I have long been fascinated by the themes of noise and silence during the Christmas season. There is so much noise – from things to get done to Christmas carols to Christmas movies – and yet silence is such an integral part of the actual Christmas story itself. We know the story of Jesus being laid in a manger, since there was not even room at the inn, and we can all recall the accounts of Shepherds, wise men, and most likely of Herod seeking to kill this newborn King. For me, though, the most beautiful moment in all of it is the moment of silence.
In Luke’s Gospel we are told what Jesus’ birth looked like: “And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” [Luke 2:7, RSV]. What we aren’t told, though, is what it sounded like. You can imagine, with me, what the angels in heaven saw in that moment, as the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, took flesh and was laid in a manger. Moments later we hear the angels speaking praise in front of the shepherds, but there had to first be a moment of pause for silent adoration. For this moment, this one incredible moment, these angels saw the profound humility of the God of all things as He lay, a tiny infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a feeding trough.
I think that, in that moment, silence is the only appropriate response. No words, songs of praise, nor acts of worship could portray to the God of all things the adoration due in that moment. Mary knelt next to her child with Joseph at her side, and all of the choirs of heaven fixed their eyes on this scene in Bethlehem. It would only be fitting that all of creation would have stopped, realizing that this moment changed the entire reality of creation.
For me, then, this is what Christmas must be about: pausing, fixing my gaze on that manger, and quieting my heart in silent adoration of the King who came as a child to save me from my sins. The power of that silence is deafening and life-changing. May this Christmas, for each of us, bring that change in our hearts which He brought with him 2,000 years ago.
“Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.” -Pope Benedict XVI