Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Not So Silent Night

And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” Luke 2:16-18 (ESV)

One of the most popular Christmas songs is “Silent Night.” As powerful and moving as the lyrics might be, I am not convinced that they provide a correct picture of what the birth of Christ truly was like. When I was in junior high school, I went through the necessary classes at the hospital to be allowed into the delivery room for my little sister. My other little sister was born in the ER after almost declaring her independence in the front seat of my parent’s car. Both times I was a front row witness.
Again, for the birth of my children, I was present in the delivery room. None of these experiences were filled with “calm” or “mild” or sleeping heavenly peace. They resonated with noise and hustle and bustle and crying…much more activity than quiet.

My great-uncle had a farm in Central California that I visited often as a boy. We would feed the pigs, slop and visit the cows. We would ride horses and take care of the chickens. Again, none of these memories were filled with peace and calm and moments of deep reflection.

So, what’s the point?

Christmas at my home does not know what a silent night might look like. Five kids (four of them teenagers) results in a lot of busyness, noise and general chaotic fun. We climb on the roof for Christmas lights and sing songs. We tell lots of stories, enjoy the classic movies and work hard to create more memories each year.

Your Christmas might be as “non-silent” as mine for a myriad of reasons. Perhaps there is grief and struggle this season. It could be that disability is creating such a burden that the joy of the season seems to be missing. Maybe there are loved ones who are no longer celebrating with you and the gap they have left seems enormous.

It seems too simple, and dangerous, to compare our lives to the depictions that many of our hallowed Christmas songs provide. Comparison is a certain path to discontentment. I was taught long ago by my high school basketball coach that our goal as a team was to worry about ourselves. There will always be teams that are worse than us… and there will always be teams that are better than us. Comparing will not provide an accurate portrayal because of this.

What then are we to do?

Remember that Jesus truly is the reason for the season. Christmas arrives only because of the birth of this child on a cold night in Bethlehem. Christmas is not about decorations or meals or movies or lights (although they are all very enjoyable). May your Christmas, whether silent or noisy, be filled with the wonder that the town of Bethlehem experienced. Pray for God to be real in your life, for His grace to overflow in your family, and for the “awe” of the season to be ever present.

Lord, Merry Christmas! Thank you that I don’t need to stress about my home or family or how we stack up to the neighbors. Life is not about putting together the perfect Nativity scene to depict how wonderful we are doing. Rather, it is about being filled with wonder about who You are and just how much You truly love me. Amen!

~ Mike

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