Saturday, December 25, 2021

History of A Christmas Carol: Silent Night

By Jennifer Uhlarik


Merry Christmas, everyone! Blessings to you and yours from all of us at Heroes, Heroines, and History! We appreciate you, our readers!


Every year starting the day after Thanksgiving, my favorite radio station plays wall-to-wall Christmas music for a month. Now don’t get me wrong. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I love the carols and songs that accompany this beautiful season. But in years past when I was in my car a lot more often (the car is where I listen to the radio most often), I used to get bored with Christmas music about two weeks into the month. Yes, I was a bit Scrooge-like in that regard. 


But lately, I’ve really been listening to the lyrics of the songs I love—both Christmas and not. I realize I’ve grown immune to the words of many songs, and when I slow my mind down to hear what is being sung, they hold great meaning. One such song was “Silent Night.” I thought you might like a bit of history on this Christmas favorite.


This beloved carol came about because of the partnership of two men in Austria in the early 1800s. The lyrics were penned by Joseph Mohr. Born in 1872, Mohr became a priest in 1815, and his duties took him to various villages in different parts of Austria. He was thought to have penned the words to this famous song in 1816, and two years later, went to minister in Oberndorf.


Frank Xaver Gruber was supposed to carry on his father’s weaving business, but his heart wasn’t in the family craft. So instead, his father allowed him to be educated as a teacher. After earning his teaching credentials, he took a job in Arnsdorf and would also play the organ for the neighboring town of Oberndorf. It was in that town that the two men met. As Mohr shared the words he’d penned about the night of Christ’s birth, Gruber wrote a tune to accompany the beautiful verses.


Originally written in German, the song was performed for the first time on Christmas eve of 1818 in the St. Nicholas parish church. While Gruber was an organist, they actually played the tune on guitar because there had been flooding in the church which was thought to have damaged the church’s organ. (Interestingly, the church was so prone to flooding that it was eventually destroyed and replaced with the “Silent Night Chapel”).


The gentleman who serviced the church’s organ asked to take a copy of the song with him, and from there, it was copied again and given to two different traveling folk singer families who began performing the song to the masses. It became quite popular and was performed around Europe and even brought to America. It was translated to English in 1859 by an Episcopal priest in New York City. It was the first of many translations. As of today, it is known to be sung in at least 140 other languages.


So let’s let the meaning of the words sink in as you click the link and let Michael Bubl√© sing this wonderful work:


Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

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.

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight
Glories stream from heaven above
Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah.
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born.


As I focused on the words of this song, the lines of the second verse struck me in a fresh way—the dawn of redeeming grace is truly what the Christmas story is all about! Christ came to earth to redeem us all from our sin, and in spite of the fact He was a helpless newborn laid in a feeding trough, Jesus was still Lord at His birth. What a beautiful picture!


It's Your Turn: Did you listen to the words of this old favorite with fresh ears? Did anything strike you in a new way as you listened? I’d love to hear about it.


Award-winning, best-selling novelist Jennifer Uhlarik has loved the western genre since she read her first Louis L’Amour novel. She penned her first western while earning a writing degree from University of Tampa. Jennifer lives near Tampa with her husband, son, and furbabies.




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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting on Christmas Day! Praying you and your family have a wonderful time celebrating "the dawn of redeeming grace". I agree with you, that this is the best part of the song.