FAQ for Christmas

Silent Night

words by Rev. Joseph Mohr, c.1816 / Music by Franz Xaver Gruber, c1818.

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!

Silent night! holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight;
glories stream from heaven afar,
heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
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 they birth.

The Story of Silent Night

Taken from: http://cnx.org/content/m11029/latest/

"The little village of Oberndorf is nestled in the mountains of Austria. In the winter the mountains are covered with snow. Have you ever gone out on a snowy evening and noticed how quiet it is? There are no birds singing or insects buzzing. The children who have been out in the daytime playing in the snow go inside for dinner; almost everyone is inside staying warm. Even the sounds that you do hear, like the crunch of your boots in the snow, seem softened, as if the snow is a blanket that muffles sounds so that the trees can stay asleep until spring.

In the year 1818, Joseph Mohr was the assistant pastor of the church in Oberndorf. Imagine him walking one evening through the village. The sun has already set, but it's really very dark or scary. There is fresh snow on the ground, and it's a clear, calm, moonlit night, with no wind at all. Imagine how bright it is, with the moon reflecting off all the snow and light spilling out of the windows of the houses in the village.

Everyone else was already inside for the night, but Joseph didn't mind being out alone. To him, the silence of the village seemed calm and peaceful. But there was another silence that made Joseph sad. It was nearly Christmas and the organ in the church was broken. There was no time to fix it before Christmas.

He knew the villagers could sing without an organ, but it seemed a shame not to have special music for Christmas. He had been worrying about it on and off all day, but now the peacefulness of the quiet, snowy village made him feel calm again and helped him to remember that, to him, the important thing about Christmas was not the music, it was the baby Jesus.

Joseph knew that Israel is a much warmer place than Austria, and that it probably wasn't snowing in Bethlehem on the night that Jesus was born. But he suddenly felt that the night that Jesus was born must have been quiet and peaceful, too, with almost everyone asleep and with a special star shining in the sky. While he was thinking of this, he thought up the words to a song about Christmas.

When he got home, he wrote down the words. The next day was already Christmas eve. He took the words to his friend Franz Gruber. Franz was the village schoolmaster and also the organist at the church. He wrote some music for the words, and gave it to Joseph that same day. That night, even though the organ was still broken, there was still something special for Christmas. When the people came to church that night, they heard a guitar, two solo voices, and a chorus singing a new Christmas carol, a carol that since that time has become one of the most loved and most sung Christmas carols in the world:

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. "

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