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Silent Night, Holy Night!
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!

GERMAN 
    Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!
    Alles schläft, einsam wacht
    nur das traute, hochheilige Paar.
    Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
    schlaf in himmlischer Ruh,
    schlaf in himmlischer Ruh.

ENGLISH
1    Silent night, holy night!
    All is calm, all is bright
    round yon virgin mother and child.
    Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
    sleep in heavenly peace,
    sleep in heavenly peace.

2    Silent night, holy night!
    Shepherds quake at the sight;
    glories stream from heaven afar,
    heav'nly hosts sing, alleluia!
    Christ, the Savior, is born!
    Christ, the Savior, is born!

3    Silent night, holy night!
    Son of God, love's pure light
    radiant beams from your holy face,
    with the dawn of redeeming grace,
    Jesus, Lord, at your birth,
    Jesus, Lord, at your birth.

Text: Joseph Mohr, 1792-1849; tr. John F. Young, 1820-1885

Silent Night

The snow is piled deeply outside the A-frame church in Montana. The sanctuary is full on this Christmas Eve, both with regular members and seasonal guests. There is a bit of shifting and rustling, as children wiggle, tired from the service, and excited for the holiday - and are quickly hushed by their parents. The normally pretty church has a special glow, as there are extra candles, evergreen swags, and a truly enormous tree up front, decorated in oversized ornaments of gold and white. The pastor has just explained how to safely navigate the next song, given the children a stern eye, and there is a collective pause as the ushers pass the flaming light, candle to candle. It is time for “Silent Night”.

This was the Christmas Eve of every one of my growing up years. I would often sit cheerfully wedged between cousins, or next to my aunt and uncle, grandparents, or parents. As we raised our voices in song, and I heard my family singing all around me, I smiled. This was my favorite part. If ever it was suggested that we go to the earlier service, I fussed - the candles “wouldn’t work as well”. A few words into the song, the overhead lights would be turned off, and the white pine sanctuary would glow like a flame, lit by 200 small ones. We would raise our candles high on the last verse, and I would be breathless with the beauty. 

When the candles were extinguished, and the lights went back on, even when I didn’t want to, my eyes would find my mother. And I would see her trying to compose herself, face covered in tears. Every year. 

As a kid, it made me uncomfortable. Mommies aren’t supposed to cry. As a young adult, I thought I understood how the beauty could bring those tears. It was only after her death last February, that years and layers of conditioning started peeling back, and I found the truth. 

My mother’s life was so very hard, including when I was a child, and didn’t know. Inside, that dark, cocooned space of “Silent Night” she could drop every proper pretension, and let her heart speak. It was her moment when she did not have to be “fine”. 

We would leave the service, and pile into vehicles to drive down the road to my grandparent’s house. We would eat traditional German food, and I would sometimes hear my grandmother singing softly to herself in the language of her birth, as she made final preparations. My mom would be back to her normal happy, controlled self, and all felt right.

My hope for us in the fullness of the season this year, is that we can find that place to drop the masks, and just be. Our true, and whole loving presence in the now is the greatest gift we can bring to this world.

Mom, I am sorry it took me so long to, but I see you. Merry Christmas.

Prayer - Heavenly Mother, please hold, this day, those who have to hold it all together. Provide them with safe spaces to be themselves. And wrap us all in your loving embrace. In your Son’s name we pray, Amen.

 


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