It was in a tiny church in a tiny German town. Thirty-five tourists, looking for a place to pray, happened upon a small group of German Christians rehearsing their Christmas music. Seated on hard wooden pews, in a chapel that seated maybe fifty worshippers, we listened, few of us understanding the words, but all of us recognizing the tunes. Christmas tunes came from a long-used guitar. Christmas words flowed from untrained, but sincere voices. Then came the very familiar. The original lyrics of Stille Nacht, were written in German by an unknown Austrian priest, Joseph Mohr, the music by Austrian musician Franz Gruber, not known outside of his Austrian village. It would be two years later when the song was first performed on Christmas Eve, 1818, accompanied only by a guitar, No known celebrity performed it that night, nor was it preformed in some great concert hall, but at a Midnight Mass in St. Nicholas Church. It would be more than forty years before Silent Night would be translated into English. Now recorded by over 300 artists and sung globally by multiplied thousands at Christmas time, its powerful message of heavenly peace has crossed all borders and language barriers. But it never sounded better than that night near Titisee, Germany. After we had prayed and sung, we exited the small church, only to have our tear-stained eyes met with softly falling snow. Christmas has not been the same since.
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