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Lessons from Music History

Lesson 3 - Silent Night

CHRISTMASTIME. Anything broken? Take heart!

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But I have stilled and quieted my soul. Psalm 131:23


“Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, all is bright.”

This beautiful favorite of all Christian carols, which conveys so much peace to our hearts, would not have been written except that something broke down unexpectedly—a church organ.


The scene was the village of Oberndorf in Upper Austria, Christmas Eve, 1818. Life was neither silent nor calm for Father Joseph Mohr of Saint Nicolas Church. He stumbled into the midst of every minister of music’s nightmare: his organ would not work for the Christmas service. All the music that was planned would have to be scrapped. He had to find something to substitute, and quickly.


Father Mohr must have prayerfully quieted his soul, for he began to write out the words, “Stille Nacht…heilige Nacht…” In a surprisingly short time he had penned a lovely poem. He hastily asked his friend Franz Gruber—village schoolmaster and church organist—to set the words to music.  That evening, the service had a new song. The two men sang Stille Nacht as a duet, with Gruber accompanying on the guitar.


That could have been the end of an obscure story, but the organ still needed to be repaired, and God had further plans fro this song.  When the repairman Karl Mauracher arrived, he heard the song and asked for a copy. Mauracher shared this throughout the Tyrol countryside as he repaired other instruments, and it found its way to the Stasser family of Zillertal.  This unusual family had the double occupation of making gloves and singing folk songs at fairs.  In the Leipzig fair of 1831, the Stasser family sang Stille Nacht, creating a sensation.  Soon it would be known and sung throughout the world.


This Christmas, if we become overwhelmed with the pandemonium of this world—or if everything we had planned falls apart—let us follow Father Mohr’s example.  As the psalmist “quieted and stilled his soul”, let us seek the Lord for His perfect peace and keep our eyes on Jesus this season.


Sit in a quiet, darkened room with nothing but the Christmas tree lights or other Christmas lights on.  Read the second chapter of Luke aloud. Ask the Lord to help you keep His peace in your heart.

~December 24 entry from Devotions from the World of Music (Cook Communications, 2000)

by Patrick and Barbara Kavanaugh


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