Silent Night... Or Was It?

How silent was that night, really? That very first Christmas night in the little town of Bethlehem – I wonder if it was really as silent as the songs and hymns have us imagine.

I can’t say for sure, but I’m betting that night wasn’t so silent. A small town so packed full of people the only place to stay is a barn? I imagine Bethlehem humming with the dull roar of hundreds, thousands of people maybe, roaming the streets: parents chasing children, husbands asking for directions, wives bartering in the market for food to feed their tired and hungry families, kids asking endless questions. In a time where towns weren’t so spread out and your own feet were the main mode of transportation I envision moving around the streets of Bethlehem was probably more like trying to maneuver around the Walmart aisles the day before Christmas Eve – elbow-to-elbow traffic.

And what about the inside of that barn? We’re led to believe that animals also resided in the stable. A barn of sheep and goats, cows or chickens is probably not the most quiet place. Now add two people who are trying to make the best of this situation with their first baby hours away from being born. I can’t imagine Mary’s first experience of labor being a picnic in itself. But your very first baby in a barn? No help in this process other than your young husband who likely hasn’t dealt with something quite like this before, plus you’ve both been traveling on foot to get to these accommodations in the first place? Uncomfortable, tired, scared – those are the words I would use to describe that night long before “silent” would ever hit my radar.

The only place that might have been truly quiet that night was the fields with the shepherds. Aside from the men chatting to help each other stay awake and the bleating of an occasional sheep, that may have been the quietest place to be. “And lo, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified… and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God…” (Luke 2) The quiet was broken by excited angels who just couldn’t keep the good news to themselves! Fear and confusion filled the hearts of the shepherds. The quiet night they knew was over.

That first Christmas may not have been silent, but for Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph, and shepherds, all the noise of that night would prove to be the best gift of their lives. God broke into their lives with his presence in the form of a baby. He brought calm to their fearful hearts and peace to their troubled and confused minds. He does the same for us.

Our lives are anything but silent. For some of us, even sitting in quiet isn’t silent when your mind is racing with thoughts and worries. We aren’t that different than Bethlehem, or Mary and Joseph, or the shepherds. We all have questions, fears, uncomfortable situations, exhaustion. Just like God spoke into all of that 2,000 years ago, he speaks the same to us today. It’s the message of the angels. A message of unique peace – true, lasting and eternal – found only in our Savior Jesus…

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:10-14
In all the noise of daily life, in the chaos of Christmas prep, in the racket inside your head – listen close. God is there with you. Let his peace and presence draw you closer to Him this Christmas season.
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