Dark and Silent Night

Lights on a fenceThere is something about a Winter’s night in Michigan. Darkness greedily consumes the majority of hours leaving those hungering for daylight with meager scraps. The wind whispers through barren branches. Fallen leaves occasionally skip along the ground and at times find flight. The cold, intensified by the nudging of the wind, stings the cheeks and causes the body to shiver.

The sounds of Summer have long since bid farewell. Winter took an icy finger to his lips and hissed a frosty, “Shhh” to the crickets and other creatures who sing in the night. We live in seemingly unending silent Winter nights. For those reasons alone, it is entirely appropriate to celebrate Christmas in the silent hours of Winter’s darkness.

It was on one of those dark, lonely, and silent nights that shepherds witnessed the cowardice of the darkness as it scattered at the arrival of Heavenly Light. Shepherds longing for words of comfort and joy were enthralled by an Angelic Flash Mob singing the greatest of all news. Long ago, Hope broke the steely grip of darkness and silence and God changed things forever.

In this formerly gloomy and soundless field a message was announced to societies outcasts. It was “good news of great joy for all the people.” The long ago promise of a savior was fulfilled. God was moving into the world. The Light of the World was going to replenish the long absent hope, joy, and peace among us. God’s long perceived silence was broken with beautiful words echoing over the fields, in hearts, and through the ages: I love you! I have always loved you!

This Christmas may find you standing in the dark and silent night of Winter’s artic grasp. You may have lost someone you love. Your heart may have been broken in any of a thousand ways. Your health may be failing. Your finances have vanished. You have prayed until you are unable to pray. You have cried until there are no more tears. You wonder if you will ever remember the words to the songs of joy you sang in the warming light of day. You have resigned yourself to sorrow.

As the angels said to the terrified shepherds: “Do not be afraid.” We are surrounded by encouraging reminders in times of doubt and despair. The multicolored lights adorning so many homes remind us of Hope’s arrival. The joy-filled songs filling the air remind us that we will sing again. They shout in the crushing silence that the prayers we thought ignored have been heard and answered.

This is my favorite Christmas hymn. It is my reminder of hope. Maybe it will help you, too.

“O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here…Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel.”

Our Michigan Winters eventually end. Christmas reminds us of this truth for our souls, too.

May you find the Light that shines in the darkness and may it give you hope.

Merry Christmas.

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