A Broken Organ and a Lovely Song

A Broken Organ and a Lovely Song

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands! Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!"—Ps. 100:1-2

How could a broken church organ cause us to have our best loved Christmas carol?

In fact, how can many things that cause us inconvenience and even hardship produce our greatest blessings?

For the well-known story of the broken church organ let's go back to the year 1818 at Christmas season in the small German village of Oberndorf.

The priest of the Roman Catholic church there was discouraged. For of all the times in the year when the church organ should be working, it should be at Christmas, when so many glad and great songs are sung and when the children's choir was most active.

But big troubles can come in small packages. So it was with Joseph Mohr, the young twenty-six-year-old priest. For mice, tiny mice with sharp teeth, had gotten in the organ and eaten holes in the leather bellows that supplied air for the organ pipes. No organ music that Christmas.

The priest talked the situation over with his organist, Franz Gruber, also very young, only twenty-nine. They decided to write a Christmas song themselves that could be played very simply on the zither, a harp-like instrument. Mohr would write the words, and Gruber would write the music.

They had only a few hours. But often we can do things when we must do them. So it was with them.

Perhaps God wanted a new song to tell of his Son's birth, a lovely new song saved all those centuries and now to be born in the hearts and minds of two unknown men, no better known than the disciples who followed Christ nearly two thousand years ago. But God can make us instruments of greatness if we will but open our hearts to him.

The young priest walked out under the stars. The night was so silent, so bright, so still. A holy night, it seemed.

The words shaped in his mind—silent night. . .holy night. . . all is calm . . . all is bright.

Meanwhile Franz Gruber worked on the tune. And when they came together, they changed it until it fitted the words.

And that Christmas they had a new Christmas carol about a very old story—the tale of Jesus' birth. The children loved it from the start. The older people loved it. Soon it became well known in the area. And before many years the whole world took to its heart this song caused by a broken organ.

Strangely enough this was the only tune that Franz Gruber ever had published. For shortly afterward he and his family came to America, settling in Pennsylvania. There he lived for over forty years more, dying in 1863. His one great task had been done back in Austria forty-five years before—the giving of a great, lovely song to a world that could not resist singing it.

Today the entire Christian Church loves this short, simple, and truly beautiful Christmas carol—written because some hungry, cold little mice thought a church organ was a good place to find a winter's meal and a nice place to live.

Blessings do come in strange ways. Every hardship offers some reward if we look hard enough. Every inconvenience may prove to be in our favor. With God's help even the worst experience can make us better people.

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