“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” –Luke 2:9-11
Most every year it seems that one Christmas song each season repeats itself in my life and this year the theme has been “Silent Night.” I’ve always enjoyed the soft, lullaby quality of the carol: it seems to encapsulate the Christmas Eves of my past when my family turned out the lights and lit the tree and all the candles we could find. Then we sat around and shared memories, laughs and hot chocolate. We opened one gift a piece that night, a tradition from my mom’s Granny, and sang Christmas songs. As an adult, the night has changed into one of prayer and contemplation. And I very much enjoy the “silent night” after so much busyness crammed into a few short weeks.
So, the other day I pulled up a video of one of my favorite renditions of “Silent Night,” by acapella group Pentatonix. The arrangement begins as the traditional carol, but midway through, bass Avi Kaplan switches to tenor and the group introduces some poignant harmonies all centered around the word “sleep.” The focus shifts again when Kaplan’s clear voice cuts through the harmony and he initiates a refrain of just the words “silent night, holy night.” It is lovely and moving. But what I noticed as I really listened is that the arrangement seems to change the entire message of the song. The carol begins as an observation of an event, a silent and holy night on which Jesus was born. But when the Pentatonix arrangement brings in Avi’s haunting refrain, the message seems to become a plea to God to provide that silent and holy night the world is still missing. I think the message is indicative of every heart’s longing for and search for peace. The good news is that God has already provided a means for that peace if we will simply accept His plan, His love, and His Son’s atoning sacrifice.