O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
“Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm …” We all know this beloved Christmas carol, and may have fond memories of singing it, likely with a lit candle in hand, seeing the faces of family and friends bathed in soft light, warm and snuggly at the end of the Christmas Eve worship service, before heading back out into the cold and snow to go back home.
But that’s not how the first Silent Night went. The story goes, the church in Oberndorf, Austria, had an organ. In 1818 there were mice who ate holes in the bellows used to make the organ work, and the organ couldn’t be repaired before the Christmas Eve service. The priest of the church, Father Joseph Mohr, had written a poem a couple of years earlier. He brought it to the church musician, Franz Gruber, who wrote a melody to go with the poem. The new carol was sung, accompanied by guitar, at the Christmas Eve service, and it slowly gained popularity throughout the world.
The people who attended that 1818 Christmas Eve Mass didn’t expect to hear a new song that night; they expected organ and choir and all the usual traditions to continue. I bet some were angry, and some were disappointed. I bet some were wondering, and some thought it was a sweet little song. Nobody could have predicted that the song would be translated into over 300 languages and still sung as a beloved Christmas carol over 200 years later!
This Christmas of 2020 is similar to that 1818 Christmas. Things are different here in Luverne this year. We have no bellows on our organs, and hopefully we don’t have hungry mice in our churches. But we do have a virus that is infecting our community and our world. Church worship services will likely look and sound a bit different, but Christ’s birth will still be celebrated. Some of the traditions may continue (such as the Live Nativity at Grace this Sunday), but others (such as children sitting on Santa’s lap) may not, due to safety concerns.
In 1818 the residents of Oberndorf, Austria, were faced with an unexpected dilemma. People were creative and worked around it.
In 2020 the residents of Luverne are faced with an unexpected dilemma. People are being creative and are making plans to work around it.
But the one thing that IS still the same is Christ will come. Maybe his arrival will be remembered through a poem, about a silent night, where all is calm and bright. Maybe his arrival will be remembered through watching a Christmas Eve service online, eating Christmas cookies and drinking hot chocolate with your family in your living room.
However this Christmas looks, Christ will be here. Emmanuel, God With Us. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!