Silent Night

Like many farmers, we look forward to the end of the harvest season (ssshhhh!!) because it may leave a few days for deer hunting.

Our favorite time to hunt deer is during a snowfall — quiet, beautiful, easy to pick out silhouettes, not many other hunters around ...

Oh, and yes, we may even come home with something to put in the freezer.

As if a gift from heaven, an early December snow brought more than 4 inches of pretty, fluffy snow to our property.

Sitting in the wide, comfortable deer stand we placed deep in the woods on our farm a few years ago, the only sound one recent morning was the ghostly whistle of a faraway train.

It was like a literary accoutrement to the stillness of the hunt. Funny how with all of the technology we “masters of the universe” depend on, all it takes is a little snow to slow everything down.

All the sounds of daily life fade away. Our modern way of life seems to be uncomfortable with silence. In a few short decades, we have layered most of our daily experience with various types of noise —TV, news, music fed into home, car, tractor, combine, headsets and earbuds while working, recreating or commuting.

This has left an absence of — maybe even a fear of — silence.

Most of us are in a state of constant auditory stimulation. OK, you might say. So what? Why should I care about silence? Or the more penetrating question, what is the value of silence?

We should care because God has shown throughout the Bible that his voice is heard best when there are minimal distractions, indeed in a circumstance of silence.

In Psalm 46, we are told, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Only in being still, can we appreciate the beginning of this famous psalm when it declares, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”

Most notably is Elijah’s encounter with God at Mount Horeb in 1 Kings 19.

After Elijah’s great witness for God on Mount Carmel, the evil Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him. Notwithstanding God’s great faithfulness and the undeniable miraculous demonstration of power, Elijah runs in fear to escape the wrath of Jezebel.

God finds Elijah hiding in cave and asks him a penetrating question; “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

After giving God a lame excuse, the Lord tells Elijah to stand at the mouth of the cave before the Lord.

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood near the entrance of the cave.”

We humans look for momentous signs in our relationship with God. But the Lord is not often in the wind, earthquake or fire. His voice and his presence are found in a low whisper.

How did Elijah hear this? Because there was silence and he was prepared and available to listen. Now he was ready to hear God’s direction for his life.

Over 2,000 years ago on a cold, lonely night, shepherds watching their flocks heard an angelic message, in part, because they were completely available for God, attentive and undistracted.

The silence of the night provided the setting for God’s voice to be heard. They listened and obeyed.

Just a few miles away in Jerusalem at Herod’s magnificent palace, amidst the deceitfulness of wealth, lust for power and pursuit of pleasure, no one had ears to hear.

The “noise” level there was so overwhelming that God’s low whisper could not be heard.

As we prepare to celebrate the arrival of King Jesus into the world, where is our “noise” level? Are we like Elijah, faithful yet fearful, seeking the Lord’s presence and direction?

Perhaps we are like the shepherds, whose faithful watch, night after night, placed them in a holy and silent place, where they could receive the word of God.

Let us prepare a way for the Lord to fully enter our lives by giving him our ears, our hearts, ready to receive him in silent reverence this Christmas.

This post was originally published on Lancaster Farming.