Carol Favorites: the christmas truce

For unto us a child is born…and his name shall be called…Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9.6

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy Infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

“The romantic version of the “Silent Night” story has an Austrian priest at his wits’ end when th church organ breaks down on Christmas Eve. With the prospect of a silent night ahead, heand the organist come up with a new hymn that can be sung without accompaniment. The result, “Silent Night,” goes on to become one of the most popular Christmas carols of all time.

The real story (according to Silent Night Museum in Salzburn, Austria) is grittier but possibly more inspirational.

Joseph Mohr was born illegitimately in a time when illegitimacy halted any possibility of social progress. Fortunately, his singing voice caught the ear of the cathedral choirmaster, and he was encouraged into the priesthood.

Working as an assistance priest, he helped translate hymns from Latin to German, to the delight of parishioners and the furty of the chruch establishment. Mohr’s liberal priest was replaced by a hard-liner.

Resenting Morh’s popularity, the new priest attempted to blacken his reputation by bringing up his illegitimate beginnings. The battle of wills culminated on Christmas Eve 1818 when the church organ mysteriously died. Mice were blamed, but another likely suspect was Mohr’s friend, organist Franz Gruber. He put music to lyrics Mohr had written two years before, and “Silent Night” had its first public performance. It wa sung in German with a guitar accompaniment, something that normally never would have been allowed.

The carol’s popularity in both German and English made it the one song both armies could sing in unison from their trenches during the Christmas truce of 1914.

Joseph Mohr died in 1863. he left this world as poor as he came into it, having given everything he had for hte sake of the poor. Not only did the life of this relatively unknown priest benefit his parishioners, but it glorified his Lord and gave the whole world a beautiful reminder of the night the world fell silent lest it wake a newborn baby.”

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