STILLE NACHT-HEILIGE NACHT (Silent Night-Holy Night), for nearly 200 years has been one of the most revered Christmas Carol’s in all the world. This fact, most of you are aware of. But do you know how it came about and that it once stopped a World War for 3 days?
Silent Night did not come about easily and when it did, it was actually by accident (or was it) that the song was ever written in the first place.
Our story begins with the legend of Father Joseph Mohr’s classic Christmas carol being penned out of necessity. Depending on which account you choose to believe, the “Poem” was originally written in either 1816 or 1818 in Austria. The version I prefer to believe is this one.
Times were apparently very tough around Christmas time back in 1818 in Oberndorf, Austria. Times were so hard that even the rats in the small Austrian hamlet were going hungry. Back in that era in time, the beautiful sound that organs produced were from leather baffles containing the air necessary for them to produce their gorgeous music.
Father Mohr was due to give his first Midnight Mass Christmas Eve service that evening. When he went to play the organ, the worst of all fates has fallen on him. The rats had eaten holes in the leather baffles and the organ would not play its beautiful sounds.
Now he had no organ music! Out of pure fear that his Christmas presentation to the devoted was about to fall apart, he sat down and wrote a poem that could be sung without music. SILENT NIGHT-HOLY NIGHT was born!
One fact that is not disputed; World War I was one of the most brutal, cruel and costly wars in the history of mankind. Millions died and millions more were maimed for life through the use of mustard gas, bullets, bayonets and bombs. One of the unique things about World War I was, the way it was fought.
Much of the war was actually fought through “trench warfare”. You have seen the movies, where the large trenches were cut across the fields of Europe. The Germans on one side in a trench and the British and French (and later Americans) would be in a trench across the field in another.
Imagine spending days in one of these trenches with bullets flying over your head all the while standing in mud, urine, blood and water. I honestly cannot imagine the conditions at that time. They had to be horrific.
In the fields near the very same parish; (where nearly 100 years prior, Father Mohr had penned the almost sacred song Silent Night), the bells of the parish began to ring! It was midnight on Christmas Eve! The quiet was almost deafening as soldiers on both sides were listening to the bells, knowing it was the holiest night of the year.
Someone in one of the trenches (nobody knows if it was a German or a French soldier) began softly singing STILLE NACHT! Of course the soldier standing next to him in the same trench began singing as well. With the bells of the Parish ringing to announce to the world the birth of our savior Jesus, these soldiers (who only minutes earlier were shooting at each other), were now singing Silent Night.
The shooting had stopped! The tossing of hand-grenades had stopped! The murder had stopped as the sounds of “Silent Night” filled the air across the snow-covered fields of Austria that cold snowy night. The pausing of the mayhem did not stop just in this area. The rumors of what was happening cascaded across Austria, across France and many other countries in Europe. Tens of thousands became hundreds of thousands of soldiers who refused to fight anymore. SILENT NIGHT-HOLY NIGHT had stopped a World War!
As daylight appeared, so did gifts, wine, bread and smiles. SILENT NIGHT had caused a truce of peace and brotherhood. The soldiers on both sides began breaking bread together, exchanging gifts and drinking wine. As the day progressed, even soccer balls appeared and they began playing the game that everyone loved.
This simple, yet powerful poem which had been translated into over 140 different languages had stopped a World War. The thought today is unimaginable.
For 3 full days the truce stayed in place. For these 3 days, not a shot was fired and not one soldier died at the hands of another. The peace, love and power of the baby Jesus had transformed the hearts through a song that is so powerful, we still get misty eyed to this day when we hear it.
Time tends to tarnish miracles to some degree. I refuse to believe that this incredible incident was anything less than a miracle sent to remind us that in the end, we are all God’s children and he grieves when he sees us treat each other the way we do at times.
Share this story with your loved ones and friends. Share it at church ( I have told this story at the Christmas Eve services), share it at work and around the camp fire. Pass it on and maybe, just maybe, we can have a rebirth of the miracle of Silent Night this Christmas season.
God Bless each of you and may he keep each of you safe, warm and healthy this Christmas season.
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