205 years ago, Joseph Mohr, a young priest from Austria, first penned the now famous song “Silent Night”. He, and those he pastored, had undergone extreme violence because of the Napoleonic wars, and finally they were experiencing peace once again. During one of his evening walks, Mohr found himself wandering through the vast countryside and paused at a spot where he could overlook the very quiet, winter-laden town. As he stared down upon the town, the words to the soon to be famous song came pouring forth.
Two years later, on Christmas Eve, the first notes of “Silent Night” filled the air. It was on the evening of December 24, 1818, that Mohr asked his good friend Franz Xaver Gruber, a schoolteacher, to join him on guitar as he debuted this song. It was an instant hit.
Since this time, Silent Night has been translated into over 300 languages and has been sung in churches and venues around the world. During a brief respite in fighting, it was even sung simultaneously in the languages of French, German and English on the battlefield during World War I. Through the years, this song has evolved and changed a bit, but the message has remained the same. The night that our Savior was born began as a silent night, one filled with anticipation of the hope that was to come.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole empire should be registered.
This first registration took place whileQuirinius was governing Syria.
So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.
Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him
and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son,
and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
(Luke 2:1-7, CSB)
During the silent night, anticipation was building. The act of anticipating is to be filled with excitement about something that is going to happen. Even though the world didn’t know exactly what was about to be given to them in the form of a Savior, Mary knew.
And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman!
The Lord is with you.”Then the angel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.”
(Luke 1:28, 30-33)
During this silent night of anticipation, our greatest Hope was born into the world.
This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.
(Hebrews 6:19, NLT)
When Hope was born, a renewed sense of tranquility and an unwavering belief that somehow things will be alright covered the land. With hope, a resiliency of spirit is renewed and our ability to see the possibility and promise of peace takes center stage. In his famous poem “Christmas Bells”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow speaks of peace on earth and good-will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
With the birth of Jesus, there is hope for the hopeless, peace for the anxious and rest for the weary. Because with the birth of Jesus, this Silent Night had just become a hope-filled Holy Night.