December 13, 2022

Christmas and Advent Hymns and their Story

“Silent Night, Holy Night”

“Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht”

The collaboration of Father Joseph Mohr [1792-1848] and Franz Gruber [1787-1863], resulted in the singing of “Silent Night Holy Night” on Christmas Eve in 1818. This was finally established in a letter Gruber had written in 1854 to musical authorities in Berlin, who wished to know it’s origin. He wrote: “On December 24, 1818, the curate of the newly erected St. Nicholas Church at Oberndorf, Father Joseph Mohr, gave the poem to Franz Gruber [music teacher in Arnsdorf] with the request that it ne set to suitable music for two voices and choir with guitar accompaniment.”
That evening, Father Mohr and Teacher Gruber, they did Stille Nacht for the first time, of maybe millions of times worldwide ever since. Most hymnals today actually contain verses 1, 6, and 3, in that order [as it was originally written]. For 20 years this song sped through the world as a “Tyrolean Carol”, a song of “Scynitar”, but always as “author unknown”, until finally, Gruber’s letter was found in the wall of a home that was undergoing de-construction [what a joyous find].
Today, there has not been a song more produced, or joyously sung from the heart, than “Silent Night, Holy Night”. Sung from the trenches during World War I, the German soldiers began to sing “Stille Nacht”, and they were echoed by the French singing “Douce Nuit, Sainte Nuit”, and then the English and Ameicans joined in with ”Silent Night”. A simple song, by two simple men, about the birth of our Savior; and the hate and guns of war were silenced – if even for a brief time.

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.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht! Alles schläft, einsam wacht
Nur das traute, hochheilige Paar: Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh, Schlaf in himmlishcer Ruh.

LSB 363

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