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  • Shawn Thornton

The Hope of a Silent Night

Thursday - December 24th

"Hope is Here" Advent Devotionals - Day 24

Scripture to Read Today: Luke 2:15-21


Mary treasured up all these things

and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:19

If you have ever lived in or visited an area that can get a good snowfall, you know how quiet the world gets when a fresh thick layer of snow covers everything. Doesn't the world seem peaceful at that moment? It's not just your mind playing tricks on you. Snow does make the world quieter.

Some of the newfound quiet after a snowfall makes sense. People tend to stay home during snowstorms, and birds and animals hunker down during changing weather. With the reduction in activity by people and other creatures of nature, the world naturally gets quieter.

But there's science behind the silence as well. That's because snow absorbs sound, so when a fresh blanket of snow covers the landscape, it absorbs many of the sound waves, making it seem quieter outside.

The reason snow can absorb sound is that it is porous. Snowflakes are six-sided crystals filled with open spaces. Those spaces absorb sound waves, creating a quieting effect with a blanket of snow. Not all snowfalls have the same quieting effect on the world outside. Just a dusting of snow isn't enough to absorb much sound. Usually, a few inches of snow is needed to have a noticeable quieting effect on our world.

As snow melts, it loses its silencing ability because the snowflakes change shape as they melt, reducing the size of the spaces between the crystals. So that silence that falls over the world after a fresh snowfall is only temporary, as fleeting as the beauty of newly fallen snow.

One of my favorite traditions during Christmas Eve services is the congregational singing of 19th-century Austrian priest Joseph Mohr's "Silent Night." While I will sadly miss leading services this Christmas Eve while I continue to recover from my severe pneumonia case, I look forward to engaging with the Calvary congregation online as we sing Mohr's carol.

Luke 2:19 describes a unique moment of silence for Mary after the birth of Jesus. Nothing about the final few days, hours, and even minutes before Jesus's birth could be described as silent. Loud, disruptive visitors were streaming into Bethlehem for the Roman census, stable animals made their erratic and varied sounds, and the pain of contractions all created a noisy, hectic environment for the Christ child's birth. Even after his birth, overly excited shepherds came looking for the baby. They eagerly spoke over each other as they explained how angels had sent them to find the Messiah in a manger.

It seems a lull, a small slice of silence, emerged after the frantic activity and disruptive noise of it all. That slice of silence must have come just as the shepherds finished worshiping baby Jesus and jubilantly returned to their fields. Doctor Luke tells us that "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). This would not be the last time Mary treasured up and pondered the activity around Jesus. This would not be the last time she would tuck these memories deep in her heart.

I love to meditate on Luke 2:19 as we sing "Silent Night" as a congregation each Christmas Eve. After the weeks, days, and even hours leading up to our Christmas Eve celebration and reflection, we too need that slice of silence. We too need to treasure up and ponder what the birth of Jesus means in our own hearts.

A fresh blanket of snow brings a slice of silence to nature. It causes us to step back and breathe in the peace it provides in that silence. Taking a moment to embrace the joy of a silent night and what that momentary silence meant for Mary can help us value, ponder, and receive the real reason for Christmas - God sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. God sent Jesus to be my Savior. Slow down. Grab a slice of silence and experience the hope of Christ's birth in your life, family, and our world!

Memorize Luke 2:19 and find ways (maybe even while singing "Silent Night" on Christmas Eve) to ponder and treasure all that Christ's birth means this Christmas Eve.

We should do what Mary did that night Christ was born. We should seize a moment of silence and ponder all Jesus means to us today!


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