People all around the world, regardless of their religious beliefs, enjoy celebrating Christmas and exchanging gifts. Holiday music like Jingle Bells, Silver Bells, White Christmas (except in Australia) are favorites. Here’s an article from the UK about Edeka, a German supermarket, surprising holiday shoppers with Jingle Bells played on scanners at the checkouts. You can click through and watch the video.

Some Aussies get annoyed by the malls playing northern hemisphere music while they swelter. So here’s a genuine southern hemisphere Christmas carol about a rusty Holden Ute.

In Brazil, the Coca-Cola company produced this heartwarming commercial “A Bridge for Santa” about a carpenter / woodcarver widower and a community pulling together to rebuild a bridge to their small town so Papai Noel could visit (in three Coke semi-trucks of course). Perhaps this was inspired by the movie The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, in which a grumpy woodcarver, disdained by the local children, carves a nativity set to replace the treasured one lost by a young boy. The lost nativity set reminded him of his dead father. You can watch the movie trailer at the link above and probably borrow it from your local library if perennial favorites like Miracle on 43rd Street or It’s a Wonderful Life are checked out.

Elvis Presley and Martina McBride sing “Blue Christmas” in this video through some modern superpositon and dubbing.

For Christians, the meaning is much deeper of course, since they celebrate the birth of the King of kings, God’s gift to the world, by exchanging gifts. A friend from work gave our family this beautiful ornament which depicts Joseph and Mary bowing to worship the Son of God under the Star of Bethlehem. He water cut it from a sheet of aluminum and buffed it to a high gloss. We will treasure this ornament for many years.

Christmas ornament depicting Mary & Joseph under the Star of Bethlehem worshiping the Son of God

Christmas ornament depicting Mary & Joseph under the Star of Bethlehem worshiping the Son of God

Here’s a song from Becky Kelley, a Christian artist. Here’s her story behind the song: “While at the mall a couple of years ago, my then four year old nephew, Spencer, saw kids lined up to see Santa Claus. Having been taught as a toddler that Christmas is the holiday that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, he asked his mom, where’s the line to see Jesus“?”

Christmas Trees and Nativity Sets; What Happened that NIght

The photo in the Linked In and Patch versions of this article is a Nativity scene from the Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm in Oxford, Michigan. You can read more about these traditions at this link.

The birth of Jesus got the King of kings, born of a virgin that night, a visit from shepherds who heard the Good News from an angel. Over a year later He was visited by the Wise Men, who had traveled from the East to Jerusalem to find out where the new King would be born.

The local tyrant king found out when they had first seen the star and later murdered all the baby boys under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.

I’ve been brushing up on my German lately, working on a new word-by-word translation of Martin Luther’s Bible into English. German-speakers know that the original version of this Christmas carol differs slightly from John Young’s traditional English translation.

They Quaked at the Sight, Then Made it Known

Young’s translation says “Shepherds quaked at the sight.” Doctor and careful historian Luke tells us they were terrified at the sight of a single angel. After worshiping the newborn King of Kings, they also made it known what had happened, as in the original Austrian hymn text.

Many hymns were written with more stanzas than are commonly sung. Parish priest Joseph Mohr’s 1816 poem for Stille Nacht has six; slight wording variations exist for the most common three German verses shown below.

Originally Played on the Guitar

The organ may have been broken on Christmas Eve, 1818, so organist Franz Gruber composed a tune for Father Mohr’s poem that could be played on the guitar. The carol was later made popular by the Rainer Family Singers of the Zillertal in Tirol. They started singing it in 1819, but how the song got from Oberndorf near Salzburg to the Ziller valley over a mountain pass is unknown.

A Mystery to be Revealed in Heaven

Organ builder Carl Mauracher rebuilt the organ in 1825 and may have been the “well-known Zillertaler” who brought the song back to the Tirol for Blasius Wimmer’s 1819 songbook. He repaired the organ in 1821 and rebuilt it in 1825. He may have visited the church in 1819 and took the music over the pass. No one knows if the organ was broken in 1818, but it doesn’t really matter.

Eventually Stille Nacht was translated into more than 300 languages, including at least 26 different English translations. Here’s a new translation for those who don’t know German.

New Word-by-Word Translation

Stille Nacht, Oberndorf, Austria, 1818 Silent Night

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,                     Silent night, holy night,

Alles schläft; einsam wacht                    All’s asleep, lonely wakes
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.           Only the dear high-holy pair
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,            Gracious boy with curly hair,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!                    Sleep in heavenly peace,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!                    Sleep in heavenly peace.


Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,                      Silent night, holy night,
Hirten erst kundgemacht                        Shepherds first made it known
Durch der Engel Halleluja,                     Through the angels’ hallelujah,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:               Rings it loud from far and near,
Christ der Retter ist da!                          Christ the Redeemer is here,
Jesus der Retter ist da!                           Jesus the Savior is here,


Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,                       Silent night, holy night,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht                         Son of God, oh how laughs
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,          Love divine from thy godly mouth,

Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.        Then strikes for us the saving hour.
Jesus in deiner Geburt!                           Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus in deiner Geburt!                           King Jesus, we honor thy birth.

Words: Joseph Mohr, 1816                     Translated word-by-word from German
Music: Franz Gruber, 24 Dec 1818          by Dale Murrish, 2012

Frankenmuth – Sometimes Winter and Always Christmas

Those who can’t make it to the original village of Oberndorf on the German border near Salzburg, Austria (where the Sound of Music was filmed and Mozart was born) can always drive north to Frankenmuth, Michigan for a chicken dinner at Zehnder’s or Bavarian Inn.

Outside Bronner’s, the well-known Christmas store that’s open 361 days a year, is the lesser known replica of the Oberndorf Silent Night chapel.

In 1999 Wallace Bronner presented translations of Silent Night to the Joseph Mohr Symposium in over 300 languages.

Stop and Think Amid the Hustle-Bustle

Christmas is good for everyone. It comes around every year to give us pause. It’s good for atheist merchants who make more profits from Christmas shoppers, for agnostics, Muslims (including the subset of radical Islamist terrorists), Christians and Jews who hopefully will stop fighting long enough for a Christmas truce.

Christians need to stop and think too. Are we focusing on defending our right to have nativity displays (a worthwhile cause) while not really believing in the virgin birth?

Yes Virginia, there is really a Santa Claus. To paraphrase him, “A Merry Christmas to all (atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jew, Buddhist and Christian), and to all a good night.” The real Saint Nicholas bowed before the King of kings who was really born of a virgin. Do we?

The preponderance of evidence of ALL types (literary, historic, scientific, and philosophical) favors the existence of a Creator and in particular, the birth of His Son, who proved His divinity by miracles on earth and by defeating death through His bodily resurrection. One day we will all find out who is right. Statistically sooner for older people than younger ones.

Looking Toward Heaven

When I get to heaven, I’m looking forward to hearing some more Beethoven symphonies now that he has his hearing back, finding out if Handel has composed any new oratorios to rival Messiah, and seeing what new advances doctors have made to maintain bodies that don’t wear out.

I plan to thank the Rainer Family Singers and the Austrian organ builder, if indeed he was the source for the 1819 copy of Stille Nacht they discovered. They also played their roles in spreading the Good News.

Oh, and I also want to get a haircut from Martin Luther’s barber. He might have a long waiting list, but there will be eternity to wait. Maybe he can teach me how to pray better; he’s had a lot more years to practice.

Expository Preaching

Our church usually takes a break from its normal preaching through books of the Bible for special seasons of the church calendar like Advent. But the Christmas themes of Peace, Joy, Hope and Love fit so well with the where we were in the book of Romans (chapter 8 at the moment) that last year our pastor chose to continue to preach from Romans. Here are the last few verses from that Sunday’s Scripture, which speak about God’s great love:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

This letter from the Apostle Paul to the believers in Jesus at Rome has been called the gospel according to Paul for good reason. It is filled with amazing theology.

I wish a merry Christmas and joyous holiday season to people of all faiths and those with no particular faith. Enjoy spending time with family and friends. May you have a healthy and prosperous new year 2017.

Other articles

Last summer I gave a talk at work about my brain tumor and the depression which followed it. You can see the slides and the text of the talk. Below that there are also links to the presentation our USA Melting pot club gave to the Troy City Council.

Having recently started a word-by-word translation of Martin Luther’s Bible from German to English, I introduced the project and published Matthew Chapter 1 . Later I wrote commentary on it; my church background and theological training is in my USA Melting Pot bio.

Dale Murrish writes on historytraveltechnologyreligion and politics for the Troy Patch and USA Melting Pot club. You can help this non-profit club by making your Amazon purchases through the link on the left side of their website. You can also see over a dozen ethnic presentations from people with firsthand knowledge under Culture & Country (right hand side), and outdoor presentations (Hobby & Fun), including posts on bicycling, skiing and camping.

Other interesting articles on the USA Melting Pot website have been written by Bilal Rathur on his hajj to Saudi Arabia (Part 6) and by Carl Petersen. Thanks to both of them for their contributions.