For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6
A young priest named Joseph Mohr took the long way home one winter night in 1816, less than a year after the ravages of the Napoleonic Wars. As Mohr looked out across the scene, he was struck with a profound sense of peace. Snow blanketed the small village in the Alps. Candlelight glowed from cottage windows. Smoke trailed skyward from cozy hearths within. Overhead, countless stars twinkled with radiance. When he got home, Mohr wrote the lyrics we now know as “Silent Night.”
Two years later, Mohr asked his friend and choir director Franz Gruber to write a melody for guitar. And on Christmas Eve 1818 in Oberndorf, Austria, the two per- formed “Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht” at the evening mass. The carol’s startling simplic- ity captivated listeners. Traveling folk singers began to spread the song, and eventually it crossed continents and languages. In 1914, soldiers during World War I, came out of their trenches and crossed the battle lines to sing “Silent Night” together in French, German, and English in a profound evening of peace.
We know that not all was peaceful on that first Christmas night. There was a frantic search for lodging after a grueling journey forced by a foreign government. There was the pain and exhaustion of labor and childbirth. There was terror at the angels first appearance. But there must also have been moments of profound silence as a new mother cradled her sleeping son and breathed in the newborn scent of his head. The shepherds must have felt it as they settled their flocks again in the fields, filled with wonder and gazing into the sparkling night sky. Sometimes it’s in the darkness and silence that we are most aware that the Prince of Peace rules.
When is the last time you listened to “Silent Night?” How can you set aside a few moments to step into the peace of this son who has been given, the Prince of Peace?