Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas 2017

In 1914, as World War I was breaking out, something spectacular happened on Christmas Eve.  The great truce broke out.  A soldier named Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described the event in detail:

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

It is estimated that up to 100,000 troops all along the Western Front participated, and that there were barbecues, gift exchanges and even games of soccer that broke out Christmas Eve into Christmas Day

There seems to be, every year, a peace and a silence that descends upon the Earth, a silence and peace that people literally feel not just because of food or lights or celebrations, but because it is a real and tangible thing at Christmas.  This silence and peace is mentioned in all our favorite Christmas hymns and carols – “Silent Night,” and “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” as a few examples.

A silence that could bring to a grinding halt humanities first attempt at a global war, bring it to a halt such that both sides were celebrating and feasting together on the field of war.

Here’s the question I’d like us to consider – is this silence and peace something that God wants us to experience only one night and one day a year?

The answer to that is, quite clearly, no!

The silence and peace of Christmas are what God wants for us to experience year round by living our lives in Christ and living our lives from within His Church.

Sometimes, people fault God for being too silent, too quiet.  But the failure of those people is a failure to recognize that God, in a sense, is FOUND in the silence.  God prefers silence.

Let’s look at the evidence, beyond the peace and silence we experience and love tonight

The three people we particularly look to tonight, Joseph Mary and Joseph, were all people who cherished silence.  Mary has just a few lines in the Gospels.  Joseph has none.  Most of Jesus’ life is lived in silence and anonymity and it is only has final three years or so where he begins his public ministry.

There’s also one of my favorite passages of the Old Testament where God comes to Elijah – and Elijah stands in the cave and God promises to pass by.  It tells us that there was an earthquake, but God was not in the Earthquake.  There was fire and wind, but God wasn’t in any of that.  Then there was a still small sound, an almost silent whisper, and Elijah knew that it was God.

We can also look at the great changes that God brings about – they almost entirely happen in silence.  Baptism, ordination, confirmation, Transubstantiation of the Eucharist – these things are brought about silently

We live in a world of constant noise bombardment – we are addicted to it because we fear silence because we think in silence we are alone.  But this celebration of Christmas I hope is an opportunity to remind you that the peace that comes to us today amidst silence is accessible year round

Our Catholic Faith is one that encourages us, gently, to not be afraid of silence.  We do not fill every moment of our worship with noise.  We have opportunities to pray in silence in this Church, and before Mass, and after Mass.  Yes we have our Glorias and Alleluias, but I talk with a lot of non-Catholics, and they are always telling me that they are surprised by two things when they come to a Catholic Mass
1)      The sitting and standing and kneeling
2)    The silence

If you want to keep Christmas year round, flee the noise daily and do not fear silence.  Run to it.  Seek it out.  If you are assaulted by distractions, don’t worry about it.  Press on.  As Psalm 46 says so beautifully, “Be still and know that I am God”

May this taste of peace and silence these days of Christmas give us the encouragement to seek God where God may be found – and not despair anymore that God is silent.

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