Of all the ways that God could’ve entered into our existence, He chose the quietest one possible. Angels announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds nearby, but the first sound that God uttered as a human was nothing more than a newborn baby’s cry.
Although we sing every year about that allegedly silent night in Bethlehem, I imagine it was anything but silent. The town was bursting with visitors, families reconnecting from near and far as they traveled to their ancestral hometown. The home itself where Mary and Joseph stayed must’ve been noisy with all the guests that left the animal’s cave as the only vacancy. Even within the cave itself, I’m sure the animals failed to observe a moment of silence to welcome the Messiah.
The Son of God’s humble birth in a noisy cave is reminiscent of Elijah’s encounter with God’s voice in a cave in the Old Testament. Elijah had just returned from a wildly successful evangelization moment in which God proved His power and 450 false prophets were slaughtered. Though he had seen evidence of God, Elijah still desired to encounter the living God and to hear His voice.
Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19: 11-13)
Advent is such a loud season. While we pride ourselves on waiting till late December to embrace all the Christmas music and movies we can handle, so often our time of preparation ends up just as noisy and jam-packed as the culture we’re trying to convert. Yet for some reason, God insists on breaking into our world silently.
Rather than add to our already long list of things to do, what if we instead sought to subtract and clear space just so we could hear Jesus’ cry this Christmas? It may sound and feel like a lazy plan, but what if I decided to do less so that I could be more attentive to where Christ is speaking in my life?
Are we willing to embrace silence this Advent? Maybe it will mean not listening to anything in the car for the next few weeks, or setting aside 15-30 minutes a day where I commit to doing nothing but sitting and listening for the “light silent sound” of God’s voice. For some of us, it might even mean showing up to pray with less reading material just so we can be more available to hear the Lord speak into whatever is buried deep in our hearts. So often I show up to pray begging God to speak in a booming voice, and yet I’m unable to hear His whisper because I’ve got my life’s soundtrack playing on repeat as I revisit the past and plan for the future.
No matter how busy we’ve been, even if our calendars are full of doing His work, the Lord labors to speak to us every minute of every day. And infinitely more than we want to hear Him, He wants to be heard.
Don’t let this Advent be as busy as last year’s. Don’t let the season’s noise block out the cry of a baby who wants to break into our busyness to bring joy and hope.