The lyrics for “Silent Night” were written just after the end of the Napoleonic Wars by the young Austrian priest Joseph Mohr.
In the fall of 1816, Mohr was stationed in his father’s hometown of Mariapfarr in Austria. Twelve years of the Napoleonic Wars had decimated the country’s political and social infrastructure. To make matters worse, the previous year’s catastrophic eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia created massive climatic disruption, resulting in failed crops and widespread famine.
Mohr’s congregation was poverty-stricken, hungry, and traumatized. So, he crafted a set of six poetic verses to convey hope that there was still a God who cared. These were the original lyrics to “Silent Night.” and would be put to music two years later by his good friend Franz Gruber.
On Christmas Eve, 1818, Silent Night was first sung by Mohr and Gruber, with Mohr playing the guitar because the church organ was damaged by the flooding of the nearby Salzach River.
If such beauty was borne out of those challenging times what is stopping us from making the best of the challenges we are experiencing today?
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. Prophets awaited his coming, King Herod murdered countless baby boys out of fear for Him and His birth began a gospel based on a simple message of love.
There is a lot we can learn about life from the Nativity, whether we profess the Christian faith or not. Yes, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, but at its core it celebrates God’s love and the love of a mother and father. Christmas celebrates the depths of their love.
Zinha and I are awaiting our first grandchild and we’ve been reflecting a lot about gratitude and our family, especially as our children begin growing their own families. We are continuously inspired and humbled by the sacrifices our parents, grandparents and countless ancestors have gone through in mirroring the love born to us on Christmas Day.
This year of isolation from our “normal” lives gives us an opportunity to cast aside the commercialized mayhem that this season has often become and focus on the love that we celebrate born to us on a silent night 2020 years ago and alive in our hearts today.
Merry Christmas to you and all those you love. Wishing you peace and good health in the New Year.