Silent Night

It started at eight o’clock on Christmas Eve morning.

First she needed to bake 3 pies. She needed flour, sugar, cinnamon, apples, butter, pumpkin filling. She preheated the oven, rolled out the dough and mixed the filling together. As the first pie was baking she prepared the pumpkin and the mince meat pie and then began the dough for the Christmas cookies.

As the pies were cooling and the cookies baking she then began to snip the green beans and peel the potatoes. She had to prepare enough for 25 people so she figured a couple of pounds each plus corn. Then the cookies were ready and she let those cool and she put more into the oven. Then she made the Jell-O for the fruit salad and started decorating the cookies that had cooled.

The turkey had been defrosting since Monday.

At one o’clock she went to the store. Not that she wanted to. She had started her Christmas shopping in September when the days were still warm and Christmas was months away. But now she had last minute gifts to buy for a husband who forgot and for unexpected relatives who had rsvp’d the last minute.

So she fought the crowds. While she was at the mall she saw greed, anger, rudeness and overall selfishness that now represented the season for the world more than Santa and his reindeer. She battled her way through the sea of people, mumbling excuse me and pardon me with an ounce of sincerity. She purchased what she needed then she rushed back to her car and fought the traffic. It was the year end battle of humanity and she fought it as best she could.

She was home by three. She began the sweet potatoes and finished the fruit salad. She forgot the rolls at the store but she would have to go back for those later. Tonight they were going to her mother’s house and she only had an hour to get the children ready. But somehow she did it. By five o’clock she carried the pie to the car. Her husband was ready and dressed in the pants and shirt she had chosen although he had wanted something more casual. She turned and looked at the children sitting in the back seat amid boxes and gifts. They were scrubbed, polished and cleaned as much as they could be. She was satisfied so off they went.

They then threw themselves into the bustle and chaos of her mother’s house. All her siblings were there with all their spouses and children so the noise only increased over the course of the night. Presents were exchanged, food eaten, conversation made, more food eaten, then dessert. Finally it was a quarter to ten. Good byes and hugs were given and taken, coats put on, sleepy children gathered and carried to the car.

A half an hour later everyone was in bed, and then finally so was she. She drifted off to sleep after trying to figure out if she remembered everything for Christmas day. Then she dreamt of turkeys, pies that didn’t turn out and not enough sweet potatoes to go around. Plus the rolls. Where was she going to pick up the rolls? So it wasn’t really sleep but a prelude to the next day where she would have to do it all over again. Hopefully then it turned out better.

So it was off to church the next day and she sat through the sermon. Where could she get the rolls? Who would be open on Christmas day? Maybe they could go without. She dragged her attention back to the sermon. Was Meijer open? She thought she read a sign saying they were open from nine to five on Christmas. Was he on the last point yet? Did she have enough Cool Whip? She needed it for the fruit salad and the pumpkin pie. Finally they sang the last Psalter number and the doxology. Off they were.

They stopped at the store and were home by 11:30. She had started the turkey before church and he was cooking nicely in the oven. She got the appetizers ready and turned down the crock pots. She set out the plastic ware and napkins, made sure the children were ready, and found five minutes to freshen up. Then it was back to the kitchen.

At one o’clock they started to arrive—her husband’s side of the family. They poured in with their coats, scarves and gloves, gifts and cards, desserts and dishes. For a brief moment she thought it was an invasion. Then the laughing and talking began, the eating and the tasting. She tried to visit with people when she could but for the most part she commandeered the kitchen. For dinner she had to start everything at the right time so that it would be done cooking at the exact time as everything else. No easy feat, but she accomplished it. People ate till they could hardly move. Then dessert was served.

At seven o’clock began the cleaning of the kitchen. Dishes, pots and pans, cups and silverware were piled like mountains as far as she could see. Helping hands made the work light but it was still work and so once again she put her hands in the sink and declared war on her entire kitchen.

She set the garbage by the door for her husband to take out but fifteen minutes later it was still there. She tried to ignore it but finally gave in. With a sigh she picked it up and stepped out the door.

She walked further from the house and gradually the noise of the people decreased till it was just a muffled buzz that the silence of the night drowned out. It must have snowed earlier. Funny how she hadn’t noticed. The moon was a winter moon and she couldn’t tell whether the moon reflected the snow or the snow reflected the moon. The air was clean, crisp, brittle cold. The snow was fluffy like cotton balls. It covered the earth like a heavy blanket. It was beautiful in a silent unassuming way. There were no trumpets or parades to announce its beauty. No lights and ornaments from men. It needed none.

Before she came outside, before she stepped into the night, Bethlehem had seemed so far away. Thousands and thousand of miles away, across the ocean and the desert, over mountains and through valleys, back in the forgotten chambers of her memory. Sometimes there was a dense fog that covered the little town especially at this time of year. The fog was a swirl of holiday rush, Christmas shopping, family get-togethers. There was so much that she allowed to come between her and this tiny city that the prophets had spoken about so long ago.

I have not given her a name but really she doesn’t need one. If you insist that she must have a name then call her Any Child of God. So often during the holidays we too find ourselves overwhelmed by all our commitments. All the parties, family gatherings, work parties and any other obligation become like the current of a rushing river. It sweeps us past the holidays causing this time of wonder to become nothing more than a blur.

So step out. The current, no doubt has a hold of you. So just step out of that current. Whether into a literal silent night or into the silent night of 2000 years ago when Salvation became flesh. Whether the holiday season is your busiest season or whether it is a relatively peaceful time let the current rush on without you. Set yourself to the task, to the temporal responsibility, but always remember to think on these things. Do not neglect the preaching, no matter how fast your mind is running. Do not neglect your prayer life, no matter how tired you may be morning and evening. These are the beautiful offspring of the season that belong to us because of the one Offspring that made himself of no reputation and humbled himself unto death.

But now we must return to the woman. We cannot leave her standing outside in the night. It’s too cold out and besides, it looks like it’s beginning to snow. So she steps back inside, into the noise and chaos of her home. She must return to her tasks and responsibilities. They do not disappear. They are, in this lifetime, ever before her. Gradually the volume increases until it once again it becomes a roar. But no matter. The noise may be in her ears and in her mind but not in her heart. Her heart is locked and sealed by the silent night.