Silent Nights

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

I love Christmas music! I have a playlist on my phone that I listen to throughout the year, and I recently heard a song that made me pause and consider. It is both wistful and hopeful:

In your silent night, when you’re not alright
Lift your eyes and behold him.
Feel the thrill of hope.
You are not alone.
In this moment, behold him…

Behold Him, Francesca Battistelli

A few years ago, weary in the midst of the season, I wrote a post titled When Holidays Hurt. ( The feedback I received assured me that it resonated with many people. Holidays can be hard and hurtful. The post recounted the thoughts, sounds, and sights of a busy medical clinic as people lined up, waiting for help and hope in the midst of their holiday stress and hardship. Little has changed since then.

But in 2020, the world was put on pause by a global pandemic. I know no one, absolutely no one…who wasn’t deeply impacted by tragedy or loss in the years that followed. Depression and anxiety soared to new heights. The ripple of the mental health crisis was felt far and wide as record numbers were hospitalized and many, in desperation, disillusionment, or confusion…took their own lives.

Fear and suspicion seemed the new normal in many lives. Social and political unrest escalated. The economy tanked. Many relationships changed forever. Many felt overwhelmed at the loss of security and control. People lost their jobs, their financial resources, even their loved ones. Many people lost their hope. Some lost their lives.

Wise King Solomon himself said it: There is nothing new under the sun. Hurt is universal, and brokenness a core part of the human condition. But certain situations and seasons seem more brutal and heartless than others. Tragedy and loss are no respecters of boundaries, lifestyle, wishes, secure homes, social status, or devout faith.

 In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Jesus, John 16:33

In your silent night, when you’re not alright...

Read those words again. Do they, at first, seem a little sad? Lonely? And haven’t we all struggled through times when we just simply were NOT okay? There’s even a cliché: It’s okay to not be okay.

What do you think of when you read that phrase: silent night? I’m an introvert. I like silence. Many times silence is peaceful and restorative. Other times, silence roars with accusation: You’re all alone! No one sees you! No one hears you! Nobody cares! It feels deafening, so we fight it. We struggle and we yearn for noise and for an answer. A voice speaking into our darkness or situation.

There’s another song: Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright.

It’s not my favorite. Was the silence of the very first Christmas really calm and bright? Or might it have felt heavy and weary? The slow, tired thuds of donkey feet plodding along a wearying journey, down a long dark dusty road? Not silent. How about the sounds of slamming doors and the words: no room for you here. Not silent. What about the echoing sounds of accusation and rejection felt along the way? Deafening. The cries of a girl in childbirth? A baby thrust into a cold, cruel world? Not silent. A King stepping down from his throne? You could hear a pin drop. There it is! The grand and holy moment of silence…as the world momentarily held its breath.

But…I suggest that it really wasn’t a silent night at all. In fact, there had been four hundred years of biblical silence…suddenly shattered by a baby’s cry.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

To some, the Word may have presented as a muted whisper, but to the weary expectant world it reverberated like a shout! A thrill of hope.

It’s easy to forget that young Mary and Joseph were faced with an incredible dilemma in the world’s eyes: young, devout Jews, betrothed but unmarried, expectant. In her prayer in Luke 1:47-48, young bewildered Mary expressed hope as well as anyone before or since:

My soul glorifies the Lord  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

Mary lifted her eyes. She saw herself positionally, humbly. More importantly, she knew He hadn’t forgotten her. He was mindful of all she was going through. He had, in fact, chosen her to serve. To walk her specific journey.

Lift your eyes and behold him. Feel the thrill of hope…

But what is this thrill of hope? And how do we find it?

Maybe in the words of Matthew 1:23… They shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). No longer a far off untouchable God. No longer veiled behind a curtain or limited access through the educated or those with titles, but God with us. Even better…God in us.

You are not alone. In this moment, behold him…

Our culture encourages us to be independent, to not need anyone, to make our own decisions…often regardless of the impact it has on others or even our our long-term stability and welfare. But alone is a hard place to be.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

And Paul told us in Galatians 6:2 to bear one another’s burdens. The picture is actually to stoop down, pick up, support the entire weight of it, and to carry it away.

Sometimes the harder question is this: do we let others support us in our hardship and calamity? Bear our burden? Share the load? Often in laying down the load, we must last down pride, secrecy, and self-sufficiency with it. Then we are no longer alone.

I have sat with many hurting people. Some in silence. Some in the midst of chaos and cacophony. Some side by side, others from the outside but still ever aware of their suffering and pain amid both the noise and the silence. And sometimes the greatest gift comes in those fragile moments. The gift of presence. The gift of care. The gift of acknowledgement: it matters. The gift that says I may or may not understand…but you are not alone.

In your silent night, when you’re not alright...

So I have a question. It’s not, are you alright? It is: What is your silence? In your silent night, when you’re not alright… What is that silence that shouts above all the other noises of the season? A devastating loss? The absence of a loved one? An empty seat at the table, a stocking unhung, a phone not ringing, a voice unheard?

Maybe the silence of rejection? A severed relationship? The call you wish would come or the hug not given. Feeling unseen, minimized, marginalized?

The silence of a painful secret? An unmet need? What you wish others could see and know?

Maybe an even bigger question: Is it really silent? Or is it shouting, rumbling, and reverberating throughout all the empty corridors of your life?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jesus, John 10:10

So what’s the point of all these words? Just thinking, I suppose. And remembering faces and words and situations that have echoed throughout the year. Some hope-filled, others in the midst of devastation and hopelessness. Hope is a precious gift. Love is priceless. Praying you give and receive much in this season. God bless.

Born to seek and born to save
Born to take our pain away
God with us, Emmanuel
In his arms, all will be well

In your silent night
When you’re not alright
Lift your eyes and behold him
Feel the thrill of hope
You are not alone
In this moment, behold him.
King forevermore
Come let us adore
Christ our savior, behold hi

Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. -Luke 1:45

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