Monday, December 12, 2011

Silent Night, Violent Night

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Every year we are asked to play Christmas parties and every year, just after Thanksgiving,  it's time to pull out all the Christmas music (the chords to which I promptly forgot December 26th of the previous year) and relearn it.    I'm actually quite a fan of most Christmas music but of all the merry, merry songs we revisit every year none is more impactful than quietest hymn of all, Silent Night.

Originally the song was written in German (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) in Salzburg, Austria by the priest Father Joseph Mohr who simply wanted a song that could be played on a guitar.  No organs, strings, horns....simply a guitar.

There is indeed a simplicity to the song indicative of the birth of Jesus.   Maybe because initially the world did not take notice; there was no pomp and circumstance.   There was simply a baby in a manger beheld by parents who were certain of a majestic truth, this baby would be the Savior of the world.

The incomparable Werner Herzog describes frankly in the clip below that the way of life in The Amazon is death but intimation is clear; The Amazon is simply the way of the world unrestrained.  He calls it "overwhelming and collective murder".  The only order is strength and aggression.  Survival of the fittest.  This is the world into which Jesus entered, a counter-intuitive savior who would lay down His strength and win bringing about a new kingdom, the kingdom of Heaven, where the weak are made strong (2nd Cor. 12:19), the foolish are made wise (1st Cor. 1:27) and the poor are made rich in faith (James 2:5).

Though the majesty of the incarnation cannot be overstated, perhaps this Silent Night was also a violent night (foreshadowing the life and the death before him).   Two millenia from the comfortable, cozy hospitals where my two daughters were born, Jesus entered into a cruel drama in which he had would offer up his flesh and bones to the same cruel end we all must face - death.

Christians can celebrate Christmas morning because we've received the gift of eternal life made possible not because a baby was born, but primarily because The Son of God condescended to identify with man completely yet remained obedient to His Father even unto death on a cross.

Can we really party today?  With all that's going on shouldn't we get started today? 
- Johnathan Wilson, Gentle Spirit - 2011
There's always "the heavy"isn't there?  The person among us who just can't say the polite thing.   There is such pressure to keep up the facade that somehow things are as they ought to be.  There's not a time of year when tradition seems to reign more prominently than at Christmas, but why?  We want to be happy, don't we?  Think of the countless dinner tables around which deeply troubled families will gather this Christmas in order to feign some semblance of normalcy.

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." 
- Mark 2:17

Laboring under the law of happiness ("I ought to feel like celebrating") so many will suffer silently unable to appropriate the true joy of the cross of Christ where it is most undeniably needed:  in the midst or our suffering.  In our weakness Jesus truly comes (not in our strength), in our poverty we will find Him (not in our wealth) and in the sickness of sin we will find forgiveness (not in our self-righteousness).

Slow down - you move to fast.
- 59th Street Bridge Song, Simon and Garfunkel

Out of the cacophony of the bustling city of Bethlehem that would make no room for Him, Christ was born in the country in a dirty, manger stall.  This was no wonderful scene.  Births are difficult and painful in the best cases.  Cow dung and straw were this King's accommodations.  When he returns again to us this Christmas will He find much to be different? Read the headlines, it's doubtful.

But He will come again as sure as He has come before not because we celebrate His birth, but because we are still in need of the grace that is made most trans-formatively manifest in His death.

His grace is our only lifeline.  As Andrew Murray put it, "his humility must become our humility".  It does not come at the behest of our best attempts at recreating angelic choruses (vis-a-vis The Messiah).   Grace comes when we are finally ready to give up trying to whip up God's presence with our busy-ness, decorations, songs, traditions and romantic notions of The First Christmas.   Grace moves in when we finally surrender to and accept the deliverance made possible by The Violent Night on Calvary.   This reconciliation between God and man that Christ achieved through His death leads us to new life, The Silent Night, much needed rest for our weary souls. 

Merry Christmas!



This Week

* Wednesday Men's Group - Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore - Chapter 5 @ 7am - 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* Sunday - Merry Christmas!

Next Week...

* No Monday Men's Lunch

Week After Next

* The Magill's w/ The Outlaws and In-laws - Saturday, January 7th - The Moores Store in Ben Wheeler, TX, 7pm-10pm