I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
–Chorus to “I Need A Silent Night” by Christian Singer/Songwriter Amy Grant
PRAYER : (from the Lectionary)
O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)
PRAYER FOCUS: Making a Place for Christ
As we enter the fourth and final week of Advent, the Lectionary presents us with one of the best-known passages in Scripture. To honor tradition, we give it in the King James Version. Most of us know it by heart; many of us can recite it from memory.
An angel appeared above the shepherds without warning. The glory of the Lord surrounded the angel and lit up the night with heavenly radiance. The poor shepherds were in what the military might call a position of disadvantage. Indeed, the Greek verb translated as “to come upon” has a distinct military connotation, similar to being overcome or overrun (by military force).
Modern Bible translations afford a muted emphasis to the shepherds’ reaction: “They were terrified” (NIV, NLT, ISV); “They were filled with fear” (ESV); “They were terribly frightened” (NASB, Amplified Bible). But the King James Version uses the strong expression, “They were sore afraid.”
This precise language appears only once again in the New Testament—at the Mount of Transfiguration, when Peter, James and John heard a mighty voice from a bright cloud that overshadowed them, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.” (Matt. 17:5-6, KJV).
However, the first thing the angel told the shepherds was not to fear. He had good news of great joy, for all people everywhere: The Savior, the long-awaited Christ, is born today, right over there in Bethlehem. And you have been chosen by Almighty God to be among the first to see the Messiah.
This was to be a sign for them: they would find the baby, not regally adorned in majesty or kingly splendor, but wrapped in grave cloth and lying in the most humble state you can imagine—a feeding trough for animals. Welcome to our world.
Are you struck by the contrast? The Son of God’s welcome stretched from a multitude (the very word suggests thousands) of heavenly, radiant angelic beings, to a stable in a third rate settlement, attended by a carpenter and a teenager, in the presence of shepherds. He was wrapped in the same kind of cloth commonly used to prepare the dead for burial. From Heaven’s First to Earth’s Last. Alpha to Omega.
What did they all have in common? They were, each in their own way, unlikely people chosen by God for an awesome role in history. Each of them received clear instructions from a credible messenger. They overcame their fear of both the messenger and the message. They set aside everything else they were doing and made room to do what they had been told. Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38 KJV).
Where was everyone else? Well, it seems “there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7). If the inhabitants of Bethlehem-Ephrata had only known…
Fast forward two thousand years. What about us? Are we so different? What room do we have for the Savior, the long-awaited Christ?
Christian apologist Thomas Merton wrote an essay in the early 1960’s entitled, “The Time of the End is the Time of No Room,” a reflection on the Nativity.
We live in the time of no room…the time when everyone is obsessed with lack of time, lack of space, with saving time, conquering space, projecting into time and space the anguish produced within them by the technological furies of size, volume, quantity, speed, number, price, power and acceleration.
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it – because he is out of place in it, and yet must be in it – his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected because they are regarded as weak; and with those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, and are tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.
Merton argues that in our modern age, we have no room for nature, for quiet, for solitude, for thought. Because we have so many things competing for our attention, we have lost both our awareness and our appreciation of our fallen state. Further, there is no room for the presence of the Living Christ. And yet there should be.
There must be.
This, Christian, is why we have labored through this season of Advent. If we are to behold the glory of God, we need less noise and activity, more silence and stillness. We need to overcome our tendency to be “sore afraid” of a Holy God who reaches out to us, and put away our attitude of “no room” when the Son of Man knocks upon the door of our lives. Advent is about preparing a place in our hearts and minds where all is calm, all is bright.
It’s Monday Morning. This week we celebrate the birth of the Son of God. What room have you made for Him?
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 KJV)