“Silent Night” is a favorite Christmas song for many people around the world. Its gentle melody suggests a “heavenly peace” in which “all is calm.”
But our usual picture of Jesus’ birth is far from calm. Above the fields near Bethlehem, an angel army sings out, announcing the glory of God. Back in town, shepherds and wise men and sheep, cows, camels, and gifts are all crowded together in a stable. And somewhere in the midst of all that commotion is the baby Jesus.
But hold on. The wise men don’t show up until later. So let’s take them out of the picture, along with their gifts. And there’s no mention of a stable—just a manger, a feeding trough. So there might not be animals there either.
Now let’s back up to the first hour or two after Jesus’ birth. Commotion will come later, when the shepherds find “Mary and Joseph, and the baby . . . lying in the manger” (Luke 2:16). But for now, as lamplight flickers, all we can see is Mary and the baby and Joseph. Exhausted, Mary is fast asleep. Joseph might be able to rest too. Meanwhile, Mary’s snugly wrapped baby, content from his first feeding, sees light, shadow, and movement with his newborn eyes. Let’s stay right where we are, silent as night. And let’s take in the picture. The God of all creation is a newborn baby watching shadows sway.
Jesus, on that night long ago you came to be “God with us,” one of us. Thank you! Amen.
2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth 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.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.