"Silent Night" may be the words to our most popular Christmas song,
but they don't describe our Christmas season. The days leading up to
our most action packed holiday are dominated by a frenzy of
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gift-giving and the stress of travel, family and merrymaking. Living
through Christmas is enough to make an entire country long, like Tiger
Woods, for an "indefinite break." [good line]
If Christmas is to be meaningful today, it needs a spiritual makeover.
First, hold the eggnog. We need some inner silence to hear
transcendence calling. To reach inward is first to listen with all
one's being-to quiet the noise and distraction of the world and to
open one's self at the simplest level to the presence of the divine.
It is to let go of words and concepts. The mystic Teillard de Chardin
wrote, "God needs to hollow us out, to empty us in order to make room
And in the empty lies the possibility of feeling full to
overflowing-full of love, full of being. From stillness, one learns
to see with the eyes of love. At the center, one discovers that God's
first gift is within us and more, it is us.
There lies the message of a Christmas of the heart. It is among the
most universal of all religious mysteries: it is an invitation to
live in the presence of God. The traditional story announces what we
are asked to experience: good news! God is among us. Emmanuel. The
newborn baby may be insignificant and poor in the eyes of world, but
with the inner eye of a love-drenched heart, the baby is a shower of
light and eternity. He is Christianity's unbridled love letter to all
humanity-- an invitation to all creation to live in the precious joy
of transcendence in the here and now.
To welcome God as a gift is the beginning of welcoming every gift. To
experience God as joy is the beginning of experiencing a joy that can
last a lifetime. To sense God as love is to begin to see a universe
bathed in love itself. To say "yes" to that indescribable, unnamable,
absolute of creation is the first step in faith-- an existential "yes"
to life itself-restless, suffering, beautiful, awesome life. God, by
whatever name, is God. And God is here.
So this year, I wish everyone, whether they be Christian or another
religion or no religion at all, a silent night-or at least a few
silent moments. Perhaps that silence will help create an opening
where the joy of the divine presence will spring forth in song and
celebration, maybe through hearing the soaring chords of a gospel
choir or the speckled crackling of a dried wood fire.
What joy to hear the angels from within singing, "I bring you good
news!" What joy to look anew at the life all around us and be able to
say to each person we meet from the depths of our being, "Peace on
earth. Good will to all."
A silent night is a holy night. Emmanuel. God is here.
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