12.18 Advent Devotional
“His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright!
Round yon virgin Mother and child, boy infant, so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace!
Christmas has come quickly this year, too quickly! It made more sense after someone explained to me that we didn’t have as much time between Thanksgiving and Christmas as we usually do. Oh, so that's why the holiday "rush" feels even more intense! (Could also be that I'm working more and in a church this Advent.)
On Tuesday morning at work, I took a much-needed break to join our Casa de Vida folks as they sang Christmas Carols together. As we turned to #14 in the Songbook and sang “Silent Night,” I closed my eyes and wondered how many times I have sung that song in my lifetime…how many times each person in that room has sung this peaceful song of Jesus’ birth – 100? 500? If you figure 10 times per season (which is low for a music teacher-church lady like me) and multiply it by the age of Casa participant Mozell who just turned 100, the answer is 1,000! No wonder the melody and lyrics flow like second nature even if the name of a loved one does not.
I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and tried to make this singing of "Silent Night" meaningful – singing here in this place, with this circle of friends, this Christmas season. I recalled singing it as a child alongside my grandparents and brother in the pew at First Presbyterian Church Dallas as my parents sang from the choir loft, our faces illuminated by the glow of candlelight. I remember fondly sharing this special ritual with each of my children as they experienced their first Christmases alongside us in worship – same pews, my parents now grandparents. I can still see their angelic visages watching the light in wonder, paying close attention so they wouldn't reach out to touch it!
I have sung the song along with story-books by the same title with babies and tots over the years in music classes, I have led many a children’s choir and pre-school group in front of parents, congregations, and at nursing homes in singing and signing the beloved carol. The family I grew up in and the family I’m raising both have sung the carol along with John Denver and the Muppets on our favorite Christmas album!
I grew up singing the carol auf Deutsch with cousins, aunts, and uncles as we lit the candles over the fireplace at “Heimat” (“Home Place” in German – the rock home in New Braunfels that has been in our family for five generations now.) And then there have been those quiet moments when it’s just me and my child – in the car rocking my daughter to sleep or rubbing my son’s back in bed as we snuggle and I sing “Silent Night” as a special Christmas lullaby.
These moments, these memories make me wonder. How often have I sung the song without really being present in the moment? Without really slowing my mind enough to experience the heavenly peace of Christ, the silent wonder of a baby King in a manger?
How often has it just been “going through the motions,” keeping emotions at bay. How often has it been something so automatic that I really don’t even pause to consider the gift of God’s grace in the moment, in the next breath that allows me to sing the next phrase?
The gift of the voices of those children singing along, the gift of friendship and family and love itself. The gift of a song that transcends time and space to link our hearts and minds to beloved people and places of the past, even to one holy child in Bethlehem.
Who knows how many more times I will get to sing this carol. Who knows how many more Christmases I might have in my lifetime. But one thing I know for sure. Each time I sing “Silent Night” is a new and unique experience, an opportunity to experience God’s peace. The peace that passeth all understanding.