Listening to the radi-adi-o earlier this week, I heard a bit about the bicentennial of the beloved Christmas carol Silent Night. I had heard the legend about the organ of the church in the Austrian village of Oberndorf being damaged before Christmas, necessitating the composition of a song suitable for guitar. Even if only a legend, it's a pretty bit of backstory for a pretty song.
The central image of the song, the holy mother and child, is an appealing one- beautiful, simple, as human as it is divine. The song, written to be accompanied by the common person's musical instrument, and portraying a common domestic scene, given transcendence by divine power, is understandably popular. It's a good, simple summation of Christian theology- God made flesh in order to bring peace to the world.
The main problem with Christianity, indeed all world religions I can think of, is that it was hijacked by authoritarians. Religion is all-too-often a tool for oppression, repression, suppression. The simple message of a simple village parish's priest and musical director is lost in these days of the Christian Right. The War on Christmas is really one that has been waged by individuals who took on the mantle of Christianity.
I'm pretty open about my favorite Christmas song, but as far as religious carols go, Silent Night is one of my favorites. Here's a nice rendition of the Stille Nacht, the song in the original German:
Here's the song in English translation, given a Motown update by The Temptations:
Because there are thousands of nominally Christian children incarcerated at the southern border, I figure that I should post a version of the typical Spanish adaptation of the song, Noche de Paz (night of peace):
The song has had a great two-century run, and remains as lovely as it always was. For the record, though, my favorite religious Christmas carol is O Holy Night.