the manger, tucked into a cave filled with work animals, was quiet for a few moments.
mary's delivery was not a silent, painless affair. the son of God made flesh didn't erase the physical challenges required to bring life in to the world.
there was screaming and breathing and pushing and shouting and the squeal of pink and purpled lips newly sucking in oxygen, freed from deep dark and alive into dark light.
then, perhaps, it became silent. clear. quiet. the grinding of animal molars on hay and oats notwithstanding, it was as if the world took a great deep breath and held it.
did it really have to be silent, though?
the advent of a child, prophesied to bind up the wounds of a war-torn and oppressed people, not to mention one who was the anointed and chosen deliverer sent from the hand of Yahweh Himself who after 400 years of silence now spoke with full force and gravity.
wouldn't that sound like the shredding of a thousand mountains? shouldn't there be trumpets and advancing armies shouting at once?
no. it had to be silent.
the voice of the people at the margins, the people who had been pressed down by Rome and by their own religious leaders who were waging philosophical and tactical war against Rome were silent, so the night had to be silent.
the prophets who called people to the God who made covenants, who chose without considering merit, had all but disappeared into the vacuum of silence so the night had to be silence.
you see, the night had to be silent because silence was where God needed to show up. those making great sound had no need for God, they had wealth and comfort. the baby in the manger showed up in the silence because when we are silenced we need Him there the most.
I have the privilege of taking people on silent retreats from time to time, and I have never heard anyone say "Well, that was a waste of time." typically they walk away with a new friend, the closed lips and quiet steps of silently hiding away.
we need silence because pain is so incredibly loud.
we need silence because the talking head politics we endure is so loud.
we need silence because terrorism and threatening postures thrive on people distracted by noise.
we need silence because our own lack of wisdom takes on ear-shattering decibels.
the night had to be silent because that is exactly what the world needs. what good will silently retreating, quieting our lips and learning to listen to God, actually do for the world?
perhaps this week as we reflect on the silent entrance of Jesus to a world vibrant with sound, we'll find something. a little bit of clarity. a reason to seek the silent night.
the night must be silent, because without silence there is no need for God or the baby in the manger. we will simply busy ourselves with covering our ears.