silence

A not so silent night

by Steve Brock on December 21, 2012

On a trip last week, I attended a special Andrew Peterson Christmas concert. I was struck by a line that opens his song, “Labor of Love:”

“It was not a silent night.”

Each year we sing of a silent night, a holy night. Holy, yes. But silent?

My limited experience with childbirth alone would indicate otherwise: think of the gasps, breaths and cries of the mother followed by the wails of the newborn child. Add to that the sounds of animals who do not move and bleat and chew cud noiselessly. And then there’s that “multitude of the heavenly host praising God.” Not a duet or a small chorus. A multitude.

Silent night?

I think what appeals to me about the song, “Silent Night” is that it paints a picture of what I’d like Christmas to be like: quiet, holy, peaceful and filled with beauty and contentment. But that’s not what Christmas looks like most years for me, especially this year.

For some reason this year, many of my clients have wanted to get projects either wrapped up or started before Christmas. This has meant a number of trips crammed into the holiday season. Travel has worn me and created a longing for a place of silence, of holiness, of peace.

I’ve found small pockets of that. Or correction: I’ve made a point to carve out these quiet moments for they do not come to me on their own. I need the still, silent moments to reflect on the deeper meaning of that child in the manager or else he becomes just another holiday symbol not all that much different than Santa or Rudolph, as bad as that sounds. I have to find the silent moments or I get lost and Christmas gets lost to me.

But amidst all the travel comes this reminder: It was not a silent night. Jesus did not come into a perfect world. He arrived smack dab in the dirt and smells of a manger, of parents on a trip with no hotel and of a land under oppression. He came into a very noisy and messy place.

A world very much like my own.

And in that realization of a not-so-silent night comes the true blessing of this season. God meets us in the ordinariness of our lives. He is found in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the stresses of the season and the busyness of the everyday.

I still need to seek out that stillness. But I also am starting to realize that Jesus came into a world that isn’t so silent and still. The shepherds found him in the midst of their world. And if I pay attention amidst all the craziness around me, I can do the same.

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You had to be there – Part 2 1/2

by Steve Brock on January 4, 2012

A forest is a quiet place and yet where do you go for pure slience...and what do you find when you get there?

This doesn’t quite rate as Part 3 of the series on “You had to be there” because I hadn’t planned on it until I just read something that seemed highly related to the last entry (Part 2).

In that entry, we looked at the connection between “you had to be there” and the Incarnation, God’s “being there” on this planet and our own way of traveling both physically and spiritually. All heady stuff, I admit.

Then this weekend, I picked up a copy of Kathleen Norris’s book,  Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. In the book, she takes on the “scary words” of Christianity as she calls them, words that for years kept her away from her faith. The book chronicles her return to that faith and her understanding, or at least wrestling with words like “dogma,” “salvation,” “sinner,” “faith” and even “Incarnation.”

She approaches these words with honesty and hopefulness rather than cynicism and judgment. She also does so with a poet’s touch and intersperses her own story amidst the short meditations on the words. I’m only on page 17 but am enjoying the journey so far.

On that page, she addresses the word, “Silence.” She tells of teaching elementary school kids about poetry and language and in so doing, she does an exercise with them regarding noise and silence. She gives the children a simple rule: When she raises her hand, the kids are to make as much noise as possible without leaving their seats.

When she lowers her hand, they are to be completely silent. The responses are quite interesting. You can imagine how the kids dealt with noise – they know how to do that well (though never with permission to do so in school before this).

Silence, however, was something quite different. Many of them found it somewhat unnerving. Why? One fifth grader noted that, “It’s like waiting for something – it’s scary!”

But the main thing the silence did was to free the children’s imaginations. And that’s where we come to the connection to “You had to be there” and the idea of incarnational travel.

In a small town in North Dakota, a young girl offered an insight beyond her years regarding what silence meant to her:

“Silence reminds me to take my soul with me wherever I go.”

And so we do, wherever we travel. We just need to be silent or still enough to remember that.

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 If you haven’t done so, check out the rest of the series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

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