During a frigid winter, twenty-six-year-old Joseph Mohr, the assistant priest at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria, was faced with a dilemma. On Christmas Eve, the midnight mass was facing worship without an organ, and the choir without their accompaniment. Joseph, who directed the worship, tried to repair the organ, but was unsuccessful. Pausing to pray for inspiration, he remembered a Christmas poem he had written two years prior during his walks.
Finding his poem, he took it to his friend Frantz Gruber and begged him to put it to music, “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!” A few hours later, the two met at church, and Joseph, the priest, learned the chords on the guitar, gathered the choir, and prepared the song for the Midnight Mass, complete with a four-part harmony. Today Silent Night has the distinction of being the most recorded song in history.
During the American Civil War, it was not unusual for hostilities to cease, and for four days, starting on December 25th, troops on both sides would lay down their arms and come together to worship, share gifts, read Scripture, and sing “Silent Night.”
The song the angels had first sung, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men,” had once again found an expression in man, in submission and reverence to Christ. This Christmas, may we cease hostilities, lay down our arms, gather together in worship, share gifts, read Scripture, and sing.