It is always a joy to hear, and recount, stories of triumph. It is no coincidence or miracle that the poem “Silent Night” by Joseph Mohr was destined to fill the homes and hearts of people on that holy Christmas Eve of 1818.
Joseph Mohr born in 1792 had natural music abilities. He held a strong connection to the poor due to his modest upbringing. He was an orphan and was asked to become a priest at age 19 when the suggested age at that time was 25. Joseph was young and idealistic, but also humble, and he had a great desire to follow the Lord and the whisperings of the spirit of God. He was quick to follow his natural tendencies to help the poverty-stricken and unchurched in Oberndorf. Joseph was a servant full of hope, enough hope even for a poor village that could feel burdened by their impoverished circumstances. The young priest wrote his hope into six verses in 1816.
A musical partnership is formed
In that same year, Franz Gruber became the organist in the Parrish at Oberndorf. Together, Joseph and Franz composed the lullaby that became “Silent Night,” and on Christmas Eve 1818 they performed the song for the first time by simple guitar. Joseph said, “The two of us did something for the Holy Night. I transcribed the words, and Franz Gruber the melody. Neither knew of its significance.” Now translated into 300 languages it is sung all over the world. The hymn is synonymous with the human/Christian message of peace. The Austrians sing it only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
We often sing only three verses, but here are all six verses of the translation from German. They are all extraordinarily beautiful.
Silent Night! Holy Night! By John Freeman Young (verses 1-3), ca. 1859 Silent Night! Holy Night! 1. 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! 2. Silent night! Holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight! Glories stream from Heaven afar, Heavenly Hosts sing Alleluia! Christ, the Saviour, is born! Christ, the Saviour, is born! 3. 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! 4. Silent Night, Holy Night Here at last, healing light From the heavenly kingdom sent, Abundant grace for our intent. Jesus, salvation for all. Jesus, salvation for all. 5. Silent Night! Holy Night" Sleeps the world in peace tonight. God sends his Son to earth below A Child from whom all blessings flow Jesus, embraces mankind. Jesus, embraces mankind. 6. Silent Night, Holy Night Mindful of mankind's plight The Lord in Heav'n on high decreed From earthly woes we would be freed Jesus, God's promise for peace. Jesus, God's promise for peace.
This lullaby expresses so well our collective hopes and aspirations of peace, comfort and redemption offered to us during the season of Christmas if we are willing to choose Christ over other less important things.
Have we remained mindful?
There are many today who are trying to silence those of faith as we steadfastly hold to our belief in Jesus Christ and His Messianic message of hope. It is especially troubling to see many of the rising generation who are losing their way. We have a rising generation that in some respects is the spiritually strongest ever, yet seem short-sighted. Some have “become for themselves” and are leaving the table of heritage and feast of the Lord for a mess of pottage.
Just as the God of Joseph’s lyrics is “mindful of man’s plight,” we can turn our hearts and sights outward and remember that His grace truly is “salvation for all.”
I testify that it is faith in Jesus Christ and His Light to the world that we can find refuge and salvation. Jesus is our healing Light to cure our plight.
I invite you to watch this beautiful production of the story of Joseph and Franz and their beautiful work “Silent Night” this Christmas with your family and loved ones.
BYUtv’s feature-length telling of the story of “Silent Night” can viewed here.