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2020 Advent Devotional – Day 18


Silent night! Holy night!
Words by Joseph Mohr, 1816

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light,
radiant beams from thy holy face,
with the dawn of redeeming grace

Video: Silent Night


This much-loved carol is a song of surprising contrasts. For though the title and first line of each verse emphasize night, the remaining lyrics accentuate light and bright dawn. Likewise, the carol begins by depicting the stillness of nighttime, but the second verse, in particular, resounds with praise and energy. It seems that what we might expect of this night, and what we get, are not the same.

These disparities are in keeping with the origins of the piece. The author, Joseph Mohr, wrote the words in 1816 originally as a poem. Shortly after, however, he found himself preparing for a Christmas Eve service without an organ because river waters had flooded his church and damaged the instrument.

Reluctant to have Christmas Eve without music, Mohr asked his organist to compose a melody on the guitar for the poem. The guitar, however, was not an instrument approved by the Church for use in worship so, to minimize the controversy, Mohr and the organist waited until the very end of the service to play the carol. Adversity transformed into holy praise.

Fittingly then, “Silent Night” sings of the unexpected and transforming power of God’s love. This is a love that is “pure light” – love that is a beacon for us to follow, a power that will break through our darkness, a source of strength and comfort. The radiance of this light is absolute and all-conquering, as darkness falls away.

Our own times of adversity, when our music falls silent and night closes in, can be transformed by the joyous “dawn of redeeming grace.” A gift from God that affirms to us that in Jesus we have the eternal promise of a new day and a fresh start; that whatever darkness we have endured, God’s love will rescue us from it and shine into our hearts as a radiant beam of hope.

Further reading on the history of this work:

Surprising God,
When I think the world can get no darker, your love emerges in unexpected and affirming ways. When I am certain I know the road ahead, your love upends my assumptions and transforms the path I am to take. Renew my strength each day and guide me with the radiant love of Jesus Christ. Dawn in my heart, O Lord, and shine into the world to bring comfort and hope. Amen.


Silent night! Holy night!

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.

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!

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.

If you’re enjoying the carols each day, there’s now a YouTube playlist you can listen to that contains all the carols shared so far. The playlist will grow as the devotional series progresses, with each day’s carol being added. By Christmas Day, you’ll have the perfect soundtrack of worship and praise.  Click here to listen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2021.