We saw a video at the start of tonight’s service called ‘Noisy night’. We’ve just seen a video called ‘Silent night’. (Both are from proost.co.uk).
Well, you might say, make up your mind, Paul! Was it a silent night or a noisy night?
Well, which was it?
We want it to have been a silent night, with beautiful Mary gazing down at her child and the stars twinkling from the heavens. We want it to have been a magical night, full of people with shiny halos and angels and shiny-faced shepherds. We want it to be literally true that ‘little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes’.
And then a voice inside us says Don’t be daft, why on earth should it have been a silent night?
Why indeed? What would people have seen? A weary couple, travelling when the young mum was heavily pregnant? No wonder she had the baby right there and then!
What would people have seen? Scruffy shepherds? When shepherds came into town, you kept a fight hold of your wallet. You couldn’t trust them.
What, these shepherds said they’d seen angels? More likely they’d been on the turps.
That night, the ordinary person saw very little to tell them God was at work in any special way.
It was an ordinary night, with ordinary sounds, including the sounds of a baby’s cry. (But perhaps it did have some extraordinary smells coming from the shepherds.)
Yet some people were aware that great things were happening. Mary and Joseph had received this child from God. The shepherds couldn’t get the angelic vision out of their minds.
To most people, that was an ordinary night—but it was a night in which God was speaking.
And when God speaks, you can feel the silence.
Is tonight a silent night or a noisy night? An ordinary night or a special night?
Tonight is an ordinary night, it’s a Tuesday, yesterday was a Monday. But for those with ears to hear the silence through
the noise of commercial pressures to spend,
anxieties about Christmas lunch,
or about will-he/won’t-she-like-my-present—
for those with ears to hear the silence—however fleetingly, through the noise—the silence carries the voice of God.
What can we do? Let’s sing Silent Night. And let’s listen.