Monday, December 22, 2014

Silent Night

Silent night. Holy night. All is calm. All is bright. 

Yeah, right.

If you have children of your own or have been blessed to be at the birth of someone else's child, you know there's not a lot of "silent" or "calm" to be found. And "bright" in the middle of the "night"? Give me a break. Let's look at the facts.

Jesus was born in a stable. With animals. That did not just stop braying, snorting, mooing, neighing, munching, kicking hay, etc. because some baby was born in their midst. He was born in the midst of travel, in a place where the inn was full. Ladies? You're in a place that is full of mostly some degree of relation (they were, after all, traveling to a census at the time, which meant they were likely surrounded by persons of the same tribe) and you get news that in another part of the hotel complex you're staying at, someone has just given birth. Aren't you...there? Women flock to babies, especially in a time when doctors and hospitals were not the norm. A full inn, and you're telling me everyone just left the new family alone and didn't come to provide well-wishes? Doubtful. That's not human nature.

And even if women weren't rushing out of the inn, shepherds were hurrying in from the fields. (We won't get into the whole "it took the wise men 2 years to find the baby Jesus" debate. That's not important to this discussion.) Shepherds coming in from the fields would have brought perhaps MORE livestock with them, and now, it's a veritable zoo. Are you really going to believe that this menagerie was silent

Then there's the baby Jesus Himself. Any baby that comes into this world "silent" and "calm" is cause for concern. Babies are born wriggling and screaming and crying and making noises and choking on their own snot and trying to figure out this new environment, which is big and dry and loud and scary! I don't know. Maybe infant Jesus was firmly rooted in His promise even from the first breath and didn't have those normal "baby" concerns, but let's be real - that's not the Jesus story we're told. He was a baby, in a manger, in the stable of a full inn. 

That night was anything but silent.

I say all this not because I'm some sort of grinch (I'm not), but because this is the kind of thing we always do to Jesus. We "tame" Him. We tone Him down. We make Him all calm and bright and niceness and quietness and meekness and a whole host of other things that just are not true even to the story that we read about Him, even when we don't have to read between the lines. Remember, this is a man who chided the religious elite, who turned over tables in the temple, who wept at His friend's graveside, who rebuked His own disciples, who screamed when the nails pierced His hands, who bled at the same. 

I'm not really a fan of this toned-down Jesus. Because for all the "good" vibes this image puts out in the world about who He is and who we ought to be as Christians, for all the admonition to love and peace and goodwill, without the very real human side of Him, without the example of what it means to fully live in the flesh, the one thing we can never have is passion. A nice guy tends the fire, but it is passion that provides the spark in the first place. And if Jesus was only just a nice guy....I shudder to think.

So when I think about the manger, about the birth of our Lord, I'm not really sure I can buy into all this silent night talk. I'm not so sure that all was calm. Because I'm looking around this little stable, and it's all too clear what the reality is: the animals are, at the very least, rustling in the hay, the shepherds are drawing in from the fields, the ladies in their housecoats (housetunics?) are coming out from the inn, Joseph is trying to find a tool sharp enough to cut the cord, Mary is laying eyes on her child for the first time, and baby Jesus is crying and screaming and wriggling and choking on His own snot like all babies do because He's about to teach us something we can only learn from an honest-to-God human baby boy. He's about to teach us something about living in the flesh. He's about to teach us something about passion. 

He's about to teach us something about God.

Silent night? I don't think so. But holy night? Absolutely.

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