The Beauty of Silence

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“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation…For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.” -Psalm 62:1,5


I have always been drawn to the story of the Christmas carol “Silent Night.” This was further enhanced by my visit to Germany one snowy winter at Christmas time; I was in a quiet valley surrounded by rugged snow-covered peaks, much like the location where “Silent Night” was first sung in a Christmas Eve service in 1818.

I am told Joseph Mohr, a young priest and the author of the famous carol, would walk alone to his grandfather’s home in Mariapfarr, Austria when he served as an assistant priest in a church there for two years. The night walk took him over a snow-covered ridge with magnificent views, almost too much to take in. Shining its bright light upon the snow, the moon displayed the valley and majestic peaks in luxuriant radiance; a blanket of beauty and silence settled upon him, all the while overwhelming his senses with an awe of peace and calm. These walks midst the beauty of this silent scene, while contemplating the nativity story, partially inspired the writing of his poem in 1816.

Joseph Mohr would remember the poem with its theme two years later on the day prior to the Christmas Eve service in the mountain church he now served in Oberndorf, Austria. The organ of the church had apparently broken down and could not be used for this special service. So, in trying to think of something to enhance their worship, Mohr thought of his poem and took it to Franz Gruber, his organist. He asked him to compose a tune for the poem on guitar for the next evening; Gruber accomplished it in time.

Two hundred years later, my eyes surveyed this magnificent night in silence under a similar bright moon, from the vantage of a mountainside lodge overlooking the valley below. A number of quaint German villages with their church spires rising above set a scene much like Joseph Mohr must have enjoyed two centuries earlier. “Silent Night” came to mind, and I was mesmerized by the sight of what must have been Mohr’s own partial inspiration in composing the words of one of the most beloved carols ever sung.

We live in a world today which often eschews silence. Radio and television are totally fearful of any silent gap in their programming. Furthermore, some people must have a television on all the time to even feel at ease. The noises of a bustling city constantly fill the air all day and all night. Some people are used to always living with background noise or music; they obviously have a real fear of silence. Smartphones capture any and all time of silent reflection.

What does the total quiet, when such is possible, speak to you? What thoughts are engendered by silence? I dare say we all need periods of complete silence for our own good health. We need time to think, to meditate, to converse, to worship and fellowship with God by ourselves. To focus on Him, we must sometimes shut out the noises of the world around us but not necessarily the quiet noise of nature, like the song of a bird or the rustling of wind. There is necessary and regular corporate worship and fellowship with other believers, but we also must find our own time alone with God in silence, where our hearts and minds converse with the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit and where we luxuriate in His personal presence. This necessitates non-distracting silence.

Mary was silently alone when Gabriel visited her to announce her coming pregnancy with Jesus. The night sky over the shepherds was silent before and after the angels’ choir magnificently announced the Savior’s birth. After that night’s events, the many silent nights of quietly watching their sheep again must have invoked contemplation in their minds of what had been experienced that night in Bethlehem. What did this speak to their individual hearts?

Make use of your times of silence for your growth, for the sanctification of your soul. Reflect, pray, confess, and enjoy the fellowship of your Savior and God. After all, He made you and He saved you. Seek silence as the fertile ground it really is for your spiritual renewal. Silence assists you in hearing the still, small voice of God.

Silence creates space for intimate thoughtfulness, which, accompanied and directed by His Word, guides your heart closer to God. These times of silence will truly become your treasured times, never easily forgotten. They will potentially create in your heart and mind a peace which passes all understanding.


“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.”

(First verse of Joseph Mohr’s hymn-carol, “Silent Night, Holy Night,” 1816)

 

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Stephen Leonard

Paul Anderson Youth Home