1 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.
2 Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
heav'nly hosts sing: “Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!”
3 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!
4 Silent night! Holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing
"Alleluia" to our King:
“Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born.”
Source: Hymns to the Living God #109
|First Line:||Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright|
|Title:||Silent Night, Holy Night|
|German Title:||Stille Nacht|
|Translator (sts. 2, 4):||Anonymous|
|Translator (Sts. 1, 3):||J. Freeman Young|
In the small, quiet town of Oberndorf, Austria, on a snowy Christmas Eve, a priest and an organist wrote what is now the most beloved Christmas carol world-wide. Stories abound as to the exact circumstances of the hymns origin, and there are societies dedicated to the task of protecting the authentic hymn text and story. If you ever visit Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan, you can visit a replica of the Silent Night Chapel. Movies and operas revolve around the hymn, and almost every recording artist that has ever made a Christmas album has recorded it. In a sense, this spreading of the Word is a joy. But these honors should also make us wary. Paul Westermeyer writes, “Partly because of its popularity, STILLE NACHT can easily point to itself rather than beyond itself to the Word” (Let the People Sing, 153). It is important, then, to not simply listen to what we might consider a quaint, nostalgia-evoking carol, but to sing out the depth of these words. For the “dawn of redeeming grace” is something far greater and grander than any song we could ever write.
On December 24, 1818, Parish priest Joseph Mohr wrote six stanzas of a poem in Oberndorf, Austria. Since it was first penned by Joseph Mohr, this text has been translated into at least 175 languages, and has undergone many different English translations, many of which are rather free paraphrases. John Freeman Young’s 1859 translation is the most familiar and often used. Most hymnals include three verses, while some, such as the United Methodist Hymnal and the Baptist Hymnal 2008 add a fourth that begins, “Silent night, holy night! Wondrous star, lend thy light….” Some hymnals, like the Presbyterian Hymnal and Trinity Hymnal, include the German text.
Since the hymn was written for guitar, it would be quite fitting to use a light accompaniment, whether that be guitar, piano, flute, recorder, or a softer organ registration. If you’re looking for something a bit different, Jeanine Noyes has a fabulous upbeat guitar-driven version with drums and violin. One possibility for performing this piece with a choir or small ensemble, should you want to add variety, is to sing Daniel Kantor’s “Night of Silence,” a beautiful piece that can be sung simultaneously with “Silent Night.” This choral combination would be very fitting for a Christmas Eve service, since, as the composer says, it’s “an Advent piece that really bridges the transition from Advent into Christmas, so it’s that really vulnerable transition state between darkness and light” (Maria Baca, “StarTribune.com, December 17, 2003”).
This hymn is most often sung on Christmas Eve, especially during a Candlelight service. Because of the peaceful nature of the hymn, and the description of Christ as “pure light” in the third stanza, it is a beautiful hymn to sing during the lighting of candles, a gesture symbolizing the passing of Christ’s light and peace to one another. It is also fitting to sing after the reading of the nativity story, but could, like many Christmas hymns, work in any point of the service.
Laura de Jong, Hymnary.org