She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger. . . .
— Luke 2:7
“Silent Night” is a favorite Christmas song for many people around the world. Its gentle melody suggests a “heavenly peace” in which “all is calm.”
But our usual picture of Jesus’ birth is far from calm. Above the fields near Bethlehem, an angel army sings out, announcing the glory of God. Back in town, shepherds and wise men and sheep, cows, camels, and gifts are all crowded together in a stable. And somewhere in the midst of all that commotion is the baby Jesus.
But hold on. The wise men don’t show up until later. So let’s take them out of the picture, along with their gifts. And there’s no mention of a stable—just a manger, a feeding trough. So there might not be animals there either.
Now let’s back up to the first hour or two after Jesus’ birth. Commotion will come later, when the shepherds find “Mary and Joseph, and the baby . . . lying in the manger” (Luke 2:16). But for now, as lamplight flickers, all we can see is Mary and the baby and Joseph. Exhausted, Mary is fast asleep. Joseph might be able to rest too. Meanwhile, Mary’s snugly wrapped baby, content from his first feeding, sees light, shadow, and movement with his newborn eyes. Let’s stay right where we are, silent as night. And let’s take in the picture. The God of all creation is a newborn baby watching shadows sway.
Jesus, on that night long ago you came to be “God with us,” one of us. Thank you! Amen.