The Big Hairy Audacious Beauty of Plan B: Blog #11: Lessons on Carols, “Silent Night”

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it! (John 1:5)

Very few things go as planned. Trying to force things to go as planned or expected can cost us relationships, our joy, waste our time, and rob us of the opportunity to experience the beauty of Plan B.

As so often happens, I was reminded about this just last night. The video I was trying to create was not going as planned: it wouldn’t upload, I couldn’t match the photos with the audio clip, … and instead of finding a different way to share the materials and raw footage, I lost most of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning to trying to upload it *my way*. And then I was so disappointed in myself for the flawed results, that I gave my Christmas Day to beating myself up for the failure of Plan A. Doing things that way is one choice.’

On better days I prefer the option used by Joseph Mohr in 1818 when the organ of the church he served, St. Nicholas in Obendorf, Austria, was out of commission. In 1816, he had walked around the quiet town of Mariapfar, the first church he served, which was dressed in wintry beauty and was now at peace now that the Napoleonic wars had ended.. He was inspired to write a poem, which began: “Silent night, holy night …” or more precisely, “Stille nacho, heilige nacht…”

Since the organ could not be played that Christmas Eve in 1818, he played the guitar and sang the six verse poem along with the choir director, Franz Gruber, who had written the melody. According to the piece Susan Lewis wrote for and posted on their website on Dec. 19, 20202:

An organ builder and repair man working at the church took a copy of the six-verse song to his home village. There it was picked up and spread by two families of traveling folk singers, who performed around Northern Europe. In 1834, the Strasser family performed it for the King of Prussia. In 1837, the Rainer family of singers debuted the carol outside Trinity Church in New York City.

WRTI. org, December 19, 2020. Written by Susan Lewis

As it spread around the world, the carol was eventually one of the ones sung in English, French and German during the now-famous Christmas Eve Truce of 1914 on the front lines of World War I.

The carol continues to bring peace and comfort, because instead of bewailing the broken organ and trying to force music from the useless pipes, Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber moved to Plan B. How much more peace would I have in my life, or would you find in your life, if instead of wishing things were different, we would see with new eyes what we do have and with creativity and love find the beauty possible in what we do have to offer.

I haven’t forgotten my flawed video: tomorrow, I will look at it with new eyes and do something new with the components; the new creation may not have the impact of “Silent Night”, but with God’s help, it may bring hope and joy to someone.

I invite you to look at your life with the same perspective: don’t worry about what you don’t have, don’t force what isn’t working, trust that with God’s help you can find the new thing God has in mind for you, and that what you have to offer might create joy and hope in some way you may never fully know.

Today’s Prayer Poem, “Silent Night” the original six verses

Silent Night, Holy Night

Words: Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Rev. Joseph Mohr, 1816.

Verses 1, 2, 6 translated by Bishop John Freeman Young (1820-1885)
Text: Rev. J. Freeman Young,  Carols for Christmas Tide (New York: 1859), No. 1
Verses 3-5 translated by Silent Night Historian William C. Egan
Christmas International Group,
September 13, 2006
Reproduced through the kind permission of Mr. Egan.

English translation of the six German verses
distributed by the tourist office in Oberndorf, Austria.

1. 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. 

2. 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.

3. Silent night, holy night, 
Here at last, healing light, 
From the heavenly kingdom sent, 
Abundant grace for our intent. 
Jesus, salvation for all. 
Jesus, salvation for all.

4. Silent night, holy night, 
Sleeps the world in peace tonight. 
God sends his Son to earth below, 
A Child from whom all blessings flow. 
Jesus embraces mankind. 
Jesus embraces mankind.

5. Silent night, holy night, 
Mindful of mankind’s plight, 
The Lord in Heav’n on high decreed, 
From earthly woes we would be freed. 
Jesus, God’s promise for peace. 
Jesus, God’s promise for peace.

6. 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.

You can tell some of the verses were written after a war had just concluded, as they celebrate that Jesus embraces mankind, and promises peace and abundant grace. Those verses ring true as we long for health and peace for all on our globe during this pandemic!

Grace, peace, and hope to you!



One thought on “The Big Hairy Audacious Beauty of Plan B: Blog #11: Lessons on Carols, “Silent Night”

  1. We all struggle with technology, Merry Christmas so many of us focus on Plan A, when Plan B is often a better choice, Have a happy new year …


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