Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas: An Invitation to Stillness

“Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright.”

Silent, attentive and still, the world waited to receive its savior. Into the tranquil night hours, God the Father spoke his Word, Jesus, to humanity. The Father sent his one and only Son to be Emmanuel—God with us. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled a little while among us” (John 1:14).

Christmas is an invitation to stillness. It is a call to quiet our hearts and focus our minds on God’s Word to us. The antithesis of pop culture’s hectic “holiday season,” the true season of Christmas is about quietness and receptivity.

While Christmas celebrates Jesus’ coming into the Roman-ruled world of Caesar Augustus some 2000 years ago, it goes beyond a mere remembrance. Christmas welcomes us to receive Jesus anew into our own situation, with whatever joys and sorrows face us today. Each of our worlds is very different than Caesar’s—but just as much in need of Emmanuel. Our life situation may even be very different this year than it was a year ago. The observance of Christmas calls us to invite Jesus afresh into our world—with its new challenges, new losses and new opportunities.

How can we, like Mary and Joseph, receive him amidst all our quests and concerns for the future? How can we, like the shepherds, realize God’s glory as it breaks into our everyday life?

In order to be attentive and receptive to the Lord, we need to set aside space for stillness in our lives. Isaiah 30:15 calls us to return and rest in the Lord if we desire to see his deliverance. It invites us into quietness and trust so that we can have our inner strength renewed:

“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and trust shall be your strength.” (RSV)

One of the most beautiful reflections on Christmas I have ever read comes from the fourteenth-century preacher, Johannes Tauler:

“In this midnight silence, in which all things remain in
deepest stillness and where perfect peace reigns,
there we will truly hear God’s word. For if God
is to speak, we must be silent; if God is to enter in,
all other things must make room for him.”

What things are crowding him out of your life right now? Where are your thoughts so loud and hectic that you have no space to listen to him? Tauler continues:

“We should often cultivate this deep silence within
us and allow it to become the habit of our life, so
that through habit it takes firm root in us.”[1]

Let us set aside time for stillness each day this Christmas season to pull back from our frenetic activity in order to nurture quiet space in our hearts. Let us cultivate calm and receptivity. In that midnight silence, let us welcome Jesus into our world, our situation as it is right now, and into the inner sanctuary of our being.
1. Johannes Tauler, Sermon 1. Although not well-known today, Tauler’s sermons profoundly impacted believers in his generation, Martin Luther during the Reformation, and thirsty souls over the centuries. The translation is my own from Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe. Edited by Georg Hofmann. Freiburg: Herder, 1961.

© 2010 Glenn E. Myers

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