I am going to share a story that I was given. In my research of the origins of this story I found several versions. Here is the one that rings most true.
It was December 1941, Christmas Eve in a little village outside of Trondheim Norway. The Lutheran Church had been sealed up to prevent the worshippers from attending worship there. The commander of the German occupation troops in the area believed that this was a center for the Norwegian resistance in the area. He was right.
However the people were going to worship and celebrate the birth of Christ. The pastor and the congregations gathered outside the church and sang hymns, offered prayers and were going to celebrate communion. The German commander found out and with a group of soldiers came to break up the gathering.
Confronting the worshippers the commander ordered them to stop and go home, but they continued the service with the singing of a hymn. The commander was so angry that he grab a twelve year old girl nearest him, handed her over to his soldiers and told the people he would kill the girl if they didn’t stop.
The gathering fell completely silent, only the cold December wind could be heard. Then out of the silence a crystal clear child’s voice could be heard singing “Silent Night”. It was that of the girl who the commander had threaten to kill. The commander turned in shock to look at the girl and then from behind he heard other voices join in. They were the members of the church.
Here is where the story ends for many. Some said that the German commander was so angry he had the girl and the congregation shot, some said he was too ashamed he just let her go. But the King of Norway at that time tells the story a bit differently.
You see “Silent Night” is a German Christmas Hymn written by a Roman Catholic priest by the name of Fran Gruber. Every Catholic or Lutheran child grew up knowing that hymn. So when the child began to sing, all the soldiers knew the hymn by heart. I don’t think she sang “Silent Night” as a way to sway the German soldiers, but because it was her favorite hymn.
The German officer was about to order his men to shoot the girl when to his absolute shock her heard his own men singing the hymn as well in German. The officer knew he was defeated and stomped off in disgust. The pastor invited the soldiers to receive communion. They declined, knowing they were going to be severely punished. They did not want to face the wrath of their commander any more than they would already receive. They returned to their barracks and the people had communion and went home.
The story is not about Norwegians versus Germans. This story is about light versus darkness, faith versus fear and hope that does not disappoint! Have a Blessed Christmas and a Joyous New Year!