There is a silence that falls on these Christmastide mornings, when the soft morning light filters through the windows and the wind dances through the trees. A silence that beckons to me, stills me. Not only a digital silence but a soul silence as well. My soul sits, watching, waiting, listening.
In Watch For the Light, Loretta Ross-Gotta says, “The intensity and strain that many of us bring to Christmas must suggest to some onlookers that, on the whole, Christians do not seem to have gotten the point of it. […] What if, instead of doing something, we were to be something special? Be a womb. Be a dwelling for God. Be surprised.”
These words inspired my practice of quietude this Advent. I set aside moments to simply be — away from the “doing” of Christmas shopping, exam preparations, and social activities. To “be a womb” for God’s voice to breathe.
In this contemplative silence, I began to recognize the utter humility of Christ’s arrival. After hearing the stable birth story hundreds of times, I realized I had become desensitized to its beauty and power.
The son of God, delivered in the grime of a stable floor. The divine child, wrapped not in silk but in swaddling cloth. No sweet aroma crowned his arrival, merely the smell of dung. Shepherds and animals, the lowest of the low, witnessed his birth. From the beginning, he dwelled with the lowly. From the beginning, he was alienated from men, no doors opening to his call. From the beginning, he was accustomed to places of insignificance, made significant by his presence. From the beginning, he knew silence.
When faced with surrounding darkness, we yearn for an instant solution. With the wars ripping across our world, we long for a final warrior to bring an ultimate end. With the chaos raging in our minds, we long for oblivion and numbness. With the decay ravaging our bodies, we long for an elixir of life. With the fickleness tearing our hearts, we long for freedom, for holiness. We long to see a tangible sign of redemption.
But God gave us an infant. When the shepherds arrived at the stable, they heard not the cry of a warrior but the whimper of a child. They encountered God in his most vulnerable form. Guarded by sheep, armored in swaddling cloth. In our perpetual desire for a tangible sign of God’s restoration, for the visible fulfillment of our hopes, we forget that God redeems in quiet ways. In unexpected ways. In weeping, washing feet, and walking with the lowly. He speaks “not in the wind,” “not in the earthquake,” “not in the fire,” but in “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:11-12).
Advent is a time of waiting, of expecting Christ’s return. But Christ is also here with us. Amidst the holiday jingles and shopping sprees, his voice whispers. Amidst the bustle of our crowded hearts, his knock sounds. Amidst the silence of our hidden griefs, his peace rests. He is Emmanuel, with us.
This Christmas, let us listen for the quiet steps and “gentle whisper” of our king. Let us draw near to the child who is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matt 11:29). Let us bend before the bent savior.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv'n! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav'n. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in. ~ Phillips Brooks, "O Little Town of Bethlehem"