God has so many ways of quieting his world. He reminds us through the world around us that creation was meant, at its very core, to rest. In Hawaii, I heard his call to quietude in the endlessly crashing surf on Sunset Beach, or the afternoon showers in the valley and the subsequent, brilliant rainbows. On the plains in Okahoma, he called me to stillness through sunsets over a horizon so broad and vast that it demands pause--the amber glow it casts on everything in sight filters the light into an absolutely calming hue.
Here in these precious Colorado winters, he calls me into a quiet deeper than I have known anywhere else. He does it through the silence of falling snow. I am always awed by the way that fresh snow muffles all sound and hypnotizes as it falls in giant flakes. I was thinking last night about God's promise to make me as white as snow, and I found myself hoping that he would make me as still as snow, too. He says in Zephaniah that he will quiet us with his love; If it is anything like the world outside my window right now, that is a wonderful promise indeed.
A few years ago, just such a snowfall came upon my hometown on Christmas Eve. I walked outside with my dad for a while (pelting him with an abundance of snowballs), until he went back inside and I stood alone in the stillness, huge flakes falling silently around me. That night, I found myself thinking of Christmas in a way I never had before, a Christmas that came on the most silent of nights.
My favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night. It speaks of a world that has been pining away in sin for so long, weary of waiting to be pulled from the mire. Another favorite, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, speaks of captive Israel, mourning in lonely exile, waiting for the promise of God to appear. I imagine that the shepherds we read of in Luke had long heard the promise of the Messiah, yet had grown numb to the idea that he might actually come and end what seemed an eteral delay. This is the world, I thought, that fell asleep the night that Mary and Joseph were settling into the stable. This is the world that lay silent and still under a sky bright with stars.
I imagine then, on that silent night, the promise of God spoken softly into the quiet. Into the night, as his people slept through another night of centuries of waiting, God speaks: "He's here." They did not know then that their promised Savior had come, that the Messiah was sleeping in a manger in a small town in Judea. It was a whisper. "Take heart, my people Israel, my created children. He has come." Only the shepherds heard it as a grand announcement, ushered in by the singing of angels. How thrilled and yet dumbfounded their hearts must have been! "Let us go see," they said. Let us go and see if it could possibly be true.
And the world would never, ever be the same.
So many times I go to sleep, aching for the promise of God. I wait for days upon days, and grow weary in what seems to me to be a long delay. I wonder how many times the gift of God has come like a whisper while I slept, how many promises have arrived when I didn't know it, to be discovered at the proper time. Whatever it looks like in my life, I don't want to lose the wonder and anticipation of what happened that silent night in Bethlehem: "Then he appeared and the soul felt its worth... Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel will come to thee..." In fact, He's here.