The First Silent Night

 “Silent night, holy night – all is calm …”

So begins one of the all-time favorite carols of this season. Over the coming weeks, this song will be sung throughout churches as Christmas Day approaches.

Silence, calm – these are not words that describe what many experience during these days. There’s a charge in the atmosphere. I felt it the day after Thanksgiving as I walked through a shopping mall on what’s come to be known as Black Friday, the shopping day marked with fast, furious sales and super, duper, seasonal bargains.

Everywhere I turned there were lights and sounds and signage all pushing me to take advantage of the big deals. I was urged to buy, buy, buy. Add to your wardrobe; upgrade your phone; get the latest time-saving gadget – it will change your life.

I wondered just what I would do with the time I saved. How would I spend those extra minutes and seconds?

“Silent night, holy night” – I discerned the sound of the tune. It came from a speaker somewhere hidden in the bustle. The notes that I heard brought the words to mind.

It is easy to just think about Christmas and the manger with the virgin and her husband among the animals. All of that is so important. That was a splendid and glorious moment when Christ the Savior was born. Angels were heard. Shepherds were amazed. Wise men noticed the Star that rose over Jacob’s land.

But then I thought of something more.

God Chose to Rest

“Silent night, holy night” – these words made me think of the Lord in His stillness. The quiet, confident, secure nature of who God is amazes me.  His “so love” for the world is incomprehensible and eternal. God is at rest in His love (see Zephaniah 3:17).

The first silent night, the first holy night came because God willed it. Genesis 2 tells us that this came on the seventh day. He stopped what He was doing. Sabbath became a big part of the universe.

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made (Genesis 2:1-3).

God became still. He chose to bring His activity to a place of rest. All was calm, and all was bright. It was glorious.

Did the Lord need a break? Not at all – He has always been the all-powerful, the all-knowing, the all-seeing, the all-present One. The Maker of the heavens and the earth could have gone on making and creating as He saw fit.

“Be still and know that I am God” – so says Psalm 46:10. This is what Sabbath is all about.

Sabbath. Silence. Selah. These words are holy words. They speak of the rest that comes with wholeness and completeness – Shalom in the Hebrew.

God finished His work of Creation. Those days were good, good, good, good, good, and very good. He pronounced blessing and sanctification on the seventh day, however.

How did the angelic realm respond to Sabbath? I wonder about this. Did these bright, beautiful, intelligent, and talented creatures welcome the stillness? Some did, others did not.

Perhaps it bothered the devil that the Lord was willing to stop doing things. Click To Tweet

From the Scriptures, we understand that at least one of God’s creations refuses to stay still. Inactivity is just not a part of Satan’s makeup. He is ever roaming, to and fro, up and down, seeking someone to deceive and devour. Maybe this was one of the devil’s big issues with his Maker. Perhaps it bothered the devil that the Lord was willing to stop doing things.

God saw no need to crowd the skies so full of stars that there would be no distinction. He named each of them so it makes sense that He left some space between them. Creation reached a conclusion, and so God said, “Let’s rest.”

Jesus and His Finished Work

Jesus finished the work of redemption at the Cross, committed His spirit to the Father, and bowed His head. Still. Lifeless. His body hung there to be collected, wrapped, and laid away in the tomb. And then came a waiting.

Instant triumph wasn’t — and isn’t — a part of the picture.

Between the Cross and the Resurrection, there was Sabbath. I am sure it was a somber and sad day for the followers of Christ, but the Lord followed His design. The stone would be rolled away – but not until the third day.

Now, we wait. The Ascension happened. His coming is still on hold. Haste? Hurry? God is not at all about this. His way, His truth, His life shall unfold according to His sovereign purposes.

When we turn to the book of Revelation, we can see even there that the Lord will not be in a rush to His judgment. “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1). A pause shall punctuate the righteous wrath unleashed upon the wicked world.

Sabbath. Silence. Selah. These pause words should move us to listen; they should prompt us to be more ready to hear, as the writer of Ecclesiastes encourages us to do (see Ecclesiastes 5:1-3).

Rest in God goes beyond vacations, entertainment, and amusements. I am starting to prefer the word “holiday” to vacation. Getting away from it all can sometimes be an empty exercise, a frittering away of time.

Sabbaths – holy days – are what we really need.

Take rest, receive it from the One who promised to give it (Matthew 11:28-30). They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength (see Isaiah 40:31).

Seek God. Be still and know. Wait and watch in wonder at His wonderful work.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

For more on seeking God and His rest, check out “Is There Enough God is Our Lives?” a message preached by Thomas Schaller, Pastor of the Greater Grace Church in Baltimore.

Steve Andrulonis
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