8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2: 8-14
A group of actors was going town-to-town through the Austrian Alps in 1818. They made their way to Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg. On December 23, they were to perform the story of the first Christmas at a small church called the Church of St. Nicholas.
The church organ was broken. Some say mice had invaded it; others put the malfunction to rust. But the organ could not be repaired before Christmas. So the actors presented their play in a home.
Assistant Pastor Josef Mohr was captured once again by the miracles of the story, as he watched the play. He took the long path toward home and ended up on a hill looking over the village. The snow-covered landscape brought to his mind a poem he had written a couple of years before. It was about the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. Then the pastor thought about putting the words to music for his congregation.
Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863)
The next day Mohr went to see his friend, the church organist Franz Xaver Gruber, and asked him to compose a melody to compliment the poem. By that evening, the words of the poem had been put to music played by a guitar.
Above is Mohr’s guitar, now in the Waggerl Museum set up a permanent exhibit — Joseph Mohr – Vicar of Wagrain. In Austria, Stille Nacht is considered a national treasure. Traditionally, the song may not be played publicly before Christmas Eve.