|Volume 20 Number 1 January 2018||
Mark T. Tonkery
So many people this time of year stop to reflect on the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a fact that Jesus was born, and His birth was a necessary component of the mission and method of our Savior to save mankind from sins. However, nowhere in the Bible does it tell us the date of the birth of Christ or that we should celebrate His birth. Yet, His birth was an essential part of God’s plan to save people (Galatians 4:4-5). With so many thinking about the birth of Christ this time of year, it is a great opportunity to separate fact from fiction and truth from tradition—such as found in the Christmas carol “Silent Night.” This song is often sung, and many believe what it has to say about the night of Jesus’ birth. Upon reading the biblical account of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:1-20, one can see it was anything but a “Silent Night.”
Reading Luke 2:1, 3, one sees that the City of Bethlehem would have been bustling with people. They would have been responding to Caesar Augustus’ decree to have everyone included in the census. Luke 2:3 states, “And all went to be registered, each to his own town.” The roads would have been full of people, and relatives would have been searching for lodging: homes, inns or stables—any place to rest from tiring travels.
There would have been noise, stress and anxiety. Relatives would have been knocking on doors and jockeying for a place to lay their heads for the duration. Could you imagine the sounds? “Can I stay with your family? Is there any room?” “No!” “No room!” “What do you mean no room? We are relatives; we share the same blood and have the same last name. Whatever happened to family loyalty?” Have you ever told a relative “no,” especially when they were in such great need? It would have not been a silent night.
Then, adding to the anxiety of travel, searching for lodging and submitting to the government, Mary was with child. Luke 2:6 tells us amidst all the hustle and the bustle, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. Not much is said of the birth, possibly because every adult, especially a woman who has given birth, knows. Births are not silent; there are tears, pain, crying and screaming. Then, when the baby is born, there are more tears, crying and screaming. This would not have been a silent night.
Next, Luke records that Mary laid her newborn in a manger; she gave birth to Jesus in a barn! There was no room in the inn (Luke 2:7). Have you been in a barn lately? Again, the Bible does not give us details. What kind of animals were in that barn or if there were animals in the barn the Bible does not say. Yet, we know what takes place in barns. We can also image the amount of people in Bethlehem and know that donkeys, horses and camels were the main types of transportation. Sheep, goats and cattle were staples in their diet and economy. Some of these animals may have been in that barn. The animals would have been eating, moving and bellowing as animals do. It wasn’t a silent night.
Then, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field who were keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8). The angel announced the Savior’s birth, and then in Luke 2:13 it states that “a multitude of the heavenly host praised God.” The angels were not silent that night. Have you ever heard a multitude of people sing? It is beautiful, wonderful and it is loud! It was not a silent night!
The shepherds hurried to Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:16). They were not quiet. After seeing the baby Christ, Luke 2:17 tells us that the shepherds made known to all what the angels proclaimed about Christ and what they had seen with their own eyes. They told, talked and shared with everyone they could (Luke 2:18). They were not silent on this glorious night! Not only did they tell the good news that Christ was born, but Luke 2:20 emphasizes that the shepherds went back to their flock “glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen.” When people glorify and praise God, they are not silent! They make a joyful noise, producing gleeful sounds and rejoicing loudly over what God has done. It wasn’t a silent night!
Silent night it was not. The streets were busy. The animals would have been lively. A woman gave birth, who would have been in pain and tears. Visitors from Heaven and Earth were shouting, praising and rejoicing. Peace came to the earth that night, but it was not peaceful!
The night of Christ’s birth was not a silent night; the news was too good to keep quiet—too good not to share! “Silent Night” may make for a beautiful tune, but it does not describe the night of Christ’s birth. It was noisy, boisterous and this night got people’s attention.
Has Christ gotten our attention? Has the noise of that great night made us stop our business as well as our hustle and bustle? Has it awoken us from our slumber?
Silence has its place and its value, but when it comes to Christ, we cannot be silent. We must do something with the Child that was born in Bethlehem and Who “grew in wisdom and stature in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He went to the cross to die for the sins of the human race. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Then, He was resurrected on the third day and now sits at the right hand of His Father, Almighty God in Heaven.
What will we do with the Christ, who was born in Bethlehem? He lived, died, was buried, resurrected from the grave and lives in Heaven today. Silence is simply not an option!
Ernest S. Underwood
On two different occasions, at His baptism and at the Transfiguration, God stated audibly that Jesus was His beloved Son. At the Transfiguration He added, “Hear Him,” indicating that Jesus, not Moses and the Law, and not Elijah and the prophets, but Jesus was now the one to whom man must listen. The New Covenant was soon to be installed. If Jesus was on earth today in the flesh, and said certain things, would you believe Him? Think carefully before you answer. Would you really listen to Him if He came to your hometown and spoke to all of us as we might gather at the lake?
Jesus warned His disciples about wearing religious titles in His statement, “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). Yet many today love to be addressed as “Reverend," "Pastor" or "Father," sometimes even referring to themselves by these titles. Jesus said, “Preach the gospel… he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Yet, many today boldly proclaim that baptism is not essential to salvation, encouraging their hearers to do something that they call “the sinner’s prayer,” a thing for which they can find absolutely no biblical authority. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” His church is not good enough for many today, and so they establish Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Mormon and a host of other “churches.” Are you in His church, or are you in a manmade church? Are you really listening to Jesus?