Silent Night, Holy Night
The Christmas season is here. The world always seems a bit loud, but it feels like the sound guy just launched the volume level into the stratosphere. “Gray Thursday” leads to “Black Friday” with “Cyber Monday” bringing up the rear. The merchant houses bang their drums loudly, heralding the numerous treasures that I could and should buy because after all—tis the season! In years gone by, Johnny wanted a pair of skates; Suzie wanted a sled. A toothless little girl made a single and desperate plea for her two front teeth. Times have changed, but the requests keep coming. The sheer amount of what we need…err, I mean want…is overwhelming. Johnny wants the latest version of Call of Duty; Suzie wants the new iPhone 6. Oh, and that toothless girl now wants dentures.
The places where I can secure these items are like mazes designed to move vast quantities of hungry consumers swiftly to the cash register and then out the door. Lest a purchaser begin to quiet himself momentarily as he ponders his next buy, the retailer has plastered the surroundings with beautiful, glossy photographs. Their stealthy purpose is to invade one’s thoughts and scream of the joy to be experienced and the affection to be received, albeit temporarily, from the recipient of said purchase. The noise that this maelstrom of buying and selling produces is akin to a symphony hitting the crescendo while the horn section is ten measures behind, playing with all its heart.
The clamor that pounds my soul emanates not only from what I must buy but also from what I must do. I have invitations to this Christmas party. My kid is in that Christmas musical, and of course I can’t miss the grand Christmas cantata—all three of them, at three different locations, on three different nights. I have to see the lights, taste the eggnog, bake the cookies, send the cards and wrap the presents, all while drinking from my bottomless cup of energy & joy latté with a double shot of espresso.
My world begins to blur. I am caught up in an indistinguishable yuletide swirl that threatens to fling me to the margins of the season. The sirens of the season get louder and louder, demanding my obedience. My soul grows deaf with the sheer volume of noise, distortion, reverberation, demands, expectations, wants, needs, desires, and disappointments. Silent night? Holy night?
And then I hear the faint whisper of Bethlehem. While the world was sleeping, God slipped His Son in the back door of the barn. Most of the world didn’t even know He had come. Angels from heaven announced His arrival, but they did not appear before the emperor. Their message was not heard amidst the colonnades of Rome. Instead, God sent them to a few shepherds tending their sheep somewhere on the back forty of Palestine. On this silent and lonely night, the shepherds stood in awe, captured by the sight of an angelic appearance. Those whom most people disregarded were now entrusted with a simple yet profound message that would echo through all generations:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
No longer would the world be consigned to a life of struggle and despair that only ended in death. The sin that enslaved mankind, that fueled his active rebellion and that fed on worshipping created things instead of the Creator Himself was about to receive a deathblow. The longing for meaning and purpose deep within our soul, was never meant to satisfied by a thing we could possess or a deed we could perform but by a person we could know, namely God Himself.
The darkness that had long ago obscured the face of God on that fateful day in Eden was now beginning to lift. The light of life was coming into the world. God put on human flesh in the form of a little Jewish baby boy. His name was Jesus, “for he shall save his people from their sins.” This was truly a holy night because it was unique, sacred, like no other night in all of time. God’s plan of redemption was set into motion in real time, through a real Savior, for a real world. This is the message of Christmas.
The song of Bethlehem is growing stronger in my ears. I begin to sing it to myself, and, as I do, my heart is warming. My cynicism is melting. Strangely enough, the “noise” of the season has become like the snow that quietly falls in the middle of the night. Once again, I can hear the voice of the Lord leading me to give gifts to others, to bless those at the party, to find joy in watching my kids sing about this holy night, to communicate my affection to those I know through a handwritten card, and to tell anyone who will listen to me of the hope of Jesus—the real meaning of Christmas.
Amazed by His Grace, Brett