My favorite Christmas Carol is “Silent Night.” At Colchester Federated Church, it’s the carol we will use to light our individual candles to blaze in hope as we end our time of worship together at the evening service of Lessons and Carols. It’s long been my favorite because there’s a moving story behind it. Now some will say that this story is exaggerated. But after visiting the Silent Night Chapel at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan and learning more of the history, I’m even more of a believer.
The traditional story is that in Oberndorf, Austria in 1818 there was a priest named Joseph Mohr who also happened to be a musician. On Christmas Eve, as he prepared the sanctuary at St. Nicholas Church for worship just to be sure everything was perfect, he realized that the church organ wouldn’t play. There was no way it could be fixed in time for worship. Joseph became frantic, but didn’t get disheartened. He was determined that there would still be terrific music by the time the congregation arrived that evening to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Joseph remembered a simple poem he’d written a few years earlier. And he thought that if he could find another instrument and a good melody, the congregation could sing the verses of the poem to provide meaningful music for Christmas Eve. Joseph asked a local schoolteacher (and the church organist), Franz Gruber, to take a look at the poem and see what he could do. Franz was surprised that the poem was good—really good! Luckily he was used to writing music on short notice. So Franz came up with a soothing lullaby to accompany Joseph’s poem. That evening “Stille Nacht” was sung for the very first time in that little village church in Austria accompanied only by a guitar.
The story behind “Silent Night” is a reminder that sometimes our perfect plans are disrupted. Yet God is at work in the midst of our broken plans and our broken lives. After all, sometimes beautiful moments come out the unexpected! Jesus himself was born in a borrowed bed of straw–in a cave most likely because there wasn’t room for his family at the inn. And if these are not examples of God working wonders in the midst of brokenness, I don’t know what are.
(This Week’s Thoughts 12.21.17)