She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them. – Luke 2:7
1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.
3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.
4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.
5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.
9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,
10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.”
11 “The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others– the armies of heaven– praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
One of the most beloved of all Christmas hymns is Silent Night. It was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. How did it come to be written? It was the collaborative work of two friends: Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber. Joseph Mohr was a young parish priest at St. Nicholas Church, Inzersdorf, Austria. Mohr had written the words as a poem in 1816 when he was assigned to a church in Mariapfarr, Austria.
In 1818, on Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the lyrics to Franz Gruber, the deputy organist at St. Nicholas Church, and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for that night’s mass. Franz Gruber was a musically trained clergyman. Gruber wrote the melody, and Silent Night was first performed that night.
By the middle of the 1800s, the hymn became well-known and loved. But because the original manuscript was lost, Mohr’s name was forgotten and temporarily lost to history. Gruber became known as the composer. The Royal Prussian Court Chapel in Berlin began a search to determine who created the hymn. In 1854, Franz Gruber wrote a two-page document in which he briefly summarized the origins of the work and named himself and Mohr as its creators. In 1995, a manuscript was discovered in Mohr’s own handwriting, dated by researchers circa 1820.
In 1859, John Freeman Young, an Episcopal priest at Trinity Church, New York City, wrote and published the English translation of “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.” Young’s translation of three of the six verses is most frequently sung today.
Silent night, Holy night All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon virgin, mother and child Holy infant, tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.
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 Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven above Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born.
18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.
19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”
21 “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
REFLECT & PRAY
Luke 2:40 There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.
Father thank You for sending Your Son on that extraordinary, silent, and holy night. You deserve our gratitude and esteem. The Savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord was born in Bethlehem. Praise God in the highest.
The Father had orchestrated all of the events leading up to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. His intelligent design and knowledge of the future before it happens are revealed repeatedly.
Galatians 4:4 But when the right time came [the fullness of time], God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.
“Joseph and Mary capsulized the mystery of grace – the King does not come to the proud and powerful but to the poor and powerless. As it is so often in life, things were not as they seemed to the world around because humble Mary and Joseph were the adoptive father and birth mother of the King of kings . . ..”
“They appeared to be helpless pawns caught in the movements of secular history, but every move was under the hand of Almighty God. The Messiah would indeed be born in tiny, insignificant Bethlehem!” (Hughes).
It is noteworthy that the angels were sent to announce the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ to shepherds. Shepherds were not well thought of at the time. In many ways, they were despised and considered the lowest of the low. Because they could not follow ceremonial laws requiring meticulous handwashing, rules, and regulations, they were held in contempt by the religious community.
Why shepherds? Why not priests or scribes? “By visiting the shepherds, the angel revealed the grace of God toward mankind. Shepherds were really outcasts in Israel. Their work not only made them ceremonially unclean, but it kept them away from the temple for weeks at a time so that they could not be made clean. God does not call the rich and mighty; He calls the poor and the lowly” (Wiersbe).
The light show extravaganza of the radiance of the glory of the Lord, which accompanied the announcement of the angels, induced great fear.
Luke 2:9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were filled with great fear.
The phrase “They were filled with great fear” is Ephobethesan phobon megan in Greek. It is a Semitic idiom. Semitisms in the Greek New Testament use characteristic features of Hebrew or Aramaic. The same root phobe – fear is used in both the verb and noun. This grammatical structure is intended to intensify the fear they felt. It could be translated as “filled with great fear” or “they became very afraid.”
Their great fear (phobon megan) would soon become great joy (charan – joy megalen – great) (Luke 2:10).
“As the Virgin traveled, her steady beating heart, hidden from the world, kept time with the busily thumping heart of God” (Hughes).
John 1:14 The Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
“The baby Mary carried was not a Caesar, a man who would become a god, but a far greater wonder – the true God who had become a man!” (Hughes).
© Dr. H 2022