“Be silent before the Lord, all humanity, for He is springing into action from His holy dwelling.” Zechariah 2:13
How can we be happy in a sad world of pain, suffering, disease, aging and death? Christmas is a time when we are awakened to the wonder of God’s transforming love. Christmas is the season of hope and joy – a time to receive God’s invitation to rest in His loving embrace like a newborn child. The miracle of Christmas is that God’s love changes the way we think, feel and act when Christ is born in our hearts – when we are reborn again to live our lives as new creations in Christ.1
At Christmas, we celebrate the glad tidings that God’s love is real for Jesus Christ is our Emmanuel – God with us – and has given us the Holy Spirit to be in us.2 Advent is a season of waiting and Christmas carols like, “Silent Night”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “It came upon the midnight clear,” highlights the importance of silence and stillness to hear God’s whispers of love in our daily lives.
The story of the birth of the Christ child is to open our hearts to the wondrous mystery of the love of God coming into the world in a little baby born in poverty. It is God’s dramatic demonstration of the truth that blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The picture of a baby in the manger sleeping in heavenly peace invites us to experience the maternal love of God by resting in His loving embrace like a weaned child:
“Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.”3
The Holy Spirit is the manifestation of the maternal and unconditional love of God. The Holy Spirit awakens us to the spiritual dimension of life, for the things that we can see will be gone when we die, it is only the things that we cannot see that are eternal.4 We need to shift our focus from our troubles to the promises of God. We need to see our blessings and tribulations through heaven’s eyes. Dr. Mary Neal shared the following precious insight from her near death experience:
“Where there is joy, there is God’s presence. The joy of heaven is God’s enduring gift to each of us, whatever our circumstances. Living a joy-filled life is the natural outcome of choosing to live in the truth of God’s promises and offers a taste of what our loving God has in mind for our future..…right now.”5
Silence through contemplative prayer is a way to experience the presence of God and to express our love to God. It is spending “quality time” with God. Quality time – the giving of one’s undivided attention – is a “love language” described by Gary Chapman to improve communication in marriages.6 Silence is God’s love language of quality time. Advent is a time to be silent before God and watch Him springing into action.7
Through silence, we journey from the circumference of our lives that is filled with conflicts and divisions into the centre of our being where God dwells as the Risen Christ. Like the shepherds we may initially be terrified when the light of God’s love reveals the evil that is lurking within our hearts. We cannot be led by the Spirit when we are filled with pride, greed, lust, fear and guilt. The good news is that the Holy Spirit set us free from our negative thoughts and feelings as we ponder on the wonder of the presence of God with humility, helplessness and honesty. In silence we seek to be nothing and to do nothing so that God can do anything through us.
As we spend quality time with God, we will hear God speaking to us with the love language of words of affirmation as we meditate on His Word. Our hearts are touched by the love language of God revealed in the broken bread and poured out wine of Christ and the promises of God’s amazing grace. We experience the love language of gifts through the gifts of the Spirit. And as we exercise our spiritual gifts to serve others, they experience the love language of acts of service. Joy and peace will then reign on earth when the love languages of God shine forth in our world of darkness.
Our human nature drives us to seek and find happiness in doing what we want. We need the discipline of silence in contemplative prayer to invite the Holy Spirit to lead us from the “isolated consciousness” of individualism into a new collective consciousness of community. Through silence and a poverty of spirit, we enter the kingdom of heaven in the here and now and find the joy of God’s perfect will for our lives.
Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in our hearts. May our lives be transformed by the joyful silence of God’s embracing love this Christmas so that we can sing “Joy to the World,” as we share the wonders of God’s love with truth and grace in our hearts:
“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.”8
- Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:17
- John 14:17
- Psalms 131:1-2 NKJV
- 2 Corinthians 4:18, NLT
- Mary C. Neal, 7 Lessons From Heaven, (New York, Convergent Books, 2017) pg 324/361
- Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages
- Zechariah 2:13
- Joy To The World