Silent Night — Carols of Advent Joy

Scripture Focus: Psalm 136:23-26
23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

Matthew 1:22-23
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Reflection: Silent Night — Carols of Advent Joy
By Jon Polk

Silent Night holds the distinction of being the world’s most recorded Christmas song. There are over 137,000 known recorded versions of the carol!

There are classics like Bing Crosby’s version or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition. There are also gospel, rap and heavy metal versions! The song has universal appeal and speaks to our longing for peace and hope in a dark world.

During the famous “Christmas Truce” of 1914, when British and German troops in World War I voluntarily ceased fighting on Christmas Day, one of the carols that they sang together was Silent Night.

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.

The song was born out of a period of insecurity and instability. Following the Napoleonic Wars, a young Catholic priest, Father Joseph Mohr arrived at the parish in the village of Oberndorf, Austria. He composed the text of the song for performance on Christmas Eve in 1818.

Mohr gave the lyrics to Franz Gruber, a schoolteacher and organist, asking him to compose a melody. As the story goes, the organ at the church in Oberndorf had been damaged by a recent flood and was out of commission at the time, leading Gruber to compose the music on guitar.

Karl Mauracher, who serviced the organ at the church, was apparently so taken by the song that he took the carol back with him to his village. Folk singers from Mauracher’s hometown included the song in their performances. One group, the Rainers, ultimately introduced the song to the U.S. on a tour in 1839.

Since then, the carol has become popular in all corners of the world. In 2011, UNESCO declared the song an intangible cultural heritage, stating

The song addresses the human desire for all-encompassing peace, conveys a feeling of fellowship, and promotes interpersonal exchange and mutual understanding.

Worldwide, the song is embraced as a call to peace for our world. We Christians know that peace comes from the Prince of Peace, the baby born on that night.

Ironically, the night itself was likely anything but silent – a newborn infant, surrounded by animals, in a barn, in a crowded city. But as we sing it, the song reminds us, for a few moments at least, of the need for peace in our own chaotic world. 

May the words not be merely hopes and dreams but may we each work towards bringing Christ’s peace to our respective corners of the world.

Silent night! Holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing
“Alleluia” to our King:
“Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born.”

Listen: Silent Night by Sandra McCracken 
Read: Lyrics from

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Everyone will stand in awe and declare God’s deeds; they will recognize his works. — Psalm 64.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 26  (Listen 4:00)
Psalms 135-136 (Listen 4:23)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Chronicles 27-28  (Listen 6:27), Psalms 137-138 (Listen 2:42)
2 Chronicles 29  (Listen 6:49), Psalms 139 (Listen 2:26)
2 Chronicles 30  (Listen 4:56), Psalms 140-141 (Listen 2:44)

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Jericho’s Wall

Joshua 5.13-14
Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

Reflection: Jericho’s Wall
By John Tillman

If you ask most Christians how the inhabitants of Jericho responded to Israel and their silent marching around the city, most will probably say they taunted them and that the point of the story is that the Israelites demonstrated faith by following God’s strange plan despite being made fun of. This is a complete fabrication. There is no textual evidence to suggest that the Israelites were teased or taunted at all by Jericho.  

Scripture doesn’t shy away from a great taunt. The scriptures are full of them. God himself delivers sharply barbed taunts. Even Jesus gently taunts Nicodemus. But no taunts are recorded here.

Jericho wasn’t in a taunting mood. They were terrified. No matter how funny the French Peas are in a Veggie Tales video, the reality is that scripture tells us multiple times how terrified everyone in Canaan was of Israel, but it never tells us once that they taunted Israel or made any comment about God’s plan of marching around the city.

It’s not difficult to see why Jericho was terrified. This gigantic group of former slaves destroyed the entire army of Egypt—the world-wide superpower of its day. Today, this would be comparable to the United States military being wiped out by an opponent. Then this same group traveled through the desert completely destroying any king or nation that stood up to them. Then, these desert-crossing, dangerous, religious fanatics show up at Jericho’s border, crossing the river without permission and in a miraculous fashion.

One possible reason for our extremely poor handling of scripture, in this case, is that, when teaching children, we are so uncomfortable with the idea of God ordering the Israelites to wipe out an entire city, we need a distraction. “Perseverance amidst taunting” is a kinder-gentler lesson to teach children. 

This erroneous reading of scripture turns the power dynamic upside down allowing us to feel “persecuted” like the Israelites and justified in destroying our enemies.

But God isn’t interested in destroying people we call our enemies. If the commander of the Lord’s army was not on Joshua’s side, we can rest assured that the commander of the Lord’s army is not on “our” side today. Especially if we define our side so narrowly as to exclude those outside of something so meaningless and trivial as a political party.

The lesson of Jericho’s wall is not that God’s plans are weird, and people will make fun of us, but we should follow God anyway. The lesson of Jericho’s wall is that it is God who initiates judgment, not us. The lesson is that we don’t deserve what God has given us and that if we are unfaithful, we too will face God’s wrath and no wall will stand in its way.

*Tomorrow, as the United States marks its independence, may we be reminded of our utter dependence on God and that our true citizenship is in the new Heaven and the New Earth to come. 

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, for in his holy Name we put our trust.
Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in your. — Psalm 33.20-22

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Joshua 5-6.5 (Listen – 2:38) 
Psalm 132-134 (Listen – 2:42)

Tomorrow’s Readings
Joshua 6.6-27 (Listen – 4:47) 
Psalm 135-136 (Listen – 3:53)

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Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

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Read more about Over Jordan
When we cross over the Jordan with Christ, the land has no enemies to be defeated. It has no cities to march around and no battles to be fought. 

Read more about Prayer for Enemies
How quickly do we celebrate our enemies’ sufferings? Should we, rather, pray for them instead?