“Silent Night, Holy Night,” is my favorite Christmas hymn, as I am sure it is for many.
The other night, as I was working into the night as we parents do at this time of the year doing my Christmas tasks, I was watching the History channel. Lo and behold, the history of the beloved song, “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht,” was airing.
I knew that I wouldn’t be going to bed for another hour, so I got myself a cup of hot cocoa, turned on the fireplace (with that good ol’ clicker magic these days), and nestled in to wrap presents and watch the show.
Close to 200 years ago, this song was heard for the first time in a village church in Oberndorf, Austria. A young priest, Joseph Muir wrote it as a poem. He traveled to his friend, musician Franz Gruber, to request that he write a melody with guitar accompaniment to be sung at midnight Mass. Thus it was.
Wow, would it not have been incredible to be a part of that listening audience when it was sung for the first time by these two men?
Two well-known families of singers, the Rainers and the Strassers heard it. They were so captivated by its words and tune that they built it into their Christmas singing traditions.
It was sung for King Frederick William IV of Prussia. He ordered his choir to sing it each Christmas Eve thereafter.
This beloved song has been brought to the US, as well, and has been translated into about 300 different languages around the world.
Of course, one of the most famous stories of this song occurred in 1914, during World War I. The song was sung in French, English, and German by troops during the Christmas truce of 1914. It literally and figuratively stopped the war for a short while. It brought a unified peace.
If this song could bring peace, even for that short while on Christmas Eve among “enemies,” why is it not possible that families can put aside differences at least for one day or evening, call a truce, and enjoy a “Silent Night” of peace?
I know people who will not get together with certain family members over the holidays because of arguments and differences.
If troops who are fighting for their lives, for the lives of others, and for their country’s unity can call a truce for that special evening and experience peace for mankind, why can’t people whose disagreements seem trivial in comparison do the same?
Peace among families can start small. What a wonderful Christmas gift for the holiday, if families could take the day to be peaceful with each other, and possibly start a new year on the path of the renewed spirit of forgiveness and love. It can start with just one day of putting aside differences, and treating one another with dignity and respect as human beings.
This is my wish for families this holiday season that each family will experience some peace and tranquility, with a spirit of giving and hope.
May you all enjoy our gift of baby Jesus, which is about love and forgiveness.
As I sit in church and listen to “Silent Night,” I will think of the troops who did this so many years ago.