There is a principle of life that most Americans (and Christians) believe and follow. More than any other time of the year this principle is acted on at Christmas. The principle is this: The good life is a full life. In other words, the good life is a life that is packed full of as many experiences as possible. The good life is a life bursting at the seams with all the experiences that life has to offer.
And this principle (probably unknown to us) drives us in the weeks leading up to Christmas. We want to experience Christmas to the fullest. So our December calendars quickly fill up with family get-togethers, company parties, Christmas pageants and plays, Christmas caroling, concerts, those endless trips to the mall, Christmas card writing, Christmas special-watching, house decorating, cookie baking, etc.
“But all those things are necessary,” we rationalize. No they’re not! They are part of our schedules because of decisions we have made, because we don’t want to say, “No.” Because we believe that the good Christmas is a full Christmas.
Is it any wonder, then, that our Christmases are more hectic than holy, more exhausting than exhilarating, more painful than joyful? The tragedy is that we have robbed ourselves of one of the most precious features of the first Christmas.
Every year we successfully recreate and remember many features of the first Christmas as we listen again to the Christmas Gospels. We recreate and remember baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and angels. We recreate the stable and manger, sometimes even the animals. But there is one feature of that first Christmas that we make impossible for ourselves to receive: the quiet of Christmas.
For after the sounds of labor and delivery had fled into the night, quiet reigned supreme on the first Christmas, interrupted only by the angels brief song of praise. The remainder of that first Christmas was given over to quiet and meditation. You can almost see Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, standing and sitting there in stunned silence, meditating upon the words of the angel: for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
I am convinced that one of the reasons that “Silent Night” is the cherished favorite of so many millions is because it speaks of something that we long to have but don’t have: the quiet of that first Christmas. The opportunity to stop, become quiet, and meditate on what the birth of that Child is really all about; to soak up all the wonders of His birth in silence. That is one of the reasons why something stirs in our hearts when we sing of that first silent night when all was calm and all was bright.
Martin Luther, also understood the importance of quiet. He once wrote:
The Christmas Gospel is so clear that there is little need of learned interpretation. It is only necessary to ponder it well, to contemplate it, and to take it completely into your heart. None will derive more benefit from it than they whose hearts hold still and who divest themselves of material considerations and concentrate diligently on it. This lesson is just like [the reflection of] the sun: in a quiet and still pond it can be seen clearly and warms the water powerfully, but in a rushing current it cannot be seen as well nor can it warm up the water as much. So if you wish to be illumined and warmed here, to see God’s mercy and wondrous deeds, so that your heart is filled with fire and light and becomes reverent and joyous, then go to where you may be still and impress the picture deep into your heart. You will find no end of wondrous deeds (LW 52:8-9).
Wonderful advice. If you desire to find the joy and true meaning of Christmas, then be a quiet and still pond rather than a rushing stream and go somewhere where you may be quiet and meditate upon the Christmas Gospel. Then you will find wonders that you scarcely believed possible as the Holy Spirit ministers to you. Then you will find that the true meaning of Christmas is not that Christ is born. Nor even that Christ the Savior is born. But that Christ the Savior is born for you, to be the antidote for your sin, to rescue you from everlasting punishment and a busily empty life. And many more wonders will greet you if you only be quiet and ponder this birth.
Many believe that a good life is a full life and that a good Christmas is a full Christmas. Our God disagrees. He would have us know that the good Christmas is a quiet Christmas, a quiet Christmas spent meditating upon the riches of Christ.
And if you think that this advice comes to you too late this year, remember, the season of Christmas lasts until January 5! You still can enjoy a quiet Christmas.