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Christmas Eve Praise

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2016 22 Dec

a blue night sky with one bright star

What hymn has been performed by more than three hundred artists, including Enya, Boys II Men, Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Mariah Carey, Mahalia Jackson, and Mannheim Steamroller? I’ll give you a hint: the Bing Crosby single sold more than ten million copies. Another clue—the music was composed and sung on Christmas Eve nearly two centuries ago in a small town in Austria. And another—the lyrics were written by a priest who was the illegitimate son of a poor woman and a mercenary who had deserted both the army and his family. And one more—the melody was written by an obscure composer who studied music secretly because of his father’s opposition.

If you guessed the hymn “Silent Night,” you’re right.

The lyrics were penned by Joseph Mohr in 1816. Two years later, on Christmas Eve, he asked his friend, a teacher and church organist by the name of Franz Xaver Gruber, to set his poem to music. Gruber produced a melody and a guitar arrangement for the song, which the two men sang on that night in 1818, backed by a choir in front of the main altar at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf. By the time the hymn became famous, the melody was variously attributed to Mozart, Haydn, or Beethoven. It wasn’t until 1994 that Gruber was authenticated as the composer.

Why not spend this Christmas Eve meditating on the lyrics of the most popular Christmas carol ever written?

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,
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.