By Stephen Leonard
“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7
Beginning the Advent Season, Christmas festivities suggest family gatherings, impromptu parties, gaily wrapped gifts, feasts of holiday food, and harmonious caroling around a piano or guitar. But the first Christmas was removed from anything of such activities, glitter, lights, and the accompaniment of all which Christmas is today.
It was relatively quiet and, well, silence, except for this instance of an angel chorale out in the hills and fields, near sleepy little Bethlehem, the tiny town where the Son of God burst into our earthly existence with His first cry outside the womb’s confines.
It was an appropriate night for meditation and thoughtful musing on the most important matters of life and eternity, which also laid captive Mary’s intense pondering. Three human beings marking the beginning of family in its smallest gathering: mother, father, and baby; all in silence except for the whimpering cries of this wee one abruptly thrust into a cold world from the warm comfort of his mother’s cocoon.
There was nothing then known as Christmas in the world’s calendar when it began totally over again, all because of the birth of a mysterious and unique infant. No one else in the history of human existence, either before or again, caused history to divide into two parts. New with its silent entrance, this advent made its inestimable mark upon an unsuspecting world. Looking back, did you expect more of a cataclysm?
The Carol “Silent Night” captures the first Christmas well. Jesus did not arrive with trumpets blasting, but with lambs’ and donkeys’ silent stares. It is most appropriate that God would do this distinctly from what any of us would. The fleshing out of His own plan tends to confirm the undeniable truth of who Jesus really is. God’s plan, in its real fulfillment, defies any other human-devised religion. Nothing in human history parallels the entrance of God’s Son into the world.
Jesus’ mother and step-father apparently arrived in Bethlehem in the very late stages of pregnancy. The birth came as some do, suddenly, before they had even secured lodging in the overly-full town. No family or friends in this make-shift situation gathered to observe the Lord’s sudden birth. The unfamiliar group of worshipping shepherd guests were bidden from the grazing fields near the village’s outskirts. No other curious onlookers were even aware of the momentous event. These few visitors consisted only of those God personally invited to the manger side.
Perhaps your personal thoughts of Jesus’ incarnation should also be in the setting of relative silence with no distraction or interruption, no noise or busyness. Let it be something that considers the significance of this amazing birth in an applicable personal and intimate manner, something which primarily focuses your thoughts as they envelop your infant Savior.
This is not extraneous thinking to your eternal outcome. Your musing is quite pertinent to your soul’s understanding and enlightenment. This is something that advances your own sanctification as your understanding increases and much greater appreciates the mesmerizing truth.
This requires you not only to know the full story of His Advent, but also the specific significance of God in Jesus penetrating our human existence that He might personally effect your salvation; how and why He did what He did.
After all, because Jesus came, your eternity is secured; you have a relationship with him that excludes all others and, yet, somehow manages to include every other believer at the same inexplicable time. So that you are never yourself put at arm’s length because the crowd of believers is too great. Contemplate that! The silence of the First Christmas invites your intimate look and your personal attention, a face-to-face encounter with Jesus.
“Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon virgin, mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.”
(1st verse of Joesph Mohr’s and Franz Gruber’s famous Christmas Carol, “Silent Night,” 1818)