After weeks of hustle and bustle the Christmas season finds pause in the quiet of this night. Without the silence of this eve we would be lost in a sea of noise, exhausted and frustrated by seemingly endless tasks. But we stand still for a moment and hear the silence, as though it were speaking to us, setting us back on the course of the true meaning of it all.
I suppose that it has to come to this quiet, for that is where God most likes to speak to us. His voice refuses to compete with all of the clanging cymbals of commercialism, tradition and activity. He waits until we are ready to receive him, in the silence of a stilled spirit. And so we find exquisite beauty in the silence of this night, when earth receives her king without regal fare. Christmas becomes the antitype of human achievement, stretching our imaginations to understand the full force of this event.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells his people that this is precisely the way he will come. He affirms his uniqueness with his word, "Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I" (Isaiah 52:6). When our otherwise-veiled eyes come to see the salvation of God we will know without doubt that it is his alone.
This is why the silence of this night is so important to us, and why it is so necessary to meditate upon the manger wherein lies divinity wrapped in human life, the most fragile thing in the world (according to Pascal). In this meekness there will emerge strength, through this weakness will come redemption, by this wounding of omnipotence we will be saved. The birth of Jesus is the beginning of God's turning the world completely around, from an upside-down pain-filled existence to a kingdom full of love, justice and righteousness.
The world has seen mighty forces; from one generation to another we have achieved self-domination . . . for a while. We have come to expect greatness to come in power, charisma and force. We often believe that messiahs will come to defeat the sword by being better and living by the sword than everyone else. But none of that has ever brought us hope, or change. It has perpetuated the brokenness of our world and left us each desiring more.
But, as Isaiah would remind us, the coming of YHWH will be unlike all of this. Although we are not guaranteed an entrance of worldly might and splendor, we see that it is quite spectacular in its quiet strength. For this is not the love of power competing with all of the other voices who clamor for rule. It is instead the power of love which enters so quietly into the world, so unexpectedly that most everyone who is consumed with self-achievement and aggrandizement still don't know that it has happened.
This profound, yes, deafening silence speaks so profoundly to our hearts that we know without doubt that it is God himself who has come. And thus, with Isaiah we may respond:
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
"Your God reigns!"
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
together they shout for joy.
When the LORD returns to Zion,
they will see it with their own eyes.
Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD will lay bare his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.