In the book Hymns of Inspiration and Faith, Pamela Kennedy relates a wonderful Christmas story. The year was 1818. Members of the little church in the Austrian city of Obernorf eagerly anticipated Christmas season. But the local minister, Josef Mohr, and his friend, Franz Gruber, the church organist and village schoolmaster, lamented their situation. Not only was the church organ broken, but they had not been able to compose a Christmas hymn for that year.
As was the custom in Alpine mountain villages, a group of traveling players arrived just before Christmas. They presented the Nativity play on December 23. While walking home after the performance that evening, Mohr stopped at a favorite viewpoint overlooking the village of Obernorf. There under the sparkling winter stars, Mohr wrote the beautiful words of “Silent Night.” The next morning, he showed them to Gruber. Mohr asked if his friend might find a melody that would fit with the words. By the midnight Christmas Eve service, Gruber and Mohr, along with the youth choir, sang “Silent Night” for the very first time. When the organ builder came after the holidays to repair the church organ, he heard the song being sung. He took a copy back with him to his church. Soon, the song spread to nearby cities. In 1839, it was first performed in the United States by a visiting group of Austrian singers. Before long, it was translated into English as well as several other languages. It may be the most famous Christmas carol of all time.
It had not been the intent of Mohr or Gruber to create anything famous. They were just trying to give something to their congregation that would share the wonder and beauty of Christmas. God has been able to use what they gave that Christmas long ago to bless countless others over the years. As you make your plans for this holiday season, please remember that the size or cost of the gift is not what is most important. But if, as we are moved by the “reason for the season”, we truly give ourselves, God will use our gifts in ways beyond what we might imagine or think.