#5) silent night

Imagegrowing up, “Silent Night” was always one of my favorite Christmas songs. especially the Mannheim Steamroller version. at the end of the song, it felt like you were on top of a mountain on the night Christ was born, looking down, taking in all the holiness. and then, there are some sleigh bells jingling in the distance…i always felt like that was a subversive nod to Santa.

listen to it here.

the problem is, i don’t feel as though the night Christ was born was all that silent.

actually, i wonder if he was even born at night. Luke 2 says he was born…and placed in a manger…because there was no guest room available for him. but it doesn’t say this occurred at night.

it does go on to say there were angels close by keeping watch over their flocks…at night. (Luke 2:8) and then the angel makes this declaration: “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you.” (2:11)

the baby had been born “today.”

now, day or night, it doesn’t really matter. i’m sure, either way, it wasn’t a silent night…what with all the racket the one angel was making. and then he was joined by “a great company of the heavenly host.” (2:13)

nothing silent about that.

however, i like to think that sometime in the day or night, God blessed Mary and Joseph with a few silent moments with their baby. before the angels. before the shepherds. before the first diaper blowouts. there were moments.
silent moments.
moments where there is nobody else.
no nurses or doctors or family members.
just mom.
and dad.
and baby.
and God.

those moments are what turn silent (or not so silent) nights in to holy nights.


#2) fear

Imagethree times in the first two chapters of the gospel of Luke, we see this phrase:

“do not be afraid.”

each time this phrase is uttered, it’s by an angel who has appeared to an unsuspecting player in the Christmas drama.

the angel Gabriel approaches Zechariah in the temple to inform him a son will be born to him in his old age. Gabriel’s first words to Zechariah:

“do not be afraid.”

six months later, Gabriel makes the trip to Nazareth to inform the teenage peasant girl, who happened to be a virgin, that she would give birth to a king. Gabriel’s first words to Mary:

“do not be afraid.”

nine months after that, an angel appears to shepherds living in nearby fields, minding their own business. the angel shone with the glory of God and said these words:

“do not be afraid.”

now, you won’t see this depicted on any of the Christmas cards you receive this year…but it’s obvious from the story: the appearance of an angel invoked great fear. these were not chubby, cute angels with rosy cheeks who look like ridiculously happy toddlers in bath robes.

nope. that kind of angel doesn’t scare anyone.

the angels that appeared to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds were the kind of angels that scared you before they even told you why they were visiting. did you notice that? these angels don’t tell you anything about unplanned pregnancies or kings being born until after they assure you: “do not be afraid.”

this is a good word to start off this Christmas season. this story reminds us that what was happening was very, very serious. this wasn’t just a feel-good cartoon. God’s plan to save the world was being set into motion. so He sent His best warrior-messengers. and these angels struck fear in to the hearts of good people.

but these angels, speaking for God, were quick to remind Zechariah, Mary, the shepherds…and now us…to not be afraid. and as they heed the command, the story unfolds.