Until the Middle Ages there was no congregational singing in Christian churches. Trained choirs sang chants and monotonous songs. After the Christmas services, the church members would often gather in the streets to sing songs about the birth of Jesus, called ‘carola.’ Martin Luther introduced congregational singing to the churches during the Protestant Reformation and the singing of Christmas carols became part of our Christmas celebrations as we remember the birth of our Savior.
“Silent Night” is the most popular Christmas carol. This beloved carol was first written and sung on Christmas Eve in Obendorf, Austria in 1818. Joseph Mohr was a young priest who had written the words to the hymn two years previously, but now refined it as he walked in the snow, house-to-house, inviting his church members to the worship service that evening.
Returning to his church, the priest asked the church organist, Franz Gruber, to put a melody to the lyrics he had composed. The organist did so, but reminded the priest that the church organ was broken and not functioning. They would have to use different accompaniment that night instead of the usual organ. Thus, Silent Night, was sung for the ﬁrst time at the Christmas Eve service that evening, but it was sung to guitar as Gruber led the congregation in worship!
From this small and seemingly insignificant beginning in an obscure village in Austria the carol, Silent Night, has moved around the world and passed from generation to generation as our most beloved Christmas carol.
Don’t despise small beginnings!
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:6-11 NIV