Listen to the words:

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; heav’nly 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.

It was a song that was never to be, except for a broken organ.

Joseph Mohr was a priest of the Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria. Christmas mass of 1816was coming, and the organ would only squeak out howls.

This Sound-of-Music type village rallied around Christmas Mass. For townspeople, Christmas came when the organ pipes bellowed.

Mohr was beside himself. He rifled through his memory, searching for a solution.

Two years before, Mohr scribbled some words. He would enlist them into something for the service, without an organ. He turned to the schoolmaster/organist Franz Gruber for a tune. Together, words and music welded into a song called Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht.

If you don’t know German, you know the song. Its words have remained latched to our cultural memory for two centuries.

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; heav’nly 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.

The organ repairman listened and took the song with him wherever he went. Some traveling folk singing families incorporated it into their shows. It became a crowd favorite.

It came to America on the eve of the Civil War when it was translated into English. Since that time, it rests atop the best-known and loved Christmas songs. Bing Crosby’s 1935 recording became the fourth best-selling single ever recorded.

But why did this little song escape the Alps into human consciousness? Why has a little substitute song lasted rises above the nonsense of many Christmas songs?

In every generation, humanity contorts its collective face. Wars rage. Anger burns. Hate smolders. We want to have something more sublime, higher in value.

Angry voices echo through government hallways until statues cover their ears. The cable news networks (without exception) lob verbal and vile hand grenades.

Amidst the noise of incivility and rudeness, we lust for the sentiment of the song. We want heavenly peace, witnessing the glories of God, finding the Creator of the universe in our midst. That song resounds with our deepest desires.

Before you throw up your hands on a world in a mess (and getting messier), stop. In a quiet place where your soul can reflect, listen to the words.

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.

May you find the serenity of the Silent Night this Christmas season and all year long.

Merry Christmas from Robert Taylor