Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Silent Night

By Sean McDonough, PhD
Associate Professor of New Testament

Silent Night, Holy Night
All is calm, all is bright…
It is a beloved, and lovely, song…but I do wonder just how silent things were in Bethlehem that night. Singing choirs of angels, singing in exaltation, would presumably be pretty noisy, especially if they were joined by all the citizens of heaven above; you couldn’t help but hark. Back in the manger, baby Jesus may have been meek and mild, but I don’t think that would stop him screaming his little lungs out as he gasped his first breaths of air. Mary was likely pretty animated herself as she labored to push out her first-born. And while I cannot claim any real knowledge of animal husbandry, I would not be surprised if the oxen and sheep and donkeys made a racket themselves in response to all the busy-ness of the birth.
But if the silence of the song doesn’t quite work at the literal level, it does harbor a profound theological truth. Amidst all our work and worry and words, Christmas is a time to sit still. We exhaust ourselves all year with writing and theorizing and speculating about the problems of the world and how we can solve them; now at last we can be silent and hear God’s Answer.

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