Wednesday, December 25, 2013

That Loud, Unholy Night.

It's a tradition I love. Every year, at Christmas Eve service, our congregation sings "Silent Night" as we pass the tiny flame from the candles cupped in our hands down the rows of pews lining our sanctuary. Once the room is filled with those warm, flickering heartbeats in the dark, we stand, file outside, and huddle together. All the while, singing,
Silent night, holy night;all is calm, all is bright. 
I adore the song. I truly do. But recently, in the midst of my recitation of the so-familiar tune, my Father reminded me that its lyrics, like so many of our other traditional Christmas imaginings (really now, a blonde baby Jesus?), are far from accurate.

The night was not silent. It was filled with the sounds of donkey-brays and lamb-bleats--with the piercing cries of a woman in labor--with the newborn wails of an infant come into the broken and screaming Earth.

The night was not holy. It was filled with the the violence of a world not yet redeemed--a night with no room for this child who would never know spot nor stain until the day He bore sins that were not His own--a night that within a few years would spark the slaughter of babes as a jealous king sought to destroy the only one who was ever good.

Jesus did not sleep in heavenly peace. He forsook heavenly peace, trading it for earthly sorrow, so that we, through the redemption of our souls and the indwelling of the Spirit (God with us), may know a peace from Heaven that none before us had ever experienced.

Jesus was not Lord at His birth. He gave up lordship to come as a servant. He came in complete submission to the will of His Father. He surrendered His authority, refusing to flee from death, refusing to call the angels to His aid--surrendering to the grave, to the curse of the mankind, to the Enemy--that He might gain the ultimate victory and offer all power and authority to us.

Yes, we know the ending to this story, and it is beautiful. But let us not water down its beginnings for nostalgia's sake. Let us not forget, Beloved, what our Savior endured for us. Let us never take His gift for granted--this dawn of redeeming grace.

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