It began in with a broken organ. Now, if you know this story, you may argue that a simple broken organ was not the real cause of this, but in my lifetime, I have found that God works in very peculiar ways, ways that for the longest time, I never understood. So, believe me when I say- God works in mysterious ways. Anyway, back to the broken organ. It was 1818 in the Austrian Alps. A traveling group of actors were going from town to town performing their various plays. They came to the small Austrian village called Oberndorf, near Salzburg. Being that it was almost Christmas (December 23 to be precise), they band of actors was to perform the Christmas story at St. Nicholas’ Church. Enter the organ problem and how this organ forever changed the sounds of Christmas forever.
The traveling guild of actors needed music to perform their story, so they were forced to present it in a private home. They gave a stirring rendition of the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke and everyone loved the performance. This performance, however, had one audience member thinking. Father Josef Mohr, an assistant pastor at St. Nicholas began the walk home after the performance. This night, he would take the long way home, as he apparently did on many occasions. Mohr stopped on top of hill overlooking the small, snowy village and was reminded of a poem he wrote two years earlier while ministering in a neighboring town. The poem was about the announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds on the hillside the night the Savior of man was born. As he looked at the still, quiet night, Josef, had an idea.
Mohr wanted to use the poem as a carol to sing with the congregation at the Christmas Eve service the next night, there was only one problem- no music. He went to visit a friend, school teacher and the church’s organist, Franz Xaver Gubler. Gubler only had a few short hours to work on the melody, and with the organ out of commission, it had to be for guitar and vocal. Nevertheless, Gubler came up with the tune and the congregation heard Stille Nacht for the first time that night.
As the weeks went by, and the organ in the church was fixed, Gubler sat down to test it. He tested it with the simple melody that he wrote for Mohr’s poem, and it intrigued the organ builder. The organ builder, Karl Mauracher, took copies of the new song and lyrics and before anyone knew it, the song had spread across Europe and had even hoped the ocean to United States. By the time of the American Civil War, Morh’s poem was translated into English. Silent Night quickly became a hit. You can see the admiration of the song in movies and plays alike. In the 2003 Civil War movie Gods and Generals, there is a scene of amicable admiration between a union soldier and confederate soldier as they exchange coffee and a pipe. This meeting was brought on by a song, the song that was playing was Silent Night, which was the first time the soldier had heard it. Whether this incident took place of not, the popularity of the song soared and today, it is sung in over 300 languages around the world.
God indeed works in mysterious ways. We may not have gotten the blessing of Silent Night had it not been for a broken organ. You see that is how God works though. If you have ever wondered why God doesn’t take a direct approach, it is simply because God takes the approach that will witness to other people the most, pointing them to the source through which all blessings flow. John Wooden said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” God uses the small things in life to accomplish His work.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach
Howard Culbertson. For more original content like this, visit: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert