Posted by: rcottrill | April 24, 2013

Silent Night

Words: Josef Mohr (b. Dec. 11, 1792; d. Dec. 5, 1848); English translation made in 1863, by John Freeman Young (b. Oct. 30, 1820; d. Nov. 15, 1885)
Music: Stille Nacht, by Franz Xaver Gruber (b. Nov. 25, 1787; d. June 7, 1863)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: If Amazing Grace is the most familiar hymn today, Silent Night is surely the most familiar Christmas carol–and it could be counted as a very well-known hymn too. It is difficult to say anything about either song that hasn’t been said many times before.

The latter began its musical life in the German language (see the first stanza below), around 1817, in Oberndorf, Austria. The story of how it traveled from a remote village in the Alps to world-wide fame is told in the Wordwise Hymns link.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!
Alles schläft, einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar,
Holder Knabe mit lockigem Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh.

Hymn historian Carlton R. Young (Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal, p. 596) refers to the carol’s “inherent simplicity and tender piety.” However, it was ignored for some years after it was written, being deemed inferior by hymn book editors. Another hymn historian, Eric Routley, looks down his nose at the song and says it epitomizes the German Christmas, “cosy and child-centred.” It wasn’t commonly included in English hymnals until the turn of the twentieth century, nearly a hundred years after its creation.

Simple it may be, but there are great truths here.

CH-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.

CH-1. That first Christmas was a “holy night,” meaning it was sanctified, set apart by God for the supremely great event that took place in Bethlehem. There Jesus, an Infant “tender and mild,” lay in a manger, tended lovingly by His “virgin mother,” Mary. In the bustle and busyness of Bethlehem, crowded with visitors because of the Roman census (Lk. 2:1-3), the birth was likely little noticed. A history-changing event in poor peasant dress, passed over until something else happened.

CH-2. God sent His angels to reveal the significance of this momentous occurrence. They were “ministering spirits sent forth” (Heb. 1:14) to announce to some shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem the birth of the Saviour (Lk. 2:8-14). At first, the men “quaked at the sight.” But to their credit they believed the angelic message, and went with excited anticipation to find the Babe (Lk. 2:15-16).

CH-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!

CH-3. Josef Mohr uses the third stanza to firmly establish the identity of this One who has been born. He is the incarnate “Son of God,” and “Lord,” both titles recognizing His deity, used many times in Scripture. Christ was worshipped, as the Son of God (Matt. 14:33), and worshipped as the Lord (Matt. 8:2). And because He existed from all eternity as a member of the Trinity, He was rightly called “Lord at [His] birth.”

CH-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.

CH-4. Pastor Mohr doesn’t deal with the wise men specifically, but He does mention the supernatural star that later led them to Christ. And as those men came to worship Him (Matt. 2:1-2), we too are invited to sing His praises, owning Him as our King.

CH-4) Silent night, holy night
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Saviour is born,
Christ the Saviour is born!

1) This carol is very well known. What could you do to help singers to see its message in a fresh way?

2) What are the very best of our Christmas carols, in your view?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. […] From Google Blogs Search- Worship Music […]


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