Five years ago, our son Silas was born on Christmas Eve. A few days after we went home, we thought he had a temperature and maybe an infection, which could be serious in a newborn, so we went to the children’s hospital. The ER doc thought he was ok, but just dehydrated. However, the hospital docs wanted him to stay for three nights to a week or more in order to rule out sepsis! We couldn’t believe it, we thought he was going to be fine…we wanted to go home…it was still the holidays…our families were still in town…
Bethany surely wasn’t going to leave him and go home. The doctor said he needed to be breastfed every two hours, and she was determined to stay on schedule for the entirety of our stay. When we arrived at his “isolation room” that was about 6 by 8 feet, it was clear that we couldn’t stay with him there. Bethany said she would sleep on the hospital floor, so the staff said “they’d work on it.” We ended up on a nasty pull out couch down the hall, it was great.
I was frustrated with all the mixed messages I was receiving, I was frustrated with the room we were in, I was frustrated with all the crying babies around us, the lack of sleep…you get the picture. Then all of the sudden Bethany starts singing “Silent Night” to calm Silas down after he had been stuck again for blood (yes she can sing, don’t tell her I told you). “Seriously, ‘Silent Night’!?!? That’s the song I relate to least right now” I thought, and even said, to her. But it worked, it calmed him down, and it got me thinking about another not-so-silent night.
That first Christmas night was pretty crazy, and on the surface, nothing was silent or holy or calm about it. We sing “Silent Night” every year, yet we probably find it quite hard to relate to during the craziness of our schedules donʼt we? Mary and Joseph probably would have found that song hard to relate to during that first Christmas night. I even recall professors making fun of “Silent Night” in college and seminary when they historically reconstructed that time period. From having to deal with all the census “red tape”, to searching for a place to have a baby, to then actually having a baby in less than ideal conditions, Iʼm sure that night was far from silent and peaceful! It was a time of political upheaval and social unrest. War and rumors of war were everywhere, Israel was in a sort of exile in their own land, being ruled by the self-absorbed murderer Herod “the Great” who was barely a Jew and a puppet of Rome.
But amongst all the chaos, God chose to send Jesus to save his people. Jesus was born in a cave surrounded by nasty animals. There was nothing silent, holy, calm, or bright about that night on the surface. In fact, to most people it seemed just like a regular crazy night. But underneath the physical chaos, there was a deeper calm, a deeper brightness, a deeper holiness that demonstrated that the fullness of time had come, and the climax of God’s redemptive plan up to that point in history had arrived. The God-man had come to defeat the evil powers, set things to right, to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the recovering of sight to the blind, to free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, to announce “God and sinners reconciled”, and usher in a kingdom that turned the Roman world upside-down, and will one day overwhelm all creation. Things were actually just fine on that night, despite the outward appearance of surrounding circumstances. In fact, things weren’t simply just fine, they were sovereignly ordained, and thus one could say “all was calm, all was bright”.
The counter-intuitive beauty of God’s work in history should cause us to observe such parallels within our own lives with thankfulness and patience. To know that, despite the ridiculous nature of our circumstances, God has a plan to change us for the better and bless us in remarkable ways we never thought about. It may come through pain, it may come through circumstances we never would have ordained ourselves, but by faith we can trust in the God who came to take care of something much deeper than our difficult circumstances. He pierced our spiritual darkness and exposed the ugliness that was there, but he came to heal, to save, and to reconcile. So during this season of political upheaval, of unknown financial futures, of loneliness, of vain materialism that is used to heal woulds it never can heal, let us worship and rest in the One who has it all under control. Despite how “un-silent” our world may be, there is nothing that makes things more calm and bright than knowing that Emmanuel has come to dwell with us.
God works amidst the chaos in counter-intuitive ways to bring him the most glory. That plan was extremely evident two-thousand years ago. Although the real scene may not have been something you’d want to put on a Hallmark Christmas postcard, it represented a deeper stability and purpose that is worth trusting in. All was calm and bright in heaven. The plan of God continued on then, and continues on now despite the chaos around us. This God who revealed himself as the humble baby in Bethlehem deserves our worship.