This is a year for soft sounds in churches, like babies’ cooing, lovers wooing, believers holding candles and singing “Silent Night.” Turn down the volume. Dare to hear God’s “still small voice.”
In a world of bare-knuckles politics – holding a nation hostage while extracting one more extraneous concession benefitting the rich — extravagant claims, big lies, noisy candidates, the booms of war and the pop of gunfire in our streets, Christians don’t need to outshout the shouters.
Let the frightened roar and the hate-filled rage. Let walks and malls fill with great hymns turned to jingles.
God’s healing the broken won’t be a noisy mission. God’s call to justice and mercy won’t be a strident oration. Our contributions to God’s work won’t be measured in decibels. The blast of a mighty pipe organ seems out of season. So does bombast in the pulpit.
This is a year for the brave sound of a child trying to portray Joseph. Don’t turn on microphones this year. Let “Mary” say Yes with whatever volume she has. Let “shepherds” sing “Gloria” as best they can. Listen to the children. Strain to hear them. This is their future we hold in our hands.
This is a year for the lonely to shed tears amid the greenery. Let’s be still enough to hear their sobbing.
This is a year for preachers to look out at their people and say the only words the faithful need to hear: “God loves you. I love you. And all will be well with our souls. For Jesus Christ is born.”
Don’t shout it, not this year. Don’t craft majestic phrases and heart-rending anecdotes. Just weep, as Jesus wept, as God weeps every day.
This is a year for people to look each other in the eye. Put aside hymnals, ask the choir not to sing the “Hallelujah!” chorus this year. Just gaze upon each other, as God gazes upon us, and be thankful for Christian community.
This is a year to open the church doors before we are ready to go home. Open them early, open them wide, let the sights and sounds of a deeply troubled world pour inside. Look at the world as God does: with compassion and a determination not to let the small-minded, deep-pocketed and cruel-hearted have the final word.
This is a year to “fall on our knees” and to let the “holy night, the night that Christ was born,” be a silent night. We can sing another year. This is a year to hear the babies and the brawlers, the lonely and the laughers, the confused and the confident, the family whose rent is unpaid and the callous demanding more and more.
This is a year to hear it all and to know that God is listening, too, and our futures will reside in whatever God, not Mammon, chooses to do.
I am scheduled to sing a bouncy Gospel song on Christmas Eve. Instead, I wish our Gospel Choir could sing a soft spiritual of hope. Or maybe sing nothing at all, just stand there holding out our hands in the great beckoning that is God’s desire.
I wish we could set aside our plans and let stillness be our gift to a broken and noisy world. For in the stillness that defies the storm, God’s sweet voice says, “Yes.”