The old Christmas carol “Silent Night” is a staple of most Christmas Eve services. But was it really a “silent” night when our Lord and Savior entered this world?
First of all, it was the time of the census of the entire population under the Roman Empire and all its territories. Everybody had to pack up and go to their ancestral homes to be registered. Bethlehem was wall-to-wall people and hardly silent as travelers flocked into the city that night. Joseph and Mary arrived late, and “no vacancy” signs were everywhere. So they went to a stable.
I don’t think the innkeeper who denied them a room was an unkind person, or intended to exclude them. It’s just that his inn was full! Actually, it was very kind of him to offer them the inn’s stable, rather than turn them away completely.
And there the Son of God was born and cradled in a manger — an animal feeder — for a bed. And I guarantee you they weren’t alone in that stable. It was crowded with all the travelers’ animals, and perhaps many animals owned by the innkeeper as well.
Have you ever visited a stable at night? First of all, they are not very sterile places, with animal waste everywhere. And they are not very silent places either. Sometimes when our geese are raising a ruckus in the middle of the night, we go out to see what’s disturbing them. Then all the animals wake up! If we turn on the barn light, the roosters will begin to crow, the geese will honk louder and run in circles loudly flapping their wings, the horse will whinny and stomp her feet, the turkeys will gobble in protest, and even the cows in the pasture will come to see what’s up and moo loudly.
So, with all the sounds of the stable animals awakened by the entering travelers, combined with the wails of a woman giving birth, and the cries of a newborn baby, we can only just imagine that the entrance of Jesus Christ into our world was announced with many more voices than those of the heralding angels! It was not a “silent” night.
Some of us carry the old “Silent Night” theme into our daily lives. We are silent about our Christianity, and reluctant to announce our new birth in Him to anyone outside the church. We don’t want to make a noise and disturb anyone with our faith, lest we wake up some hissing geese who might bite us!
If you are one of those silent Christians, I pray that this season you will decide to join the chorus of voices announcing Christ’s birth to the dying world. Ask God to give you the courage to speak of your new birth in Christ to a lost loved one, a co-worker, a friend or a neighbor, and invite them to accompany you to church. And may all of you have a blessed Christmas, and a New Year full of the grace and mercy of our Lord.
The Rev. Anne Barber, pastor of My Father’s House Church, 7215 U.S. 301 N. Ellenton, can be reached at 776-9016. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.