A famous and beautiful carol.
Yet as I thought about this, I realised that Christmas was the ending of a silent night, or rather 400 years of silent nights.
The inter-testimental period, was a time a spiritual wilderness for the people who followed the living God. And the silence was broken by the sound of a baby crying.
It was another 30 something years later before the word of God was heard from John preaching “prepare the way for the Lord”, “repent and be baptised” “repent for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand!”…
And then 30 years after Jesus birth we hear the voice of God saying “This is my own dear son, listen to him!” -and then that is followed by Jesus going for 40 days into the desert.
A lot of silent nights.
A lot of waiting to hear what God has to say.
…and then he -Jesus- says something they already know -Isaiah had already said it hundreds of years before.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”.
All this waiting for this? Not what they were expecting.
Yet Jesus was a Messiah unlike what they were expecting.
The answer to the question they weren’t asking.
Their assumptions and baggage prevented them from hearing Gods voice.
A friend told me about seeking God over an issue, he prayed through the night on a beach, and I’m the early hours of the morning he felt God say “What does the Lord require of you O human, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly”… It was definitely an answer, but it didn’t feel like the answer to the question he was asking.
Often I wonder in my Christian life, am I asking God the right question, am I tuned into his answer?
Often God’s answers don’t always make sense to us, at least at first, and maybe not even this side of eternity.
Sometimes it does appear as though we are having a silent night, in your Christian life there might be times of waiting (and waiting can be frustrating and painful) and heaven feeling silent and God feeling like he is on mute is a normal part of our Christian life.
Wilderness and deserts have been part of God’s refining and transforming plan.
Experiencing silence and feelings of abandonment have been part of the Christian tradition, St. John of the Cross writes of the dark night of the soul, where the night is darkest before the dawn, but the light does come.
Sometimes faith, is holding on in the dark knowing that though it may be dark, the light will rise.
God is not in a rush, often he slows his pace to 3 miles an hour (human walking pace) and sometimes he makes us stop, and pause, taking his time to work deeply. The problem is I want a microwaveable spiritual maturity, instant discipleship just add water. The problem is I care about the destination and God cares not just about the destination but the journey as well. God cares about who we are as we travel there.
Recently I have been doing a fair bit of cookery and one technique I have come across is the marinade, rather than just ‘throwing things in the pan’ the best flavours come from allowing the flavours of sauce and spice to absorb and permeate the entire piece of meat over time to let them sink in and transform the meal.
When I was at college one of our lecturers shared a little about leading “Charismatic” worship, and he said to pause for moments to wait on God and to wait that little bit longer than we are comfortable, as often that pressing out from comfort to discomfort is often when we gain revelation.
It is normal to have times of silence within our relationship with God.
I remember seeing a billboard which said “If God feels distant -who moved?” and I thought that condemning those who feel far from God was really unhelpful. Yet I do think that when the silence comes, we have a choice do push into God and in the silence hold onto him and keep the faith, run to him -or do we run from him?
So, as think of the song silent night, whatever is happening within our relationship with God, remember silence will at times come, and yet God is good, it will end, and he will be faithful.
From the position of 2 minutes to dawn, the silence might be deafening and his faithfulness and goodness seems hard to see, yet faith is being “sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not yet see”.
Lord, what do you want to teach me in this time of silence.