Byron's Babbles

Silent Nights of Peace

Posted in Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, Christmas, Silent Night, Wally Bronner by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 25, 2021

Most people don’t remember the first time they heard or sang Silent Night. We just know it has always been a part of our Christmas music selection list. My wife and I actually had my Aunt Virginia (professional organist) play Silent Night at our wedding 36 years ago this past December 21st. It wasn’t until I went to the Silent Night Chapel at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland a couple of weeks ago that I began to take a deep dive into understanding the significance of the most widely known Christmas Carol of all time. Bronner’s Silent Night Chapel is an exact 1:1 replica of the original chapel in Oberndorf/Salzburg, Austria, which marks the site where Silent Night was first sung on Christmas Eve in 1818.

After the Napoleonic wars had taken their toll in 1816, a young priest in Austria, Joseph Mohr, took a walk and was overwhelmed by all the stars in the sky and the quietness of a city finally at peace. He went back and wrote the words. Then, on Christmas Eve, 1818, the now-famous carol was first performed as Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht. Joseph Mohr, the young priest who wrote the lyrics, played the guitar and sang along with Franz Xaver Gruber, the choir director who had written the melody.

Bronner’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel

So why is the a replica of the Silent Night Memorial Chapel significant? Dedicated in 1937, the Chapel in Oberndorf, Austria, was built on the alter site of the original St. Nicholas Church. During a visit to the site, Wally Bronner was inspired to build an exact replica on the south end of his store’s 27 acre complex near the south entrance to Frankenmuth, Michigan. Hundreds of thousands of visitors walk in the replica chapel every year. Just as this visit inspired me to understand even more deeply the meaning of the words of Silent Night, I am sure every person entering that chapel finds some inspiration or peace.

So why was it important for me to take a deep dive into Silent Night and come to a place of understanding of the inspiration for Mohr to write these immortal lyrics? Today, Silent Night is perhaps the most famous Christmas carol in history. It has been translated into most languages, and the Bing Crosby version is the third-bestselling single in history. It took the cultural landmark at Bronner’s CHRISTMAS Wonderland to trigger my learning. The song itself was even declared to be an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011.

May we have peace on earth and our nights be starlit, blessed, and silent.

Do You Feel Like I Do On Christmas 2020?

Heath & His Milking Machine!

Here it is, Christmas morning on Day 288 of the Global Pandemic in 2020. It’s easy to get caught up in all that is chaotic in the world right now, but I also want to pause and reflect on this day of the celebration of birth. This is the day that many of us celebrate the birth of Jesus. This day has, and will continue to serve as a day of birth to many new interests for kids. Think about that Lego set or rocket model that spurs an interest in engineering or being an astronaut for a little girl. Or, the electric keyboard that encourages the musical aspirations of a little boy.

I realize there are more significant influences on a child’s career choice than toys or the things they play with on Christmas morning as kids. But, children need access to a healthy play diet. It’s why I believe programs that make sure children get a toy at Christmas are so important. Playing boosts a child’s belief. No child plays with Legos and learns how to build houses, but she might learn how to overlap bricks to create a stable structure. Or, her brother and her might decide how to change the design of the picture on the box as they build. It’s more about confidence and familiarity than an actual skill set.

Toys and playing can compliment attributes in our children such as having their own mind, standing up for their own beliefs, showing initiative, having goals, and finding passion and purpose. I was reminded of all this while reading Peter Frampton’s incredible book, Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir, this week. Early in the book he told the story of his dad playing Father Christmas. Their tradition must have been to put the presents at the foot of the bed and his dad was making noise with the wrapping paper. Peter woke up and busted his dad. Of course, no kid’s going back to sleep, so he began to play with acoustic guitar Father Christmas had brought him. I loved the last part of the story in the book when Peter Frampton said, “But I didn’t know how to tune the bottom two strings. Dad said, ‘It’s three in the morning; can’t you go back to bed?’ ‘No, no, come on!’ So he came in and tuned the two bottom strings for me. And from 3:30 in the morning on Christmas when I was eight years old, I haven’t stopped playing since” (p. 11). Was that where the career of an awesome and very talented rock star was created? Probably not completely, but it certainly played a part in his development, or Peter would not have told the story. For one thing, think of the morale boost for a kid to get a musical instrument from his parents. Wow, my mom and dad believe I have talent!

Of course, all of this from the father of the boy who got a milking machine from Santa. In my defense, that was what he asked Santa for. But, that little boy grew up, and is now studying Animal Science at Murray State University and has a respectable herd of Jersey dairy show cattle. Did it all happen because of the milking machine that we assembled on the living room floor and then carried to the barn that Christmas morning? No, but Heath has never forgotten that Santa invested in his interest of dairy cows. Thus, the intersection of purpose and passion were beginning to be defined for Heath.

Now, let’s not overthink this. The most important thing is to make sure our kids have the chance to play. If they have specific interests, great, but it doesn’t have to be a guitar or milking machine. Let’s let kids play with a wide variety of toys and give them the opportunity to discover their interests, passion, and purpose.