The Carols of Christmas

Silent Night

“Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht. Alles schläft einsam wacht… “ These are the first lines of the original Silent Night, written and sung in the German language. Believe it or not, I remember this carol being sung in German at my grandparent’s home church in New Sarepta, Alberta.


This carol was first sung on Christmas Eve in 1818 in Oberndorf, a small village north of Salzburg, Austria. The words began as a poem written by the local priest, Joseph Mohr. It was accompanied only by a guitar, even though the tune was composed by an organist Franz Gruber.

Here’s where there are multiple stories behind the song. Some have said the words came after Father Mohr had visited a family who just had a child. The newborn baby so moved him that he wrote this poem about the time of Christ’s birth. Others say it was written when he was under pressure to write a new carol on Christmas eve.

The mystery deepens as to why a guitar was used rather than the traditional and favored organ. One version is that a mouse had eaten through the bellows of the organ and another story reads that a flood had damaged the organ.  For whatever reason, the guitar was used and was very fitting to the words of the song – Silent Night.

One more interesting fact is that the original manuscript was lost and no one knew for sure who wrote the carol. For many years many credited the song to composers such as Mozart or Beethoven. Wikipedia states that it wasn’t until 1995 that a manuscript was discovered which was in Mohr’s handwriting and dated by researchers as around 1820. It verified that Mohr wrote the words in 1816 and that Gruber composed the music in 1818.

The carol has been translated into about 140 languages. I think it is a favorite for all of us.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior 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.


Silent Night reminds us that we all need to slow down during this busy time of the year. We must seek God’s presence and be present instead of scrambling for the perfect presents. Merry Christmas!

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