hr Kinderlein kommet

In 1959 I snapped my favourite photo of my younger siblings, Rose 9, and Mathew 6 under our Christmas tree.   Even though my Starflash camera also captured the toe of my shoe, it is also caught their childhood innocence and joy in Christmas.

This season always reminds me of Jesus’ words in St. Mark’s Gospel, words I often proclaim at Baptisms:  “Let the little children come to me.  Do not hinder them.”  My consolation is that Baptism makes me a child of God.

I suppose because of that context, one of my favourite Christmas carols has always been Silent Night, though my favourite version is in German.   Stille Nacht is an essential part of my childhood experience in the Saskatchewan prairie bleakness/brightness in the middle of the last century at our little country parish church, St Peter’s.  Christmas Eve Mass was never complete without it.

Accompanied by a reed organ powered by foot pedal, the choir sang the carol with only simple harmony.  Even at that time I wished that electricity had never arrived so that all would be bathed in candle light from the magnificent chandelier suspended above the middle of the  church.

Often the choir would also sing my second favourite carol, a delicate lullaby, Ihr Kinderlein Kommet.  The carol’s simple melody still always strikes my heart especially when sung by children.  Both these carols remind me of Jesus’ injunction ‘unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’

You may enjoy singing along with the following You Tube children’s German version of Ihr Kinderlein kommet:

Ihr Kinderlein kommet

Ihr Kinderlein, kommet, o kommet doch all!

Zur Krippe her kommet, in Bethlehems Stall.

Und seht was in dieser hochheiligen Nacht

der Vater im Himmel für Freude uns macht.

O seht in der Krippe im nächtlichen Stall,

seht hier bei des Lichtes hellglänzendem Strahl,

in reinlichen Windeln das himmlische Kind,

viel schöner und holder, als Engelein sind.

Da liegt es, ihr Kinder, auf Heu und auf Stroh,

Maria und Josef betrachten es froh;

die redlichen Hirten knien betend davor,

hoch oben schwebt jubelnd der Engelein Chor.

O beugt wie die Hirten anbetend die Knie,

erhebet die Händlein und danket wie sie.

stimmt freudig, ihr Kinder – wer sollt sich nicht freun?-

stimmt freudig zum Jubel der Engel mit ein!

Oh, come, little children, oh, come, one and all,

To Bethlehem’s stable, in Bethlehem’s stall.

And see with rejoicing this glorious sight,

Our Father in heaven has sent us this night.

Oh, see in the manger, in hallowèd light

A star throws its beam on this holiest sight.

In clean swaddling clothes lies the heavenly Child,

More lovely than angels, this Baby so mild.

Oh, there lies the Christ Child, on hay and on straw;

The shepherds are kneeling before Him with awe.

And Mary and Joseph smile on Him with love,

While angels are singing sweet songs from above.

Translated by Melanie Schulte (1885–1922)

Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

  • Jeannette Filthaut S,P,
    Posted at 07:19h, 20 December Reply

    Thank you Frank for bringing to mind one of my favourite German hymns for Christmas. I did have my Junior choir sing Ihr Kinderlein Kommet in English many years after I had first learned it in German as a child growing up in southern Saskatchewan. Froliche Weihnachten to you.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 13:01h, 20 December Reply

    Thank you Frank!

  • Peter LeBlanc
    Posted at 03:14h, 22 December Reply

    Lovely, Frank.

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