Christmas poses such an enigma. Christmas carols are playing from the shopping malls to the coffee shops, the first Noel—and the thousandth Noel—they're ubiquitous. There aren’t that many Christmas songs, it’s just that for every one Christmas song there are at least a dozen versions of that song. But there’s one Christmas carol that stands out above the rest: the most famous Christmas carol in history and it starts out: Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.
As Christmas carols go, Silent Night seems almost nonsensical. We look first at the setting for the song—the nativity. Joseph is trying to find lodging in a little town and there are no rooms because the town is full. As is often the case with Christmas traveling, they should have booked ahead. So husband and VERY pregnant wife take lodging in the only place they could find… a barn.
The nativity is the story of a young woman… giving birth… in a barn. Anyone who has been lucky enough to experience childbirth, either as the mother or as the partner knows that this is not a silent endeavor. Added to Mary’s cries of pain is a barn full of animals, themselves probably stressed out because of the agony of the mother (who can’t yell at her husband, Joseph: “You did this to me!”). So we have to assume that the animals are going to be making a lot of noise over the mother’s screaming and the father’s attempts to comfort.
Down the road the neighbors are being wakened by the turmoil so now they’re probably making a commotion.
Add to that: Hark the Herald Angles singing the First Noel to shepherds on a hillside field outside of town. The Night Wind calls out to the Little Lamb and asks, “Do you Hear what I Hear?” The Little Lamb, in turn repeats the question to the Shepherd Boy. The Shepherd Boy then questions the King, “Do you know what I know?” Well, the King didn’t, so the Shepherd Boy told him—in song. Now the King makes a proclamation to the people everywhere: “Listen to what I say!”
Meanwhile, back in the stable, the donkey shaggy and brown brags, “I carried his mother uphill and down, I carried her safely to Bethlehem town.” Not to be outdone, the cow chimes in: “I gave him my manger for a bed.” Now the sheep, the dove, and the camel all declare their own contributions.
Let’s not forget the Little Drummer Boy, “pa rum pum pum pum,” and his gift to the tiny baby. “I played my best for him,” and a few more pa rum pum pum pums. Now the ox and lamb are keeping time.
All throughout the town there—arose such a clatter—that the neighbors are unquestionably awake, and more than likely upset at having their reverie disturbed. The more curious and annoyed of the townsfolk are making their way to the barn right now to do some rum pum pum pumming of their own.
Their anger must be tempered though when they see the Three Kings of Orient are, bearing gifts these travelers afar. After all, they have gold and frankincense and myrrh. What star were they following, Onstar?
And yet the din grows even louder. Here come the Carol of the Bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away. Good Christian Men are rejoicing calling at the top of their voices, O Come all ye Faithful. So the faithful are coming, and here we come a wassailing among the leaves so green. What a cacophony of sound.
Are you sure this isn’t going to wake the baby?
Silent night? Try telling that to the neighbors.
This Season, try to relax a little. Have some fun. Don’t take life too seriously, after all, it’s not permanent.
P.S. Keep Chet away from an open fire.