Silent Night

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

   “Glory to God in highest heaven,
   and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. (Luke 2:6–20 NLT)

The much-beloved Christmas hymn “Silent Night” was first performed at a Christmas Eve service in 1818 in a small city in what is now Salzburg, Austria. For more than 200 years, this song has brought to mind the quiet, pastoral imagery of a mother and her child enjoying a calm, quiet evening, almost supernaturally so.

The second verse illustrates a wonderful juxtaposition between this nativity scene and the rest of creation. The verse begins with the standard refrain: “Silent night, holy night,” which quickly transitions to the experience of the shepherds being interrupted by a host of angels loudly announcing the birth of Christ and proclaiming glory to God. Though only a short walk from this site, the silent scene of the mother and child seems a world away. Despite the wonderous sight of the heavenly host, it is the scene at the manger that is the crux of the song, and of the Christmas story.

It’s not always an easy transition leaving behind the glory of an angelic host singing praise to God to seek out the quiet manger where a child slumbers under the watchful eye of his mother. The host of angels even seems like an invitation to join in the song, but there is no way to participate with the mother and child in this manger space other than to simply be with them.

There can be a lot that is attractive about the world around us, but we are invited to spend time in the quiet, calming presence of our Lord. Sometime today, in anticipation of tomorrow’s celebration of his birth, find a quiet place where you can worship Jesus simply by resting and spending time in his presence.