Monday's Message of Hope

A Silent Night!
Monday, December 13, 2021 by Penelope Kaye

Hello, dear friend

This week as we continue our “celebration of Christ, the Messiah” I want to share the story behind “Silent Night,” one of the church’s most beloved Christmas carols. While I have read other versions, this one by Lisa Schnedler touched my heart in a remarkable way. I hope it brings the quiet joy of Christmas to you as well. Merry Christmas!

The lyrics to Silent Night were written by Josef Mohr. He was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1791. The name “Mohr” was unloved in his home town of Salzburg. Mohr was one of three illegitimate sons born to Anna Schoiberin, while his father, Franz, was a mercenary soldier who eventually abandoned the family. To make matters worse, Josef’s godfather was the town executioner.

Perhaps due to his mother’s poverty, the curate of the local Catholic cathedral took Josef in as a foster child. Josef had a natural gift for music, which was encouraged by the church. Mohr decided to pursue the priesthood and was ordained August 21, 1815. He was sent to Oberndorf, just north of Salzburg, to serve as assistant priest at the newly-erect Church of St. Nicholas. The town of Oberndorf sat high in the Alps. There, Mohr met Franz Xaver Gruber, a local schoolteacher, who would become the organist at the church the following year.

Gruber came from equally humble origins, and himself took comfort in his music. The friendship of the two is what led to the creation of Silent Night.

Silent Night—or Stille Nacht in the original German—was created because Mohr needed a carol for worship. He and Gruber had often discussed the fact that the perfect Christmas hymn had never been written. On Christmas Eve of 1818, Mohr visited Gruber with a poem he had written a few years earlier. Gruber exclaimed, “Friend, Mohr, you have found it—the right song—God be praised!” Gruber quickly composed a simple tune to be played on a guitar with a choir because the church organ was broken. That evening at Midnight Mass, Gruber picked up his guitar and led the congregation in the first rendition of Silent Night.

The original arrangement was a bit faster than the slow, reflective version we know today. Neither Mohr nor Gruber intended that their hymn would be sung outside of their little mountain village. However, the organ repairman, Karl Maurachen, obtained a copy and is credited with spreading the carol throughout the region. The song was an immediate hit, later being sung by traveling singers and performed before King Frederick William IV of Prussia. It first appeared in a German hymnal in 1838, where it was titled “a hymn of unknown origins.”

There are two stories of how the hymn came to the United States. The first is that it was brought over by a family of Tyrolean singers, the Rainers, and used during their concert tour. The other is that the hymn made its way to America by way of a book called Sunday School Hymnal, though with only three of the original six verses.

At least eight different English translations are known today, John F. Young’s 1863 translation being the one most widely known. Today, Silent Night is perhaps the most famous Christmas carol in history. It has been translated into most languages, and the Bing Crosby version is the third-bestselling single in history.

The little church in which “Stille Nacht” was first sung was washed away in a river flood in 1899. A rebuilt Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf is now a cultural landmark. A replica can be found in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  In the entry of the new chapel is a bronze relief which represents Father Mohr looking out a window in heaven, his face entranced as, with his hand to his ear, he listens to the children on earth singing his hymn. Standing behind him, smiling, is Gruber playing his guitar.

The song itself was declared to be an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011.

(Source: The Gospel Coalition Ryan Reese, 12/ 11/16 and sermon by Rev. Harold Schnedler)

https://www.branchliving.com/new-blog/2021/12/5/silent-night-the-story-behind-the-perfect-christmas-hymn

 

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Comments

Linaya Leaf From Billings At 12/13/2021 12:21:24 PM

So many pieces of the mosaic coming together so that when Danica (Morning Star) was born to me, the doctors and nurses couldbring her in a stocking singing 'Silent Night'. I'll be singing it at Christmas, with my God-sent daughter. Love, Linaya

Reply by: PS 2710 Ministries

Hi, Linaya. What a beautiful Christmas gift! I'm so glad you will be with her this Christmas. Blessings, Penelope Kaye

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