Silent Night

What do the conditions of Jesus Birth have to do with the way we practice our own spirituality?
by Kathryn M. Cunningham, MAPS | Source:

        As we approach Christmas, lots of “wonderings” run through my head.  I wonder if the innkeeper felt bad.  I wonder how Mary felt that night.  I wonder if Joseph was scared.  I wonder if the animals spoke at mid-night.  I wonder if the sight of angels scared or calmed the Holy Family.  One of the things that I wonder the most about is the Father’s choice of time and place for the birth of His Son.  God being God, He could have chosen any time and place for this event.  He could have chosen a prominent place, with prominent people present and great comfort and/or luxury for His only Son, the Savior of the World.  He could have chosen a place of bustle with a lot of people who would have delivered the message of the monumental birth to the world.  But that’s not how it was. 

         Jesus was born of humble beginnings, in an earthy setting with only beasts present in the silence of a Bethlehem night.  The night air crisp, the location was on the outskirts of the city.  The setting was quiet because of the lateness of the hour.  No doubt this is where Franz Gruber’s inspiration came from.  So we have “silent night”, not night of fanfare. 

         Have you ever been in a barn on a winter night?  I have.  For years I had the privilege to own a lovely show horse who taught me a lot about love and patience.  Sometimes winter nights were late or delayed because of weather conditions.  There is something oddly calming in a barn as the hour grows late and the animals settle in against the cold and the dark.  There are sounds of animals sleeping and stirring but it’s mainly a kind of quiet that carries with it the presence of life, hope and anticipation of the morning light.  It’s a very palpable kind of sacred silence.   So these are the conditions that Jesus was welcomed into the world under.  As we know, the Father doesn’t make mistakes so what can we take from this?   What is it about silence?

         In scripture, there is a lesson in every word or phrase.  The fact that the Lord was born into this sacred silence carries lessons for us today that go beyond a mere description of how Jesus came into the world.  First, there is the lesson of the silence itself.  Is silence just nothingness, or is it a vehicle that can strengthen and teach us?  What was the purpose of the silence at the birth of the Lord?  In silence, is it easier or harder to hear; the songs of angels, the calmness of the Virgin Mary, the Voice of God?  In silence, is it easier or more difficult to hear: your fears, your own conscience, your joys?   In silence, are you more likely to hear the voice of truth or the voice of lies?  In silence are you more apt to hear your own heart or the clamor of the world?

         In this modern world silence makes people uncomfortable.  Even in their homes people often cannot go from room to room without turning on the T.V. or radio.  As we pass each other on the street we are less and less present to each other.  We stuff  I-pods into our ears and zone out to our “tunes”.  We are rigorously eliminating silence from our lives.  Could it be that the lessons of silence are so profound that we have lost the courage to face them?    

         Jesus was born into silence.  This should make us sit up and pay attention to the place and prominence that we have given silence in our own lives.   Many of us claim to have a vibrant prayer life, but it only consists of praying while we drive or commute or while we wait in the car pool or surf the net.  While these occasions are good opportunities for prayer on one hand, they are not “occasions of silence” either.  The enemy often scams us by making us believe that the most efficient tools of spiritual warfare are “not that important”.   This is one of the things that has happened with “silence”.   As we pray and contemplate, silence is one of the most potent tools that we have.  It is one of the only spiritual exercises that will clear our minds enough so that we can sharpen our skills of discernment.  That simply cannot be done when we are surrounded with noise and distraction.  The enemy would like to keep it that way!  The less we are able to discern, the more we are unable to be effective spiritual warriors.  The fact that Jesus was born into an atmosphere of silence is clearly an indicator that silence is a potent and important spiritual tool to be practiced with regularity.  Where can you create more silence in your day and your prayer life?  Hone your spirituality in an atmosphere that gives full attention to the possibility of God speaking.  Silent Night, ground your spirituality in the very condition that welcomed Jesus to earth.  

opyright © Christmas 2008, Kathryn M. Cunningham, all rights reserved.

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