The Songs of the Season

I have been the recipient of a very special Christmas ornament for several years now. As December comes around each year, I watch and wait for it to arrive. I have two dear Texas friends who make this gifting possible - Wanda and Deborah Crossland. Back in the days of my seminary education, Wanda served on the search committee that called me to FBC Granbury as an associate pastor. Her daughter, Debbie, became one of Monique’s closest friends. Now, forty-five years later, Wanda and Debbie continue to be two cherished friends and encouragers!

"Welcome to Songfest!"

The ornament arrived the other day and took its place on my little Christmas tree that sits prominently in the family room on top of a media shelf. These uniquely crafted ornaments (on sale at the Capitol Gift Shop) promote the Texas Preservation Board that “ensures the preservation and use of the State Capitol Old General Land Office Building in Austin.” 

Each year these collectibles have a special theme. The 2022 Texas Capitol Ornament features a replica of a temporary illuminated arch decorated with evergreen garlands. This structure was placed on Congress Avenue to welcome visitors to a German music festival near the Capitol in April of 1889. The theme greeting across the arch was “Willkommen Zum Saengerfest,” translated, “Welcome to Songfest.”

Today, Austin is considered, by many music loving enthusiasts to be, the “Live Music Capitol of the World!” It is well known that Texans have an outsized reputation for exaggeration! But it is true that these early music venues of the late 1800’s, featuring German settlers and their singing associations, would become the precursor for today’s popular events that bring thousands to the Texas state capital city to celebrate their love of music! In the ornament’s historical brochure this ongoing influence was succinctly summarized, “The tradition of songfest continues to this day!”

This Christmas season is an important occasion when the birth of Christ is celebrated through song. Christmas cantatas, caroling, praise songs, and even sermon themes, focus our thoughts during Advent. The pastors of our church are in an Advent series entitled, “Songs for the Coming Savior.” They have been referencing popular Christmas carols like “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “O Holy Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful” as they have preached their messages this month.

One of my favorite carols, “Silent Night,” is often sung during Christmas Eve candlelight services. This song calls to mind a heartwarming war story that may be apocryphal, but no less inspiring. It is said that on Christmas Eve, 1914, German soldiers momentarily ceased their combat to sing “Stille Nacht” in their native language while in the trenches. (A similar story from the Franco-Prussian era is also told). Soon, British soldiers could be heard singing back, with antiphonal effect in English, the very same carol, “Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright, round yon virgin Mother and Child! Holy Infant, so tender and mild, Sleep in Heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Our world continues to need the kind of peace that the heavenly host declared while praising God on the night of Christ’s birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14, KJV). Let’s sing about, diligently seek and find rest in that “heavenly peace” during this Christmas season!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.


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