By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.
And the night was silent – the whole world was at peace. Or was it?
In taverns around Bethlehem, the Roman garrison members drank their fill and cast weary eyes at those streaming in because of the census. They made sure their weapons were nearby, because one never of what those who didn’t call Caesar “Lord” could be capable.
Travelers scrambled for rooms, attempting to find space for children and beasts of burden, scraping together their few coins for lodgings. And, did those rooms (and roommates) really look safe anyway?
Innkeepers sought to pack their buildings with travelers, anxious for a profit. Perhaps one with a minor case of the scruples wondered if that older gentleman and his pregnant wife had found a place to stay: they seemed rather odd, didn’t they?
Meanwhile, shepherds milled about on a cold desert night, eyes drooping with sleep – the noise of sheep and wind blotting out the dangerous howls of wolves seeking a weak member of the flock. One, two … fifteen … seventy-five. Had one of the hundred gone missing again?
And yet, we always find ourselves singing silent night, holy night. It’s almost as if we are trying to convince ourselves.
Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the world, in a quiet out of the way corner of the universe, a scared mom and dad flank a manger, as their first-born makes his way into the world.
Yet, in the silence of that lonely manger, a sound is heard: the sound of love.
Angels sing, shepherds come to adore, and even the animals kneel in tribute. Here in what we think is silence, we find the call of God’s love – the quiet whispering of God calling humanity back to the wholeness that can only be found in a relationship with the child born in that manger on this (allegedly) silent night.
As our world continues to spin, getting noisier and noisier, we are once again called to listen closely to the silence – on this silent night (on all silent nights) – and invited by the Lord to once again listen to the sound of love. It is the sound of love which sounds like the cry of a single child who will cry in the manger, who will cry blessed are the poor in spirit, who will cry forgive them father, who will cry peace be with you, who will cry behold I am with you until the end of the ages.
Hear the silence. Hear the cries. Hear God’s love.