Calm and Bright: 200 Years of Silent Night
This year is the 200th anniversary of the debut of the beloved Christmas Carol, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Many people say their favorite time of the season is on Christmas Eve when they light their white candle in the midst of the dark sanctuary, and sing this beloved song. Something mystical and sacred occurs as our small, solitary lights unite together in the darkness as we sing the hope of “all is calm, all is bright.”
This classic hymn, “Silent Night,” first made its debut on Christmas Eve 1818 at the St. Nicholas chapel in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. The melody by composer Franz Gruber is instantly recognizable from the first few notes, and the original text by Joseph Mohr has been translated from the original German into over 140 languages.
In 1914, just four years shy of the 100th anniversary of “Silent Night,” the soldiers fighting World War I along the Western front held a ceasefire in some areas. Known as “The Christmas Truce,” the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places as British, Belgian and French soldiers put down their rifles, stepped out of their trenches and spent Christmas mingling with their German enemies along the Western front. It was observed that members from opposing sides exchanged gifts and stories with one another, played games, and sang Christmas carols together, includ-
ing the beloved hymn “Silent Night.”
Although this cease-fire was one of a kind never repeated with the same effect, it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.
We need this kind of reminder today, that our humanity and identity as God’s children – across this globe, is proof that we are bound together. We need a “Silent Night.”
Our Advent worship will celebrate the carol’s message and remind us of our call to be
doers of justice,
makers of peace,
and bearers of light.