Summary: Christmas was both a night of silence and a night of song. If you read through the Christmas hymns in a hymnal you will see these two themes stand out often, some with a focus on the silence and others with a focus on the song.

Paradox is simply the recognition that opposites can both be true. The Christmas story is

loaded with paradoxes. The most profound revolving around the Christ-Child Himself: The

eternal Son born into time and the Infinite Spirit embodied in finite flesh. The creator of all

space having no room in the inn; the invisible made visible; the perfect made incomplete and

the limitless made limited.

The list goes on and on even to the most minor details like the paradox of that first

Christmas being both a night of silence and a night of song. If you read through the

Christmas hymns in a hymnal you will see these two themes stand out often, some with a

focus on the silence and others with a focus on the song. For example, O Little Town Of

Bethlehem, specializes in silence. "O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.

Above thy deep and dream-less sleep the silent stars go by." The third stanza goes, "How

silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the

blessings of His heaven." Then there is, of course, the most famous of all, "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."

The other focus which is on sound, shatters the silence of that holy night with loud songs of

jubilant joy. You have for example, Joy To The World, where the heavens and nature sing.

You have, Angels We Have Heard On High, sweetly singing o'er the plains and Hark, The

Hearld Angels Sing, and in Come All Ye Faithful, the second stanza, "Sing, choirs of angels,

sing in exaltation, o sing all ye citizens of heaven above."

This duel focus on both the silence and the sounds of Christmas should clue us in to the

duel nature of Christmas. It is a day and a season for both contemplation and celebration.

It is a time for both reflecting and rejoicing. It is, in other words, a season that is meant to

have an impact on both our minds and out emotions; Our thinking and our feeling. Let's

focus first on-


This simply means to meditate, think about, study spiritual things. This was the focus of

Mary on that first Christmas. In the midst of high emotions with the angels and the

shepherds making a lot of noise about the birth of Jesus, verse 19 tells us, "but Mary

treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." She represents the quiet and

thoughtful side of Christmas.

Mary was not in on the anthem of the angels. She did not hear all heaven ring as the

angels sing. The focus of Mary was on the baby in her arms and all the implications of being

a mother to the Messiah. If the challenge of parenting makes you worrisome at times,

imagine how Mary must have felt. The wheels in her mind were turning rapidly as she

wondered, what now? How do I enter into what God is doing in the greatest event of all

history-the Incarnation? This calls for contemplation and not just celebration.

It takes some profound thinking on the part of all us to make the coming of God into

history relevant to our purpose for living. Much of the meaning of Christmas is wrapped up

in the way God came into this world. An unknown author wrote,

"Christ could have come riding on a rainbow,

the winds driving His chariot, the Milky Way

serving Him as a heavenly boulevard, while the

glittering stars like so many jewels clustered around

Him. He could have advanced upon this world with

great pageantry, accompanied by innumerable

bands of trumpeting angels, with bright, shining

cherubim His attendants, so that every eye would

have seen His true glory.

"But instead he choose to arrive on this planet

almost unobserved. Silently, wrapped in the swaddling

clothes of humility, He willingly shared the

poverty of a humble family, content to be cradled

in the foul-smelling stable of a little obscure town

called Bethlehem! He stooped so low that He might

reach us in our depravity, lift us out of the mire of

sin, and set our feet on the heavenly pathway. What

condescension, bringing us redemption!

The song writer says, 'Out of the ivory palaces, into a world of woe, only His great eternal

love made my Savior go.'

Paul in Phil. 2 says this is to be the Christian attitude in life. We are to contemplate on the

condescension of Christ and do likewise by forsaking selfishness and striving to focus on the

needs and interests of others. We are to be little Christs trying to demonstrate anew to the

world what Jesus did for the world on that first Christmas. This means we are to have the

spirit of Christmas all year long.

What is the spirit of Christmas? It is a host of things but we want to focus on what Paul

says in Titus 3:4 where he writes, "when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,

he saved us...." The Christmas spirit is the spirit of kindness. The coming of Christ was the

appearing of God's kindness. Everyone of the characters in the nativity scene were

characterized by kindness. If it was not for Herod, every person in the entire Christmas

story would be characterized by kindness. He alone was mean and cruel.

The Innkeeper gets a bad rap for he is often portrayed as being mean. It is mere negative

speculation that he turned away the holy family. The positive speculation has more evidence.

The manger was likely connected with the inn and they could not have settled in there unless

the Innkeeper had said, "there is no room in the inn but we can't let you go off with no place

for the night. Let me show you to the stable where you will at least be warm." It is likely the

Innkeeper was hospitable and kind. It is likely in that every other person in that scene was

kind. The shepherds and the wise men came in the spirit of kindness. The wise men even

brought gifts that Mary and Joseph needed for their time of exile in Egypt.

The angels were kind enough to share the good news of Christ’s birth with the lowly shepherds.

The spirit of kindness covers all the Christmas characters like a garment. This

spirit has been picked up by the tribesmen of Liberia and a missionary has translated their

concept of Christmas as follows-

Whoever on the night of the

Celebration of the Birth of Christ

Carries warm water and a sleeping mat

To a weary stranger,

Provides wood from his own fire

For a helpless neighbor,

Takes medicine to one

Sick with malaria,

Gives food to children

Who are thin and hungry,

Provides a torch for a traveler

In the dark forest,

Visits a timid friend

Who would like to know about Christ,

Whoever does these things

Will receive gifts of happiness

Greater than that of welcoming a son

Returning after a long absence,

And though he live to be so old

That he must be helped into his hammock,

And though his family and friends all die

So that he stands as a trunk stripped of branches,

Yet life will be sweet for him,

And he will have peace,

As one whose rice harvest is great,

And who hears his neighbors

Praise the exploits of his youth.

So will you receive happiness

If you do these acts of love and service

On the night of the celebration of Christmas,

The Birth of' Christ.

Kindness reveals that Jesus is still present in this world through His body the church.

When the head was born the body was born too. Some feel the church was born on

Pentecost but that is when it was spirit-filled. The church was born with the Head on

Christmas. When the head of the baby makes it out of the birth canal the body is not far

behind and so it was with the body of Christ. Jesus had followers the day of His birth.

Joseph and Mary of course, but the shepherds worshipped Him and went immediately to

proclaim to others the good news.

The coming of Jesus was the coming of the First Comforter. Later at Pentecost He sent

another Comforter but Jesus was the first. What does a Comforter do? He comforts by acts

and words of kindness. He cheers you up and gives you hope. This is the challenge of the

contemplative side of Christmas. How can I be a channel of God's kindness so the world can

see Christ is still active in history? Keeping Christ in Christmas means to keep on doing

today what God was doing on that first Christmas in showing kindness to a world that

deserved judgement by providing a way to peace with Him and a way to eternal hope. This

calls for contemplation on our part as we seek to have the mind of Christ in relating to the

world with a spirit of kindness. Now lets look at-


To the shepherds, that first Christmas was a night of unmatched sound of celebration. It

was calm and quiet up to the point when the angel of the Lord appeared and frightened the

wits out of them. They no doubt heard their hearts pounding when the glory of the Lord

shown around them. As far as the record shows, they were the only people in biblical history

who got to hear the angels sing on earth. John was caught up to hear them sing in heaven

but I am not aware of anyone else who ever heard them sing on earth. The prophet Isaiah

had a vision in which he says in Isaiah 6, that the angels above the throne of God were calling

to one another, " holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory."

He heard them while he was on earth but the angels were in heaven. Only at Christmas did

the angels sing on earth in great celebration.

From that point on it was more like a New Years Eve celebration for the shepherds. It is

now a new era not just a new year. The turning point of history has come and nothing can

ever be the same. When they went to the manger and confirmed the angelic message verse

20 says, "the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had

heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." In contrast to Mary who sat quietly

thinking about all that had happened, they were on an emotional high, shouting and praising

God and adding to the joyful sounds that filled the air that Christmas.

Their personal lives had not changed that much. They were still lowly shepherds who had

to watch sheep the rest of their lives. They were still the lower class of society with fewer

rights than other people. They did not receive a change of status or get angels coming to

them each night to provide music and entertainment in their lonely jobs.

What did they get out of that first Christmas that made them celebrate? They got a

glimpse into the future that gave them hope. God is at work in this world and His will will be

done on earth as it is in heaven. Heaven has come down to earth in this baby and now all

history will be different. There will be a new focus in history for this baby will do something

which makes God's plan of salvation the primary focus. The shepherds were not just

celebrating because of their good fortune of being chosen to receive this revelation. They

were not just celebrating being among the few in all of history to hear the angels sing. They

were celebrating because now history was filled with hope. The message of Christmas is

good news for all people. Their hearts were expanded for they knew they were in on a secret

that would bless the entire human race.

In contrast listen to these lines from Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas,

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!

Now, please don't ask the reason. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.

But I think the most likely reason of all

May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

That is the problem with all who cannot or do not celebrate Christmas. Herod was one of

these. He could not get his heart to expand beyond himself and accept the gift of God. He

was locked into a world where all that mattered was his own ambitions. It takes a big heart

to see the big picture. The angels had enormous size hearts, for they knew all the negatives

and yet they were celebrating.

How could these beings who knew that Jesus would be rejected, in spite of His perfection,

be singing? They knew He would not call for their intervention to save Him from the cross,

yet they called His birth good news of great joy. It is because they see the end result is that

man will at last have a champion and a hero who can reverse the curse and open the door of

hope, so men can be saved and join them in everlasting praise.

The shepherds had large hearts as well and as soon as they saw the Christ child they

joined the angels in glorifying and praising God. For all with large enough hearts Christmas

is a celebration. The New Testament has a special vocabulary for those whose hearts are big

enough to see beyond the sin and folly of man to the gift of life in Jesus. The major words

are bless, thank, worship, glorify, honor, magnify, extol, rejoice in, sing to, and declare the

mighty works of God. All of these are to be a part of Christmas for it is the celebration of

the greatest Gift ever given.

Ann Weems has written a poem that expresses what Christians ought to feel about the

celebration of Christmas.

Each year about this time I try to be sophisticated

And pretend I understand the bored expressions

Relating to the "Christmas spirit."

I nod when they say "Put the Christ back in Christmas."

I say yes, yes, when they shout "Commercial" and

"Hectic, hectic, hectic."

After all, I'm getting older,

And I've heard it said, "Christmas is for children."

But somehow a fa-la-la keeps creeping out . . .

So l’ll say it:

I love Christmas tinsel

And angel voices that come from the beds upstairs.

And I say three cheers for Santa Claus

And the Salvation Army bucket

And all the wrappings and festivities and special warm feelings.

I say it is good




So hooray for Christmas trees

And candlelight

And the good old church pageant.

Hooray for shepherd boys who forget their lines

And wise men whose beards fall off

And a Mary who giggles.

O Lord, you were born!

O Lord, you were born!

And that breaks in upon my ordered life like bugles blaring,

And I sing "Hark, the Herald Angels" in the most unlikely places.

You were born

And I will celebrate!I rejoice for the carnival of Christmas!

I clap for the pajama-clad cherubs

And the Christmas cards jammed in the mail slot.

I o-o-o-oh for the turkey

And ah-h-h-h for the Christmas pudding

And thank God for the alleluias I see in the faces of people

I don't know

And yet know very well.

O Lord, there just aren't enough choir boys to sing what I feel.

There aren't enough trumpets to blow.

O Lord, I want bells to peal!

I want to dance in the streets of Bethlehem!

I want to sing with the heavenly host!

For unto us a Son was given

And he was called God With Us.

For those of us who believe,

The whole world is decorated in love!

May God help us all to get involved mentally and emotionally with the Christmas

message. Let the silence of Christmas motivate us to contemplation on how we can be

channels of God's kindness. Let the song of Christmas motivate us to celebration. Let us

make some joyful noise in praise to God for the gift of His Son. Let's get in on the best of

both worlds-Christmas silence and Christmas song.