The Christmas Silence
Words: Margaret Deland, 1907
Hushed are the pigeons cooing low
On dusty rafters of the loft;
And mild-eyed oxen, breathing soft,
Sleep on the fragrant hay below.
Dim shadows in the corner hide;
The glimmering lantern’s rays are shed
Where one young lamb just lifts his head,
Then huddles ‘gainst his mother’s side.
Strange silence tingles in the air;
Through the half-open door a bar
Of light from one low-hanging star
Touches a baby’s radiant hair.
No sound: the mother, kneeling, lays
Her cheek against the little face.
Oh human love! Oh heavenly grace!
‘Tis yet in silence that she prays!
Ages of silence end to-night;
Then to the long-expectant earth
Glad angels come to greet His birth
In burst of music, love, and light!
Luke 2:8-14 Authorized (King James) Version
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
It is Christmas Eve in the year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 2021.
I pray all of God’s blessings and abundance upon your homes and families.
I pray for that place of Shalom, Shalom, to come upon each of your spirits.
I pray that the Good News of our Savior discovers, lifts up, inspires, your soul.
These are indeed days when Shalom, Shalom probably means social distancing, mask on and mask off mandates of some interpretation and variation. It means you have perhaps had to curtail those Christmas plans with family living apart, near and distant, perhaps even across the oceans, seas and mountain ranges. It is not at all a very welcome interruption to any of our family traditions of travel. Somehow, we will have to make do with communicating by social media, ZOOM. It is definitely not nearly the same as traditional family gatherings and meals.
One of the things of which I have become more and more aware of lately is that the Seasons of Advent and Christmas happens amidst the drudgery of ordinary circumstances of life. Meditate about that first ancient Christmas: an emperor issuing decrees and taxing people, a simple everyday couple that is unmarried and pregnant, a no vacancy sign, field hands working the night shift. Those are real life circumstances and real life is always the world of Christmas. It was then and it is today. The jobs are undeniably different and infinitely more diverse.
For some people that means Christmas is a hard time of year. It’s difficult and painful. They have to work Christmas Day. For others it’s the best time of year. It is joyful and exciting. For most of us, I suspect, it varies from year to year.
Just for a change of pace, take just a few moments from wrapping, and think back over the past year. How has your life changed since last Christmas? In what ways is your world today different from then? Has it been a difficult and painful year, or has it been a year of joy and thanksgiving? Was it a memorable year or one you would like to forget? Maybe it was a mixture of all the above.
Regardless of what the last year has or has not represented for us and whether or not we choose to consider the changes it brought to be for better or for worse it is deeply rooted in the Good News of that very first, ancient, Christmas story.
I am not talking about the then and there Christmas story, the one that starts out “In those days” and takes place “in that region.” I am talking about the here and now Christmas story, the one that is taking place in these days and in your very region. After all, that’s really the only Christmas story that matters.
- What good is it to us or the church, if Jesus is laid in a manger in Bethlehem if he is not also cradled in the manger of our contemporary 2021/2022 heart?
- What good is it to us or the church, if the angels announcing good news of great joy to the shepherds living and working in the fields if none of that good news is not also announced in the night fields of our contemporary 2021/2022 lives?
- What good is it to us or the church, if the shepherds go to see this event that has taken place if we do not also see in our contemporary 2021/2022 lives, this truly miraculous once in anybody’s lifetime event that has happened?
- What good is it to us or the church, if Mary ponders and treasures how these things can be if we do not also wonder, deep within our own 2021/2022 souls, at the imponderable mystery of God’s life and love with us in our time and place?
Every year we come to this night to hear the Christmas story.
The story never changes. We count on that. Every year it’s the same story with the same characters, the same locations, the same plot, and the same ending.
The everyday couple, Mary and Joseph betrothed. Mary, the teenager pregnant with her first child and in those days, scandalously so, she is very unmarried.
Roman Emperor Augustus issues a decree of taxation. Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem where Joseph’s family is from. There’s no room at the inn. Mary gives birth to Jesus, places him in a manger. The angel announces this good news to the shepherds. They come and see this thing that has happened. Mary treasures, ponders the words of the shepherds, and they return to their fields.
You know that story as well as I do. You’ve probably heard it and told it multiple times. But have you ever considered or pondered in your hearts, the quiet and raucous poetry of Christmas? I’m talking about the images and metaphors that tell the story behind the story. The facts of Christmas remain the same every year, but the poetry of Christmas is what keeps the story alive, has preserved it through the ages, and allows us to relive it again every year for the first time.
I believe that’s the real reason we come to this night each year with celebration. We come for the poetry. Not to be read, but to be sung in the traditional hymns of the season. We want to know despite our changing story and despite what has happened over the past year, Christmas is still true and still happening.
We want to be reminded that light is still shining in the darkness, that good news is still being announced, that the child is still being born anew, and that God is still with us, Angels are still heralding unto our contemporary times.
Yes, it is still true. All of it. Christmas is happening in whatever, wherever the circumstances of our lives might be this Christmas Eve. Christmas is happening tomorrow in whatever changes you’ve experienced over the last year. Christmas is as genuine, is as exactly real and present in the difficult and painful times of life as it is in the joyful and exciting times. The LOGOS is still forever with us!
I do not pretend to know or even try to understand how exactly or even why that happens. I only know, by the grace of God, it does happen. I have experienced it over the past year in my life and I have also very definitely and decisively seen it happen in the lives of many others. I cannot begin to tell you how it all happens, but I can truly tell you. It’s all about the poetry. Let me give you some examples.
- Have you ever loved so deeply that your heart ached? And all you wanted to do was pour yourself into the life of another?
- Who are the people, the Josephs, that have accompanied, protected, and cared for you through this life?
- Have you ever looked in the face of a newborn child and marveled at the miracle of life? Been inspired to be a better person? Wished for that kind of gentleness and innocence in your life and world?
- Have you ever had someone show up in your life and say or do exactly what you needed? They came and announced to you good news when you needed it most.
- Think of a time that was so perfect, so beautiful, so profound that you were speechless and all you could do was treasure and ponder the moment.
- Have you ever woken up to the beauty and possibilities of a new day after living through a night of darkness?
- Recall a time when hope, strength, and courage were born anew in you.
- Have you ever experienced peace and contentment in circumstances that were neither peaceful nor what you wanted?
- When was the last time you danced with joy to the music of laughter and a chorus of smiles?
- Have you ever done what seemed to you impossible or gotten through a hard time and not known how you did that? In fact, you didn’t think you could or would.
- What are you cradling and cherishing in your heart this Christmas Eve which you know beyond any shadow of any measure of doubt is a gift from God?
Guess What? That’s all poetry. Those and a thousand other verses like them are the poetry of Christmas. And it is O’ so much more than the facts of Christmas.
The Gospel facts of Christmas are just the starting point. Every year the verses of Christmas poetry are written anew using the circumstances of our lives. The reality of Christmas, God with us, Emmanuel, is always happening.
That’s never, in anyone’s lifetime, going ever to be even minimally in question.
So, for a change of pace, take a minute or an hour or two and tell yourself the story of Christmas once again but this time, open thy soul, listen for the poetry.
What is the poetry of Christmas for you this year?
Why not take a period of time away from wrapping or meal preparation, and just sit down with a pad of paper, a pencil in your hand, (no computers or any smart phones or virtual reality devices allowed), write your Christmas Poem!
In the name of God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, let us pray,
Thank You that I have peace with God, and as Your born-again child, that I have received Your goodwill and grace, not only in this age but in the ages to come.
Thank You that because I am positioned in Christ and I am swaddled in His righteousness, I am identified with Him, have found favour in Your sight, and the peace of God in my heart. I know that without Jesus there is nothing I could have done to warrant peace with You, for I acknowledge that I am a sinner, deserving of death – but glory to God in the highest, that genuine peace has been granted to men with whom You are pleased.
Praise Your holy name that both peace with God and the peace of God, is available to who place their faith in the only begotten Son of God, in Whose name I pray, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! AMEN.
“Joy to the World” is an English Christmas Carol. Written in 1719 by the English minister and hymnwriter Sir Isaac Watts, the carol’s lyrics are written and composed based on a Christian interpretation of Psalm 98, Psalm 96 (verses 11 and 12), and Genesis 3:17-18). This beloved carol, “Joy to the World” is usually sung to an 1848 arrangement by the American composer Lowell Mason.
Since the 20th century, this much beloved and cherished Carol, “Joy to the World” has been the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.