This is not a silent night.
Shells fall in Aleppo, presidents and politicians raise their clamorous voices, and corporations preach from every altar where sacrifices are made to the idol of consumerism. Crowds of self-absorbed Christmas shoppers are out in force on the high streets, their noisy voices a narcotic to the sobs of pain ringing out around the world this season.
In the midst of this cacophony, we strain our ears to hear the voice of God. But he cannot be heard above the clamour of war and the empty speeches of politicians and the choirs of unholy angels bringing the season’s greetings of greed.
But this is the very paradox of the Incarnation, the story of the invisible God making himself known to humankind by putting on weak human flesh. His mouthpiece among us, his son Jesus, is so unlike the great-and-mighty of this world in nature, that if we do not seek him out like the magi of old, we will miss his voice altogether.
He was born in a festering cattle shed, in a backwater town of an insignificant region of an oppressive empire. “There was nothing in his appearance that we should be drawn to him,” said the prophets.
So it was that the world continued to swirl in the chaotic tumult of empires bent on war and the man-on-the-street continued to rush about his daily business, even as exhausted Mary laid the head of the Messiah on her lap. The revelation of God to man and the ushering-in of the Kingdom of Heaven went unnoticed, even as it continues to do so today.
But it is in the birth of this dependant little boy that the very nature of God was made known to man. His little murmurs are the whisper of the Father calling out across the cosmos to his broken world.
But why so discrete, why so unambiguous?
It is because the power of God is not like the power of man – the abusive, oppressive, selfish power of man.
The helpless cry of this new-born child silences the dictator’s militaristic waffling and the king’s commanding shout. No politician or governor or commander can give an answer to his whimper. This is the very voice of God in the whisper of a baby. Not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, nor in the voice of the megalomaniac administrator or the pompous statesman, but in the humble cry of a powerless infant.
His cry of surrender from a wooden trough is echoed in his cry of dereliction on a wooden cross, the very power of God made known in the weakness of a dying man.
This Christmas, you will not hear his voice in kings’ courts or amidst ranks of politicians. Rather, his whisper will be heard, discretely, gently, amidst the falling shells and rubble of Syria and Iraq, amongst the families of the poor and disenfranchised, calling out amongst the weak and powerless and oppressed. He will be heard gently wooing the broken-hearted to himself. His power is not the power of Putin or Trump or Assad, abusive, selfish, and turned against the powerless. His power is always for his people - loving, healing, selflessly giving.
Amongst those whose voices will not be heard amongst the clamour of the powerful of this world on this un-silent night, I hear the soft voice of God, wooing and restoring men and women to himself. And if you strain your ear, you too can hear his tender whisper on this darkest of nights, among the hurting and broken. For it is among them, especially them, that God is calling out to humanity, with the murmur of a helpless baby and the cry of a suffering man.
Mike Walker is an aspiring writer, student theologian, and avid coffee-drinker currently at university in Nottingham, UK. He’s passionate about serving the church, and enjoys creating graphics and art when he’s got some down-time.