“Silent Night” by Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818
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.
Of all the many lullaby-like Christmas carols, “Silent Night” is perhaps the best-known and most-beloved. In fact it is, really, a lullaby and could likely be considered the theme song of Christmas, if ever there was to be one. It is easy to imagine the scene: Our Lady cradling her newborn Son, singing Him to sleep. The most fantastic event ever to occur in the history of creation—the birth of God into the universe, on Earth of all places—was met with the silence of a Palestinian night, none but the shepherds hearing the celebration that occurred in heaven at that moment. No one saw the radiant beams of God’s glory descending upon the world as the Father looked upon the new home of His Only Begotten. When He comes again, however, all will hear, and all will see.
In today’s Gospel Jesus sings, so to speak, another verse of our carol, a lullaby of hope for our weary hearts. His yoke—His Word to which He desires us to submit—is easy and light. He tells us elsewhere that, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) Our world tells us that freedom consists in doing what we wish, without any constraint whatsoever; we know this to be false, and we see a world full of people yoked by the heavy burden of being one’s own god. Jesus is the Word of God; He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6); even from His conception He was addressed as Lord (Luke 1:43), and at His birth He was revered as a King: “Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!” Our God has come among us, as one of us, to help us come to know and love God in the most human of terms: as a man. True freedom, He teaches us today, consists in allowing Him to sit upon the throne of our heart, a throne too easily usurped by our own pride.
As St. Augustine, who became a Christian under the inspiration and guidance of St. Ambrose, famously wrote, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” Our creator becomes one of His creatures; the One who made us for Himself is born for us, giving Himself to us. What have we to fear? Let your heart rest in Him, “for a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:5)