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.
Ah, Silent Night. A classic Christmas carol… and one of my favorites! I’m sure for many of you, it just doesn’t seem like Christmas until the song ‘Silent Night’ is sung! Fortunately, our congregation sings this song every year at our Christmas Eve service.
There are many stories about the origin of this beloved Christmas carol, but one theme is certain – the song was created out of chaotic and inconvenient circumstances.
In 1818, a wandering band of actors was performing in towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg where they were to re-enact the story of Christ’s birth in the small church of St. Nicholas.
Unfortunately, the St. Nicholas’ church organ wasn’t working and would not be repaired before Christmas. Talk about throwing a wrench in the plans! Although not an ideal situation, the actors presented their Christmas drama in a private home instead. Josef Mohr, the assistant Pastor of St. Nicholas, attended the drama. That Christmas presentation of the events in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke put Josef Mohr in a meditative mood. Instead of walking straight to his house that night, Mohr took a longer way home. The longer path took him up over a hill overlooking the village.
From that hilltop, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. Basking in the majestic silence of the wintry night, Mohr gazed down at the Christmas-card like scene. His thoughts about the Christmas play he had just seen made him remember a poem he had written a couple of years before… A poem about the night when angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside.
Mohr decided those words might make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. A problem arose one again: He did not have any music composed to the poem. So, on Christmas Eve, Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody that could be sung with a guitar. Despite the limited time constraints, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered to Mohr and Gruber that their church organ was inoperable. Little did they now, they now had a Christmas carol that would be sung for generations to come.
In the midst of chaos, something cherished was conceived.
Through the unexpected & the unknown, people were able to worship the Messiah.
Although the circumstances were not ideal, God had a plan through it all.
I’m not just speaking on behalf of a Christmas carol, but the reason why Christmas came…
I’m talking about Christ Himself.
Matthew 1:21-23 – “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).”
Just as this Christmas carol was conceived in chaos, so was the birth of Christ. I believe the Prince of Peace was planned by God despite the problems of its day.
Imagine what the first Christmas was like…
- Mary, being 9 months pregnant, has to fulfill her civic duty by registering for the census with her soon-to-be husband in the town of Bethlehem. What would it look like for a pregnant woman to travel in those days?
- With everyone traveling, the journey must have been packed with travelers. I’m sure the commute looked like the 405 freeway on Memorial Day weekend!
- There was no room for them available to stay the night. Perhaps due to Mary’s pregnancy, they traveled slower than others and arrived later than most. It would have been packed with whole families everywhere.
- They stayed in a stable. The stable would be filled with the traveler’s animals with the noise and smell that accompanies them.
- Once Mary went into labor, any peace they managed to grasp would have completely disappeared. There’s the labor pains, the anguish, and the cries that come with delivering a baby.
- Joseph would have been pacing back and forth outside (it was the custom of the men to not be present during the delivery) while other women nearby would help assist Mary.
- Shouts and songs of celebration would have erupted in the night as a successful birth took place.
The conditions were not perfect for peace… were they?
Yet the Prince of Peace came anyways…
During the disruption of normalcy with a government census,
During a not so ideal situation for a pregnant woman,
During unfortunate circumstances regarding proper housing to give birth
Jesus comes as the Prince of Peace for us in the midst of our chaos, our last-minute changes, & the unfavorable conditions that we face.
We all want a ‘perfect’ Christmas, but we rarely get it! Think about all that could have taken place for your Christmas today:
- Getting the decorations out of the boxes. Putting enough decorations up but not too much to look cluttered.
- Travel plans – whose house are we going to this year? What time? How long are we staying?
- The food that comes with the celebration. How much do we need to have? If we are hosting, do we have enough for everyone?
- Gifts – Did we get gifts for everyone? If out of town relatives are coming, do we get gifts for them too? Are the gifts wrapped by now?
In addition, I had the unplanned and unfortunate experience of getting sick a few days earlier. I now had the choice to make – do I stress out and attempt to make Christmas perfect the way I imagine it to be? Or do I trust that God will give me the peace to work things out the way He wants it to be?
I’m reminded by the famous carol and the first Christmas that they were not conceived in perfection. The standards that I attain for ‘perfect’ is not what is needed. The Good News is this: Christmas doesn’t need to be “perfect” to be Christmas! Perfection is not needed to have peace.
‘Perfect peace’ doesn’t come by our own hands, because “Perfect Peace” only comes through the form of our Savior, Jesus. It’s on this day that we celebrate His birth for He has saved us, He has given us new life, and He has so much more for us as we seek Him each day.
Even when the angels appeared to the shepherds and exclaimed the birth of Christ that peace was on their lips:
Luke 2:13-14 – “ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Thankfully, God doesn’t wait for perfection to bestow His grace and love! God’s Son, the light that comes in the darkness, comes regardless of and in the very midst of our catastrophes…. our squabbles…. our confusion… our struggles… our insecurities…our losses…our difficulties… our everyday life.
John 16:33 – “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Yet right before that, he says, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.”
- There will be times where you are unsure of what to do or what way to go… but you can have perfect peace because that is who Jesus is.
- There will be seasons where you feel like your circumstances are overwhelming & you don’t have the support you want… you can have perfect peace because that is who Jesus is.
- There will be unfortunate things that happen to you that are undeserved & unexplainable… even through this, you can have perfect peace because that is who Jesus is.
God doesn’t just come to us when we seek the special….the peaceful….and the calmly prepared moments. God seems to come to us in the ordinary distractions of life…. the busyness….. the moments of tension and in the midst of our problems and mistakes –and brings us peace. It is the perfect Peace of Christ Jesus.
May the Prince of Peace enter your hearts and homes this Christmas. May you trust Him & His abundant love to give you the peace that surpasses all understanding for the many more Christmas’ & the days in between to come.
Have a Merry Christmas and a blessed week!