December 24 – Silent Night (A Christmas Carol Advent)

Wayne —  December 24, 2009 — 1 Comment

1 MORE DAY UNTIL CHRISTMAS!

Video

History

Silent Night was penned in German (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) by the Austrian Priest Father Joseph Mohr.  The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, and the song was first performed in the Nikolaus-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria on December 24, 1818.

Commentary & Analysis

This is one of my favorite Christmas Carols and one of my favorite songs of all time.  Interestingly, the whole idea behind this song, a “silent night” is not addressed anywhere in the Bible.  There is no indication of atmosphere when Christ was born.  More likely, the phrase “silent night, holy night” is based on the nature of God based on passages like 1 Kings 19:11-12 when God showed himself to Elijah:

“And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” [1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV]

And Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  [Psalms 46:10 ESV]

Which indicate the calm nature of God.  The author perhaps felt that given that, the night Christ was born must have been a “silent night.” The fact that Jesus was born of a virgin is attested to in Matthew 1:18 and Matthew 1:23 and is the fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 7:14.  As for a “holy infant, so tender and mild,” there is no doubt that Jesus was holy.  There is no information regarding the infancy of Jesus in the Bible and the idea that he was “tender and mild” is more likely a reference to the general nature of infants and the condescension of God when he chose to take on human flesh and some live amongst his creation.

In the second verse, “Shepherds quake at the sight, Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;” is all a reference to the appearance of angels to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem.  That story is told in Luke 2:8-14.

The final verse includes both a wonderful summary of the role of Jesus – “Son of God, loves pure light” – and some biblical inaccuracies / creative license in “Radiant beams from thy holy face.”  The Bible is clear that Jesus was the light and that men rejected the light:

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” [John 3:18-21 ESV]

Jesus was the Son of God sent into this world as a baby on Christmas morning to shine God’s light on the world.  That said, nowhere does the Bible indicate that the baby Jesus had a glow or beams of light literally came from him.  This portion of the carol either represents beautiful poetic imagery or a misstatement of biblical truth.  I prefer to think it is the former.

Questions for further Reflection / Devotion

The following questions are meant for your reflection and or devotion.  Feel free to meditate on them, discuss them with your family or others or post your responses here.  I would love to hear from you.

  1. What do you think it was like the night that Christ was born?
  2. Do you ever get so busy during the holiday season that you forget to slow down and enjoy the peace?
  3. How had God shined the light of his love into your life this holiday season?
  4. How do you interpret lines such as “Radiant beams from thy holy face” which have no clear scriptural support?
  5. What is one thing you can on Christmas day to “be still” and reflect on God?

Lyrics

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

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.

Return to a Christmas Carol Advent index page.

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