Monday, December 18, 2023

Third Sunday of Advent



December 17, 2023

Promises Made

Micah 5:2-5


The Story Behind The Beloved Christmas Carol "Silent Night"

WRTI Your Classical and Jazz Source | By Susan Lewis

Published December 20, 2021 at 12:27 PM EST

It was 205 years ago when "Silent Night" was first heard by Austrian villagers attending Christmas Eve mass in St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf. How did this simple melody, with its words of comfort, become a beloved hymn of peace throughout the world?

The Story

"Silent Night" is about a calm and bright silent night, and the wonder of a tender and mild newborn child, words written in 1816 by a young priest in Austria, Joseph Mohr, not long after the Napoleonic wars had taken their toll.

"The backstory is that the priest went for a walk before he wrote it, and he looked out over a very quiet, winter-laden town," says composer/conductor John Conahan, who co-organized the Silent Night Sing-In with WRTI in 2018, 2019 and 2023, and created a new arrangement of the famous carol. "He was inspired...the town was at peace."

It was Christmas Eve, 1818, when the now-famous carol was first performed as Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht. Joseph Mohr, the young priest who wrote the lyrics, played the guitar and sang along with Franz Xaver Gruber, the choir director who had written the melody.

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 1839, the Rainer family of singers debuted the carol outside Trinity Church in New York City. 

The composition evolved, and was translated into over 300 languages with many different arrangements for various voices and ensembles. It was sung in churches, in town squares, even on the battlefield during World War I, when, during a temporary truce on Christmas Eve, soldiers sang carols from home. "Silent Night," by 1914, known around the world, was sung simultaneously in French, German and English.

Over the years, the carol's mystique grew with its popularity. After the original manuscript was lost, for decades, some speculated that the music had been written by Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven. In 1994, an original manuscript was found in Mohr's handwriting, with Gruber named as composer.

Today, the Franz Xaver Gruber Museum in Hallein and the Joseph Mohr School in Wagrain, Austria honor the creators of this classic carol. The Stille Nacht Gesellschaft—or Silent Night Society—hosts a virtual Silent Night museum, tracks events, and promotes the use of all six verses, which in the words of Silent Night Society president "[encourage] peace and [demand] responsibility for the globe."

The English version of "Silent Night" is typically sung in three verses corresponding with the original 1, 6, and 2.

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.


Before we look at today’s scripture and message, how many of you knew Silent Night actually has 6 verses? As has been the case with some of the carols we have looked at, this story seemingly was inspired as a result of a world in turmoil and a night that the composer experienced when all seemed as God ideally intends for His creation, His people. A beautiful, silent night, that reminded Joseph Mohr of what could be, not what had been. This song did seem to be written as a Christmas song. It was inspired by God to help us all know God is with us through the good and the difficult times of life. His peace and love are there in the midst of our storms if we invite him in. For the message that we have today, this song jumps the gun a bit for what we will be looking at this morning.

What a glorious promise God is making to His people through Micah. The first promise talks of Bethlehem. Bethlehem had not been one of the towns that had held a lot of prominence in the story of God’s people yet. It was to have the ruler, the Messiah, come from it. God’s people had been dominated by others for quite some time when this promise was made. God’s promise warned them that it was still going to be a longer wait until the good shepherd would come to redeem them. In fact, this was written 700 years before the birth of Christ. Of course, they did not know for sure how long the wait would be, yet you have to believe they wanted to believe it would be within the lifetime of those who first received this promise. Yet the promise went unfulfilled for generation after generation.

It would have been easy for this message, this promise, to have been lost, forgotten. Yet there were those generation after generation that continued to hope and wait for God to honor this promise.


Let us now move forward to Luke 1: 26-35 and then skip to verse 38. Here we read that God is setting the stage to fulfill what had been promised by the Old Testament prophets including what we read in Micah this morning.


Let’s face it, we all want to see things happen on our timetable more times than not. Whether Mary knew of all the promises made hundreds of years earlier or not, we do not know. We do know by what has been recorded that Mary with only a little questioning was willing to do what the angel said would happen. Let us look a little closer at what was told to Micah and then what the angel, Gabriel told Mary about the child who would be born to her.



Micah 5:4-5

He will stand and shepherd his flock
    in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
    will reach to the ends of the earth.

And he will be our peace…



Now let’s see what was promised to Mary in Luke.

Luke 1:32-33

New International Version

32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”


So, we see the promise made to God’s people through Micah 700 years earlier is finally about to happen or so it seems. God sent Gabriel to a young woman living in Nazareth to announce God is about to do something never before done. If you think about it, God is all about doing the impossible. Story after story in the Old Testament is about God doing something new for His people, through His people. Doing things that seem impossible but for our God nothing is impossible. There are also a number of stories in the New Testament as well.

The stage is set. God’s promises have been made through Micah and now to a young girl in Nazareth. Did God do what he promised? Stay tuned as we will see next Sunday whether God was really able to keep these promises. All of God’s people, all of creation depend on it.

Pastor Larry



Sunday School 9:00

Tuesdays 9:30 Bible Study cancelled until after the first of the new year.


Check your mailbox!


December 20 7:00 p.m. Christmas Worship Service here—Prepare for Christmas with meditations, songs, the sharing of the bread and cup, and candle-lighting.

December 24 ADVENT OFFERING—see insert in your bulletin; envelopes will be provided next Sunday


Needed: Volunteers for Children’s stories. Please sign up in the back.


Pastor Larry Traxler- (217) 454-2362

Donation Box: The Lord’s Storehouse

First Sundays: Food Bank donations


Keep in Your Prayers

Ava; Nora Hanaver; Jonah Martina; Jan Bower; Larry Traxler; Randy and Michelle West; Mike Gentry; Eli Brunner; Nancy Fansler; Doug Larrick; Ron & Kathleen Petersen; Debbie Leibrock; Dorthea Wood; Tina Wilhelm; Mike and Carol Seidenstricker; Adiline Young; Kim Lehmann; Mayo & Darlene Hanaver; Stacie Warren; Nancy Gorrell; many unspoken requests; victims of disasters; victims of shootings; shut-ins; the Nigerian church; Haitian Brethren; Ukraine; Moracco; Israel and Hamas war

Military and Other Services and their families

Brethren Volunteer Service workers; Disaster project workers

District Prayer Calendar: Pray for the Neighborhood congregation and On Earth Peace.


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