Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Since I began the journey of re-engaging myself in my faith, I often find myself questioning the depictions and suppositions about Jesus that I was always taught to be inherently “true.” One of my biggest struggles is with the extremely sanitized version of our Lord and Savior: the meek and mild Jesus, the white, blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus, and all of the various attempts to rob him of his humanity. Even during this Christmas season, I can’t help but think about the language in our Christmas songs and carols, like Silent Night, that minimize the realities about Jesus from the moment of his birth.
I can imagine that on the night that Jesus was born that it was anything but silent. People were shuffling about to take part in a census–a tool that was being used by the oppressive Roman government to levy taxes on its citizens. Mary and Joseph, a young, unmarried couple made the trek to Bethlehem (where Joseph’s family was from) for this census and everyone could plainly see that Mary was very pregnant. Although Joseph’s relatives were in town, no one seemed to have a place for him and his girlfriend to spend the night. Tired, frustrated and lacking a place to stay our couple headed to the local inn to see if there was a room available for the evening, only to hear that the only place they could possibly stay in was a manger. Lacking any other options, they took it and settled themselves in among the various animals kept there. And then, suddenly, Mary begins to go into labor, giving birth to a beautiful baby boy.
Between the dissent against taxation, to rumors surrounding the alleged virgin Mary and her pregnancy, to the pained conversations where Joseph’s family refused him and his girlfriend a place to stay the night, to the bleating of animals in the manger, to the sounds of Mary going into labor before the invention of any kind of painkillers, and finally to the sounds of a healthy baby crying after his delivery, the night was decidedly not silent. But here we are, thousands of years later, singing about how silent this night is.
Yet, in the midst of the chaos and the noise of the evening, I am strangely comforted. God didn’t choose to come into this world in a quiet, safe, sanitized environment. God chose to sneak into this world, this messy, loud world, and grant us peace. Peace, and maybe even silence from the messages and noise that we hear about ourselves and the world we live in. May we remember, even as we sing a song that may not paint the full picture of that night, that in the midst of our oftentimes messy life that there is an opportunity for peace, love, joy, grace, forgiveness, and yes, maybe even silence.
We invite you to join us at Church of the Village this evening at 6:30 pm for our Candlelight Christmas Eve Service which we will observe combined with the congregation of Japanese American United Church. Join us for both reflective and celebratory worship including bilingual hymns, prayers, and a candlelit Silent Night.