SILENT NIGHT, HOLY NIGHT
Christmas is a time when the whole world seems to reach out in hope. Whether people are truly Christian believers or not, there is a heightened sense of longing for the world to be more than it is––even a sense of expectancy that maybe it can be.
"Silent night, holy night..." Those are words that express what it is we are looking for. And it's no wonder we feel the need for such. . . our lives are so contrasting.
Our culture has almost forgotten what silence is. It seems we are always in the middle of noise or hurry or crowds. The roads are jammed with impatient people––I know because I'm one of them. We're always in a hurry, trying to pack ten hours into an eight hour day. It takes effort to get away from noise; there is always a radio or a television playing; even on the phone we are subjected to someone else's taste in music. Many people cannot jog or mow the lawn without a headset over their ears. And those are the sounds we invite.
Perhaps we seek those sounds to drown out other sounds that we do not want to hear––the cries of other people or the clanging emptiness of our own hearts. We push away the sounds of threatening voices. Silence would be nice, but in the end it's too threatening.
But if silence is something we have forgotten, holiness is something most of the world has never known. Holiness is threatening. I think it must be one of the things we try to escape through our noise.
Holiness reminds us that things could (and should) be different. Holiness shines a burning light on things like revenge and lust and jealousy and greed––the things that are so common in our world, and even in our individual lives. We do not like the threats of terrorism and war, the reports of homes breaking up, the driving urge to do whatever it takes to get bigger and better things than the guy next door, but we like even less dealing with whatever it is in us that causes those things to happen. And so we run from holiness.
Yet the hunger for the silent and the holy will not go away. Our souls need the silence; our very existence needs the holiness. When the promise comes close, we respond––if only for a moment. Could it be? Can we really have that in this world?
Christmas tells us yes. God knew we needed the silence and the holiness, so he sent his Son––as a baby. A baby has a way of slowing things down. A baby motivates us to cut some of the noise. A baby lets us see innocence in a fresh way, which isn't a bad way to understand holiness. If the characteristics of the cradle could stay with us, the silence and holiness and peace that the world needs just might make it.
But Jesus did not stay a baby––and Christmas comes and goes. Jesus grew into a man who showed the world how badly we need the silence and the holiness; and the world goes on, coming close to it once each year, yet not able to embrace fully all it means that God sent his Son in the silence and in holiness so we could know what it is to be silent and holy in our own hearts.
How about you this evening? Is this "silent night, holy night" a mere exercise in fantasy? Is it a time only to come close to what God wants for us––to what he has given us in his Son––only to go back into the world of clatter and moral chaos when the candles are out and the carols are over?
Silent night, holy night is not merely a mood. It is not just a nice story to make us sentimental once a year. Silent night, holy night is a promise. It's a promise from God that it really can be that way in the life of each person who lets the Baby of Bethlehem come inside to grow up into all the fulness of Christ.
Are you hungry for quietness down in your very soul? Is your life crying out for something clean and good? Then on this silent night, holy night, let God do in you what he did on that night so long ago. Let your heart be a manger, and let the one be born in you who came to save his people from their sins.