As Bishop Kristina Kühnbaum-Schmidt explained when she invited people to join: “Services that bring everyone together are not possible this year, but it is still possible to do something that could bring everyone together.”
And come together they did, in many countries, from church congregations to individual homes, from single persons standing on balconies, to children gathered in backyards or on their front steps.
As they posted their videos, photos and reflections on social media, a divided world came together in one song, sung in many languages:
Noche de Paz
As Kühnbaum-Schmidt reflected back on that special evening, she said she didn’t expect so many people around the world to join. “When the idea first came into my mind, I thought it would be a wonderful way to be spiritually connected in our Nordkirche on Christmas Eve, because it was not possible for our congregations to be all together in Christmas services,” she said. “I was deeply moved when I learned that so many people in our Nordkirche and worldwide shared the idea—and we all were connected on Christmas Eve in singing.”
While the idea was especially for 2020—a year in which many people stayed home for Christmas because of the coronavirus pandemic—Kühnbaum-Schmidt said she is open to the idea of making the singalong an annual occurrence. “If people would like to make a tradition of this—wonderful!” she sa
Sing with angels
A Facebook group created by Swedish Bishop Mikael Mogren drew more than 15,000 people, who welcomed people from many countries and faith traditions.
“Maybe someone hears a neighbor,” Mogren wrote, “in which case we sing with angels and people in the great choir around the earth. Thank you for being there. We need each other and we are needed in society. God’s blessing!”
In the USA, the ecumenical group Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, encompassing multiple Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant denominations, encouraged Christians to sing “Silent Night.”
“Light a candle and stand at the end of your sidewalk, on your front porch, or in your driveway,” said Rev. Canon Natalie Hall of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
“Together—socially distant but spiritually united—we'll sing ‘Silent Night’ together. We’ll be a sign for one another of unity and hope, welcoming the Christ child into the world with one voice.”
The First Christian Church in Burlington, Vermont, held a special drive-in “Silent Night” during which people used glow sticks in place of candles.
In the city of Chicago, radio stations played “Silent Night” in a gesture of solidarity after a tumultuous year. An ecumenical citywide effort featured a live-streamed version of the hymn in three languages.
“This Christmas Eve it’s time to shine the light of hope,” wrote the ecumenical group in its invitation. “For a brief moment, let’s come together as Chicagoans, shine a light, and break through the darkness.”
Sparking a new tradition
Bishop Mogren and others who helped coordinate ecumenical singalongs have already been fielding requests to carry on the tradition in 2021, with many saying the quiet yet strong connection brought a moment of hope and cheer in an otherwise dark world.
One individual from Africa joined the worldwide singers with a simple: “From the smiling coast of Gambia.”
Many were also cheered and moved by healthcare workers from different countries who gathered in hospitals to quietly sing as they worked to care for others.
“Hundreds of films and stories testify to Christmas celebrators who sang and played on Christmas night,” wrote Bishop Mogren. “The fact that we were so many…gives hope for the new year. So much new and exciting lies ahead. Power and courage!”