DAY 35: “Silent Night”

“He is the reason for not only this season, but every season we are in.”

Music is so much a part of every season of our lives. We hear a song, and it can immediately take us back to the year, the moment, and the memory. “Silent Night” is one of those songs. It is one of the most beautiful songs ever written! It has been sung in countless languages, (with and without instruments), in countries all over the world. It brings a hush to the busy world as the words are sung in unity of spirit.

The story behind “Silent Night” is one that needs to be told. Some of the best songs are birthed from less than stellar circumstances, and this is no exception.

Josef Mohr lived in Salzburg, Austria, where he was unloved and shunned by his hometown. One of three illegitimate sons, Josef’s father was a mercenary soldier who abandoned the family. To add fuel to the fire, Josef’s godfather was the town executioner. Due to his mother’s poverty, the curate of the local Catholic church took Josef in as a foster child, where they noticed his God-given gift toward music, which they encouraged. Josef later decided to become a priest and was sent to Oberndorf, just north of Salzburg, where he met Franz Gruber. Gruber was a local schoolteacher who became organist at Old Saint Nicholas Church. Mohr and Gruber came from very humble beginnings and took comfort in music. The two became close friends, composing together and eventually leading to the creation of “Silent Night.”

Christmas Eve 1818, Mohr needed a carol for worship. He visited Gruber with a poem he had written years earlier. Gruber quickly arranged the song to be played on guitar with a choir because the church organ was broken. Legend has it that a mouse ate through the bellows of the organ. That evening during Midnight Mass, Gruber strapped on his guitar and led the congregation in the first rendition of “Silent Night.”

Fast forward. I grew up in a musical family. My grandma on my dad’s side was my piano teacher and it was pretty much music all the time around my house. Christmastime, we would gather and sing around the piano. My dad had the most amazing baritone voice ever, and “Silent Night” was one of the songs he would sing at Christmas during church. Our choir director would always give him that song because it instantly set an atmosphere of peace and tranquility in the room.

During that son, I remember each person got a little white candle with the paper ring to catch the wax. It was so exciting! You held the candle in your hand until someone lit yours, then you turned and got to light the next person’s candle. Light by light, the room grew from darkness to glowing with the wonder of Christmas Eve, all while listening to my dad’s voice.

August of 2010, my dad passed away unexpectedly. We were getting ready to take my son Ian to Michigan for his first year of college at Hillsdale. Preparing for your first-born to be 12 hours away, (with a time change), and losing your dad within a few days was not something I had planned for. I had lost my mom five years earlier as well, so this was final in more ways than one. We had to make plans quickly. I said goodbye to my dad on August 26, (our wedding anniversary), drove to Michigan to take Ian to college the next day on August 27, (which was my birthday), dropped him off, and drove back to Omaha to process everything.

Why do I tell you this?

There is yet one more story to “Silent Night.”  When putting together my dad’s “going home” service at church, my sisters and I knew that we wanted the song “How Great Thou Art” sung. My dad always loved that song and even got asked to sing it at funerals around town. He laughed that, as the town “undertaker,” he had buried everyone in a five-county area and now, after retirement, everyone wanted him to sing at their funeral!  We needed one more song to close Dad’s service. Suddenly, we knew what the song had to be! Sean and I, (along our family, my sisters, and their families), all gathered around my dad’s casket holding hands and sang “Silent Night” as the last song before they wheeled him out of the church. I am filled with emotion as I write this, but the “Silent Night” we sang about at his funeral is why we sing. Jesus is the light of the world and the hope of glory!

He is the reason for not only this season, but every season we are in. What a glorious song to celebrate with! I love the words “all is calm, all is bright.”  Because of Jesus, it is well today, tomorrow, and forevermore!

Sleep in heavenly peace!  Christ the Savior is born!


Mama Swan