that Allied and Axis soldiers alike stopped their fighting and sung together “Silent Night, Holy Night.”
Although it was written and composed by Catholics for a Catholic Eve mass, the song proved to be much more popular in Protestant than Catholic churches because of the meaning of its lyrics. This morning, let us revisit these lyrics through the lens of Scripture.
While the original composition contained six verses, most common renditions include only three of these, which is what we have sung and will focus on this morning.
PRELUDE: SILENT NIGHT? HOLY NIGHT?
The Setting: The jam-packed small town of Bethlehem, outside Jerusalem. Caravans of extended families from all over the Near East are stopping and/or staying here together for the Roman-declared and required census. It is a time of great celebration in family reunions and a return to the town of their forefather – King David. It is also a time of great distress and troubling over the continued Roman rule and oppression and what this census may ultimately mean for them all.
Was this really a silent night? A holy night?
What may have made it so?
For whom might it apply? For whom might it not?
A.) THE SILENCE OF THE MASSES
One form of silence that may have been evident this night would have been the troubled silence of the masses.
A silence of fretful reflection upon the Jewish nation that was and is no more, upon life under an oppression that just seems to increase each day, upon the hopelessness from giving up belief in a Savior and Deliverer who for so long has never appeared, and upon already greatly-stressed family finances that promise to get squeezed beyond breaking after this new census.
B.) THE SILENCE OF THE FAITHFUL
Another, very different form of silence this night, would have been that of the faithful who continue to quietly cry out to the LORD for His strength, wisdom and salvation!
C.) THE NOISE OF THE INDIFFERENT
For many others, I imagine there was no silence at all. “Party Like There’s No Tomorrow” may have been their theme.
Those among the masses who concluded that there is no going back in the past, nor counting on anything for tomorrow. There is only today, so let’s make the fleshly best of it!
SCENE 1: HEAVENLY PEACE HAS ARRIVED
Into this very environment (not entirely unlike our own today), Jesus – the Christ Child – was born and with Him heavenly peace arrived in the most unlikely of places and means.
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.
Specifically, as emphasized by the hymn, there was:
A.) A VIRGIN’S PEACE
Not just any mother, but a “virgin mother.”
Young virgin Mary had given birth. The one-time-only rendering of her hymen came not as the result of even a loving and committed intercourse with her husband, but in the process of delivering God-in-the-flesh into this needy and desperate world!