Summary: Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction

Come with me to a cold Christmas Eve morning in 1818 to Oberndorf, a mountain village in Austria. As you look across the mountain tops you see a lonely figure trudging down the road.

It is the local vicar Father Joseph Mohr (1792-1848), on his way to visit his friend Franz Gruber (1787-1863) who lived in the neighbouring town of Arnsdorf.

Mohr brought with him a poem he had written some two years earlier. He desperately needed a carol that evening for the midnight mass that was now only a few hours away.

He hoped his friend, Gruber, who was the church’s choirmaster and organist - could set his poem to music.

Gruber looked at it and said “yes” he could and so that afternoon he composed a melody for Mohr’s poem.

However they couldn’t play the carol on the local organ. Recent flooding of the nearby Salzach River had put the church organ out of action.

So Gruber composed the music for guitar accompaniment.

A few hours after Gruber finished his composition, he and Mohr performed the new song in St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf.

And that evening, the sounds of a brand new carol broke that “Silent Night” in the mountain village of Oberndorf.

Is it a true story or is it false. Well actually it is a mixture

It is fact that Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber did write the famous carol “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve in 1818. And performed it in Oberndorf that evening.

Sadly, the story of the broken church organ appears to be fiction.

Like the story of “Silent Night”, the story of the first Christmas in many people’s mind is a mixture of fact and fiction.

The fact is that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. Jesus was the first Christmas present. God’s Christmas present to the world.

The fiction about Christmas is that the Christmas story is a nice romantic story – a bit like “Little House on the Prairie”. And it is irrelevant to the sophistication of the 21st Century.

What else do we know about Jesus? Someone wrote this about Him:

“He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He did not go to a University of College.

He never visited a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things associated with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three years of age when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross between two thieves and his closest friends fled into the night

While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.

When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Today he remains the central figure of the human race, and the leader of mankind’s progress.

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man on this planet so much as that one solitary life.” (adapted from “One Solitary Life” – Anon)

This Christmas may I encourage you to ask why Jesus has had such an effect on our society?

1. Has it anything to do with his teaching?

2. Has it anything to do with the outrageous claim that Christians make - that Jesus died and rose again from the dead? Or is it that outrageous?

3. Has it anything to do with his mission on earth, which was to bring people everywhere back into a relationship with God – a relationship, which had been broken by our wrongdoing or sin?

I’d like to leave you with a thought.

Whatever the reason - can we really afford to ignore him this Christmas?

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