For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
I am amazed each Christmas season at the amount of noise. Noisy lights, noisy music, noisy kids, noisy homes and noisy stores barrage my mind – an assault on all my senses. We even have Christmas cards now that make noise. It’s not enough to have a card one reads – now it has to sing and make fun of us.
The irony of all the noise is the birth of Christ. God comes to us in the quiet of the night. Shepherds on a hillside were inundated with sounds of angels, no doubt, but before the angels announced the birth Joseph and Mary were quietly finding their place of solitude. A quiet night and a simple stable: it is into this setting that God chooses to make Himself known. No prophets in the wilderness crying out on this night. That would come later. A simple, pastoral scene ushers in the greatest moment in history.
What is also ironic is what we have made of this quiet and simple message. Humanity has taken what was pure and simple and distorted it into our image more than God’s image. I wonder if this Christmas we could find time for silence and solitude? As Thomas Merton writes,
“Those who love their own noise are impatient of everything else. They constantly defile the silence of the forests and the mountains and the sea. They bore through silent nature in every direction with their machines, for fear that the calm world might accuse them of their own emptiness. The urgency of their swift movement seems to ignore the tranquility of nature by pretending to have a purpose…It is the silence of the world that is real. Our noise, our business, our purposes, and all our fatuous statements about our purposes our business and our noise: these are the illusion.”
Maybe we need to find a place to actually live a silent night rather than just sing about it on Christmas Eve.