"Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly like they'd been told!" (Luke 2:19-20, The Message)
I love the old Christmas songs. They tell such a wonderful story. They bring joy to the lips of young and old. And so many of the favorites are just dead wrong. The picture they paint about Advent, while melodic, isn't the way it happened. Take, for example, "Silent Night" ...
Bethlehem probably hadn't seen that much activity in a long time. It certainly wasn't a mecca for travel or a tourist destination. Other than being the historical home of the beloved King David, it was that sleepy, dull town we've been told. And then Rome ordered a census. The rush was on to get back to wherever home was and check in - and pay up.
You can imagine that room prices doubled or tripled. Plus, since Bethlehem wasn't really set up for this many people, rooms were scarce to say the least. So when this lower-class couple with an "illegitimate" child show up, it's just one more guest that cant be accommodated. Amid the noise and bustle of this overcrowded town, a young and very pregnant girl is just another unlucky customer.
Then something happened we really don't quite understand. The innkeeper, for whatever reason, turns the couple to his cave stable. It's dark, dank and smells ... well ... like a stable, but it's someplace and that's what Mary and Joseph need. In the middle of the noise and smell of this place, she goes into labor and delivers her child into a noisy, crowded and probably cranky world (they were all there to pay taxes remember).
The shepherds scene adds to the frantic nature of it all. They come bursting in with some off-the-wall story about an angelic choir suspended in the air. Whatever creature was sleeping in that stable is probably wide awake now. And while our favorite songs have Jesus quietly sleeping, I'd say his human infant side was probably over stimulated to the point of crying. Then there was that boy with the drum ...
So Hope enters our world with the mission to be human, fulfill the law and do what we couldn't do for ourselves. The story is set to unfold as it has been planned since the beginning of time, and we have the chance this Advent to remember this entrance once again. It wasn't silent in any way, but it certainly was holy beyond compare.
Merry Christmas and may the Love, Joy, Peace and Hope of Advent fill your hearts and homes.