The Myth of the Silent Night

Newborns cry. Moms delivering babies are, well, not quiet. For that matter, I’ve not known hospital delivery rooms to be tranquil places. How much less so a home birth without all the personnel to assist.

The birth of the Christ child may have been holy. But it certainly was not silent. Which should make us question why we want it to be so bad. Not only on the occasion of that first Christmas but at every Christmas since. I have a feeling that the never-ending search for the elusive peaceful Noel has less to do with circumstances in a certain stable in Bethlehem and more to do with our perennial inability to tame the wild beast of runaway shopping, endless decorating, expensive travel, over-the-top food prep, and all the logistics that accompany them. We want silent because we’re tired of hectic.

But even if we did give up buying presents, trimming the tree, and having family over, even if we could somehow pull off chestnuts roasting on an open fire with carolers knocking at your door (good luck!), we would need headphones around our soul to lock out the reality of a world freaking out at the multiple crises converging on its populace this very season.  In fact, the lack of peace stems not from our seasonal commercialism but rather from our global realism.

So, yes, we would like the arrival of a Godhead on the planet to usher in the Great Tranquility, an era of freedom from striving and stress, from dishonor and discord, from helplessness and hopelessness.  A moment in history when we can all just take a break and rest for a while.  An intermission.

Instead we get cattle lowing, shepherds quaking, visits from strangers, and, oh yes, a tyrannical king who wants to kill the baby!  No silence here.

What do we get instead?  Holy.  Sacred.  Divine.  God with us.  Not tranquil, but meaningful.  Not restful, but hopeful.  Not pleasurable, but profound.  Ushered into the world on Christmas night was not the ‘peace’ that represents the absence of hectic but the peace that overcomes it.  A true divine does not wait until the world is ready to receive but dives into the mess anyway.  After all, what good is a God for a perfect world?  What we need God for is a world gone awry.

So don’t expect a silent holiday.  They never were silent and this year isn’t likely to be any different.  But that doesn’t mean the Holy One can’t enter in once again and be borne in us today.  Yes we can discover God in the midst of a world in chaos.  God can show up.  God can and God will.  Especially when asked.

This Christmas, forget the silent.  Embrace the holy.

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