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.
Perhaps one of the most beloved of all the Christmas carols, this one I would imagine is sung by more churches on Christmas Eve than most any other.
Interestingly, when it was written by a young priest in the early nineteenth-century in the Austrian Empire, it originally had to be accompanied by a guitar on Christmas Eve because the organ had been flooded out. I know that my own church will be singing it a cappella this year, outside, with masks on, due to COVID – but still by candlelight. Always by candlelight.
The thing about this carol is that it translates beyond language and culture. It speaks to the soul of something we are all longing for. Of a deeper need and a message that Christmas offers even in the craziest of times.
Many of us know the tale of the Christmas Eve one hundred years after this song’s inception on a battlefield across the sea. The young men fighting knew that the Great War, using some of the most horrific tactics humanity had ever devised, was not going to be a short one. And yet, that night, in the stillness of the starlight, the British troops heard voices ring out a familiar tune, Stille nacht, heilige nacht, alles schlaft, einsam wacht…
Peace ensued that night, with candlelit trees. And peace followed on Christmas Day. They played futbol and exchanged gifts, and only went back to fighting on the 26th under threat of death or court-martial.
Of any year, we need Silent Night this year. We need to hold our candles up, to light up the Christmas Eve sky, and show the world that there is a love more powerful than anything that may come. Even the very worst that this world can throw at it.
So please, this Christmas Eve, even if you cannot physically go to church, be sure to light a candle and join in this beloved lullaby. Because the light is in this world. A light that nothing can put out. A love that will never, ever be overcome.