At Christmastime, we celebrate an event that is so incredible, it is almost hard to grasp. What God has done is almost incomprehensible; the mystery so big and so deep that its meaning and significance is lost on us. We do sort of have an excuse, with all the frenzy of shopping, decorating, baking- all the traditions that we hold dear, we often miss the true meaning of Christmas. We need to slow down and take a deep breath and savor the quiet stillness of the Nativity.
St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the first staging of the Lord’s birth. It is from this that we get the scene of our crèche sets. St. Francis came from a privileged family. He tried to be what he was expected to be, but he soon realized that material things were getting between him and God. He went to great lengths to free himself and live the simple life. He felt that Christmas should be joyous and celebrated heartily. He purportedly once told his friars to smear the walls with meat. Typical Francis overstatement (also very messy) but it expresses how much joy he wanted the world to share in Christmas. However he also taught that Christmas should be simple, often saying that at Christmas, simplicity is given a place of honor, poverty is exalted and humility is commended. This is the story Francis wanted everyone to know and rejoice in.
Within our rejoicing and revelry, there comes that time when suddenly we are brought back to Bethlehem. We see a weary couple far from home, struggling to find a comfortable place to share the joy of the birth of their child. We see the familiar scene of the parents and the baby surrounded by shepherds and various animals huddled around a humble manger. This image is quiet, still and stark in its simplicity. We are drawn to the incredible and amazing silence leaving the hustle and bustle of all the revelry behind.
There is comfort in the silence. We are able to listen to our hearts. We don’t want words, only silence; Christmas silence. Christmas silence is special; it not only tells us of love, it lets us be in love. God has entered the world to whisper to us that He loves us and in that same silence we realize how much we love Him. We come to know that we can love each other. Each Christmas reminds us that the gift of God’s love is here, we need only to unwrap it (if we wish) and share it with others.
We cannot contain our joy, so we celebrate in crazy ways (hopefully not by smearing meat on the walls) but we still rush to our silent night hoping that it will never end; longing for the day that the gift of God’s powerful, unexplainable, awesome love is shared by all.
Let us take a few moments in our hectic schedule to hear that still small voice of God in our hearts. Let us hear the deafening silence of the Nativity of our Lord.
Rev. Fr. Andrew Smith grew up in Appleton. WI. He studied Theology, Philosophy and Sociology at Lakeland University in Sheboygan, WI and completed his theological studies at Holy Redeemer Seminary of the UICC. Fr. Andrew was ordained to the diaconate in December of 2010 and to the Order of Presbyters in May of 2011. He entered his novitiate in the Order of Preachers Old Catholic in August of 2016 and took his three- year vows in May 2017. Fr. Andrew is pastor of St Dominic Old Catholic Church in Oshkosh, WI. He enjoys cooking, reading, writing and is an avid history buff.