Silent Night, the Song and the Story

Josef Franz Morh Wrote Stille Nacht, Translated into Silent Night

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Josef Franz Mohr was born to an unmarried woman, in Salzburg, Austria, in December of 1792. His father deserted her before Josef was born. An illegitimate child of that century and culture had very little advantage unless God intervened. Josef's mother found him a sponsor who provided him with a chance for higher education. Josef chose the priesthood as his profession. Ordained in 1815, he was sent to pastor a church in a remote Alpine village. Three years later while preparing for Christmas services at St. Nicholas Church, Josef experienced an event that would prove to not only bless him and his congregation, but the world over.

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The church organ was broken, which in Father Josef's mind made it very difficult to plan an effective Christmas celebration for his congregation. The young priest took his problem before the Lord. God reminded Josef of a poem he had written several years before. Father Josef quickly jotted down the words, took them to his organist who composed a tune. December 24th, 1818, with just a guitar for accompaniment, Stille Nacht was sung for the first time.

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Shortly thereafter, the organ repairman heard the story, took a copy of the song and began to spread it throughout Austria. It eventually came to the attention of a local tailor, Herr Strasser, whose children were singers; local celebrities. Much to the delight of their audiences, the Strasser children added Stille Nacht to their repertoire. The fame of the children and of the song began to spread to the point that the Strasser's were asked to give a performance of Stille Nacht before the king and queen.

In 1838 Stille Nacht was published in a German hymnbook for general congregational singing. Germans who moved to America brought their songs with them to the new world. It wasn't long before Stille Nacht was translated into English, and Silent Night became America's most beloved carol.

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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,
Heavenly 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.

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!

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Written by: Connie Ruth Christiansen