Silent Night

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Carol Story

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8)

In 1818 there was a problem in Oberndorf. The parish church of this small Austrian town had suffered a flood and the organ refused to work properly. It was Christmas Eve, and the young parish priest - Joseph Mohr - was conscious that Midnight Mass was looming and the people would want to sing. He had only been in the parish a year, and the young man wanted to do something.

A couple of years before, Mohr had written a carol but it was simply a page of words. No tune had been composed so Mohr made his way to nearby Arnsdorf and asked the organist there - one Franz Xaver Gruber - to compose a tune and guitar accompaniment. Modern day organists are often allergic to guitars in church, but not so Gruber. He wrote the melody, and so Silent Night was sung for the first time.

The story goes that the organ builder was taken with the carol, and took it home with him. It then got into the hands of some travelling singers, who included it in their show. Their audiences included Franz I of Austria and Alexander I of Russia, and they took the carol to New York when they performed in that great city. It’s popularity spread and by 1840 is was known to be a favourite of Frederick William IV of Prussia. In 2011 it was declared to be “an intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO, and to this day Bing Crosby’s recording of the carol is the fourth biggest selling single of all time.

Fame brings familiarity, and familiarity makes things flat. The words of the carol speak of the great intake of breath before the proclamation of the Gospel in the person of Christ. They are worth re-reading for the sense of calmness before Christ came to turn the world upside-down.

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 hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Saviour is born!
Christ the Saviour 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!

… and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness …

"The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands" - (Exodus 34:6-7) - The still pools of God’s steadfast love await you, the ear of one who is faithful awaits. Reluctance might be in our hearts, but never in God’s.

Sin, Guilt and Forgiveness

"abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6-7) - Yes, we may be guilty of sin but God himself has given us a way of dealing with it. You can try and minimise it, ignore it or explain it away. Or you can transfer it to Christ. That is the glory of the Gospel.

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