Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
First performed on Christmas Eve just over two centuries ago at St. Nicholas Church in the Austrian village of Oberndorf, Joseph Mohr’s words to this beloved Christmas carol, “Silent Night,” have inspired generations. The first stanza, quoted above, captures the real purpose of the Christmas holiday: to celebrate the birth of Jesus, arriving quietly and humbly under the protection and silence of the night.
Perhaps such a silent night is a gift we would all enjoy finding under our Christmas trees this year. Quiet and undisturbed peace comes in small doses in a world crowded by constant notifications, media on demand, and instant information. And yet it is through silence that we begin to truly feel our connection to God and His Christ, so “tender and mild.” Those are qualities desperately needed the world over – and perhaps especially right now amid the rancor and dissent of so much partisan politics.
Jesus came to help us see that it is indeed possible here and now to feel the sacred peace that silences fear and anxious concern and helps us feel confident in good outcomes. This peace flows from an understanding that God is Spirit, creating us all in His image and likeness – spiritual and holy – and such spiritual peace endures. Jesus reassured us, “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27, The Living Bible).
But sometimes, just when everything seems to be going smoothly, something unexpected pops up causing us concern. Does that mean God isn’t present and that our peace can be snatched away from us? I’ve learned to trust that gift of peace Jesus speaks of that isn’t fragile.
Last year, our family made the decision to list our home for sale just a few weeks before Christmas. Although our children were returning home for the holidays and it seemed like the most inopportune time to be showing our home, I had a strong intuition that it would sell quickly and we could enjoy the holidays undisturbed.
All went according to plan until there was a hiccup that threatened to disturb the peace of our holiday time together. One night, as I wrestled with anxious feelings about how all the details of the sale would come together while things were on hold between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it occurred to me that I didn’t need to wait for circumstances to change to feel at peace. I could feel at peace right then and there. The family was all gathered around the fire appreciating the home we had loved for 15 years. I asked if we could all share thoughts about the true meaning of Christmas and home.
I shared from an article called “Christmas, 1900” I had been reading, by the founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy. On the subject of Christ, the purely spiritual idea of God that Jesus most clearly understood and expressed, she wrote, “To the awakened consciousness, the Bethlehem babe has left his swaddling-clothes (material environments) for the form and comeliness of the divine ideal, which has passed from a corporeal to the spiritual sense of Christ and is winning the heart of humanity with ineffable tenderness” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 257).
This spiritual Christ is still with us today, comforting us and guiding us just as Jesus did when he walked the earth. My family talked about how we could never leave our beautiful sense of home and all the good it included, because our true home is a spiritual idea that we always carry with us. It consists of timeless qualities like warmth, love, happiness, and joy that we each express as God’s spiritual offspring, who “live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28) in Spirit, God.
After our sharing, the anxious feelings left and we enjoyed the holidays undisturbed. And in the midst of the peace I felt, an idea came to me that was key to moving the sale forward after the holidays. I’ll forever be grateful for that blessed evening gathered around the fireplace, feeling that sacred stillness.
This Christmas, I hope we all can feel the holy silence of the Christ, a gift that is “winning the heart of humanity” with its tender affirmation of permanent peace.