About two centuries ago a young priest carefully placed everything in order for his first Christmas Eve service.
The sanctuary looked perfect. After many rehearsals, the choir was in fine form. And he was completely secure in the knowledge that he could deliver his message. Even the weather was cooperating; it was snowy, but not so cold that it would keep people away from the service. Finally it was time. He made his way to his small Austrian church and lit the stove. He walked over to the organ and touched a key. That’s when the man was confronted with a crisis. The church’s ancient organ would not make a sound. The organ would not even groan. Like many who face a sudden and unexpected problem, this man panicked. Without music, the service would be ruined, and he would look like a poor leader to his flock.
The young priest raced across town to the home of Franz Gruber, a schoolteacher and friend. Gruber listened, then assured Father Moore that everything was going to be all right. He even suggested that the young priest bring his guitar to provide the music.
The words didn’t help. Moore was still in a panic. He pointed out that the music he had picked out simply would not work with a guitar. The choir would only be able to do justice to those songs with an organ.
Being a schoolteacher, Gruber understood the need for quick adaption. Even as his friend frantically paced the room, the older man was sure something would be worked out. To calm Moore down, Gruber suggested that the two of them come up with a song that didn’t have a complex arrangement. Surely they could find something. Only then did the priest remember a poem he had written three years before. Still not convinced this would work, he agreed to allow the teacher to set that poem to music.
A few hours later Moore was still worried. He feared that the humble presentation would disappoint his congregation. They were expecting something grand, and all he had was a homemade gift of music. After saying a prayer, he again tried to get the organ going, but it would not budge. The plans he had made were shattered. He expected the worst.
Defeated, the young priest picked up the guitar when it was time for the song. Even though the service had been dramatically altered, the wonder of Christmas was revealed. His worries had been for naught. In fact, on that quiet night, that quickly arranged song made Christmas at the church more powerful and meaningful than it had ever been before.
On that night long ago in Austria, the poem that would have otherwise been left in the bottom of a desk drawer found the light. Today the song which saved that Christmas Eve service is the best-known carol in the world. Can you imagine a Christmas without “Silent Night”?
Father Moore assumed that a broken organ would doom his carefully planned worship service and cause him to appear inadequate in the eyes of his congregation. He was so caught up in failure, he almost missed the spirit of Christmas. In time Moore would come to understand that people can make plans, but God alters them to accomplish something more meaningful.
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