As I sit tonight to write, most of the the presents are wrapped, the lights on the tree are twinkling, and the peace of silence in a Christmas-house has come. It feels like a holy night. And time to reflect.
More than two thousand years ago, in a crowded stable in Bethlehem of Judea, a baby boy was born to a new mother. She wrapped him tightly and laid him in a manger, watched over by her faithful husband Joseph. Surely she marveled, as all mothers do, at the closeness of heaven, at the perfection and majesty and heavenly trust that his arrival represented. Surely she whispered his name, Immanuel. Surely she knew that God was now with us.
In the entire Biblical record there are only 20 verses to relate this holiest of events, and so much has been embellished and added on.
What we do know is that an angel came to make the greatest announcement the world has ever known, not to Caesar Agustus, the emperor of Rome, and not to King Herod, his vassal. Not to Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea, and not even to Annas the High Priest, but to shepherds in their fields, who came running to see, and to worship.
Tonight I look down through those long years, and in my mind and heart I am there. I am stunned to silent wonder with the shepherds, after seeing an angel and hearing his pronouncement. I look up to the Heavens with tears in my eyes and marvel to hear the choirs of the Almighty singing, "Glory to God in the Highest!" And at the angel's urging, the shepherds and I run to that lowly stable, falling silent as I enter the sphere of light and the Heavenly quiet that fill the small space.
Together with these humble witnesses, in my mind I kneel, for a little while, near that manger, gazing in wonder at the newborn King. Silent night. Holy night. Heavenly peace.
It seems fitting to me that the Prince of Peace came to earth as a baby. That the best and only hope of mankind, the King of Kings, was given to us in a stable in an overcrowded and preoccupied city.
One of my most favorite Christmas hymns is the beautiful, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, whose third verse reads:
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven
No ear may hear his coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him still
The dear Christ enters in.
So tonight I think about silent gifts, given with such an example, without any expectation or fanfare. This year I have been the recipient of gifts freely given from gentle and generous hearts - friendship, love, kind words. A generous heart. Shoulders to lean on. Support for the hands that hang down. Comfort for the mourning. All gifts, in their own way, like the great silent Gift from a Heavenly Father who loves us, and a Savior who made a gift of his life.
Thank you, sweet friend, for all that you do to make this darkening world a brighter place. I celebrate this season with you, wherever you might be. May you have a wonderful, peaceful, bright Christmas. May you feel Heaven close, it be full of magic, and Spirit, and love.