Silent Night Revisited

By Debbie Shope

“Silent night, holy night; All is calm, all is bright . . . .”

Wait a minute.  All is not calm, and if we are talking about a sparkling house, all is not very bright either in my world right now.  It is Christmas, after all.  In my world the calm usually comes around December 28 when I can finally relax, and it tends to be more of a collapse.  And the bright, shiny house, well, that is more of a dream than a reality.

Realistically, there was probably not a lot of obvious calm when Jesus was born either.  It was the census, after all.  The city was overcrowded with people trying to register.  There were probably a lot of folks visiting relatives they hadn’t seen in years, especially if they had a spare bed.  In the manger, I am sure there were lots of noises from animals not adjusting well to having to share their space and all of the overstimulation. The markets were likely packed, and finding a parking space for your donkey was surely a nightmare.  And even the shepherds on the hillside, where you’d think it would be fairly silent, had carolers dropping by unexpectedly.  Sound familiar at all?  And yet, we have this idyllic picture of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in perfect, peaceful bliss.

And why not? They were privy to the plans of the Almighty.  While they didn’t understand it all, or know exactly what lay ahead, they knew God was in their midst.  I think it might have taken a lot of faith to believe that the child who just came from your womb was truly the Son of God — he was simply a baby needing warmth and nurture.  But I believe they knew — Mary laid up all the things others said about her child in her heart — she knew.  And this knowledge that God was with them and that He was active in their little corner of the world could have been enough to give them calm in the midst of the chaos.

My hope, this year, is that it will be enough for you and me as well.  The knowledge that the Eternal entered the finite, that Light entered the darkness, that the truly Good came to restore a world that groans and strains under the weight of evil, is beyond my understanding. I’ve often wondered why God would do that — it seems so incomprehensible, especially when you know the end of the story — and His answer has always been, “I did it for you”.  How can that not take our breath away long enough to flood our soul with the most splendid serenity?

This year I’ve decided that I would like to sit in the manger like Joseph and Mary, in the midst of the chaos, and gaze into the eyes of my Saviour.  I don’t fully understand, or know what lies ahead, but I know God is with me, and that He is alive and working in my corner of the world.  I might even be able to “sleep in heavenly peace”.