This Advent Season we’ve chosen “Silent Night,” one of the best-known and most beloved of all the Christmas Carols, as our worship theme. Why is that? Well, for one thing, this Christmas Eve marks the 200th anniversary of the first time this wonderful, timeless carol was sung in worship.
And, while this epic anniversary is reason enough to celebrate all on its own, there’s another important reason that “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht” in the original German) seems especially appropriate in these polarized times in our world. During this Advent series, we will focus on a particular verse of this treasured hymn each week, following the hymn’s themes of Peace, Hope, Love, and Joy. We will reflect on our chosen scripture and its practical applications during a busy and often frenetic time.
We’ll begin our Silent Night Advent Worship series with “Heavenly Peace,” a concept that can be quite elusive in the noise and busyness of our everyday lives. This coming Sunday we’ll focus our attention on Luke 2:1-7 (NRSV), and Isaiah 9: 2-7 (NRSV) against the backdrop of the first verse of Silent Night:
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.
As a concept central to our faith and, for that matter, to many faiths, “peace” is a word that echoes over and over again throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. And, in the Hebrew Scriptures in particular, we find a deep longing for one who will bring peace, the “Prince of Peace.”
As we begin this Season of Advent it’s especially important to recognize, I think, that the peace of Christ is something much deeper than simply the absence of conflict. We find this Peace present even in the midst of turmoil. The Apostle Paul, even in his own tumultuous life and times, always opened his letters with “Grace and peace to you…”
This Sunday in Traditional Worship in the Sanctuary, we’ll explore the idea of “Heavenly Peace” together, as well as how learning to look for — and find — finding this kind of peace in the midst of our own personal chaos can really be life-changing, life-giving, and life-affirming, even in the darkest of times.
This week in preparation for our worship time together, I invite you to consider: What does “peace” mean to you? Where do you go to find peace? What do you do when you find it?
I look forward to exploring these ideas and more with you this Sunday in the Sanctuary as we begin this season of preparing to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
Grace and Peace,
Luke 2:1-7 (NRSV)
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Isaiah 9:2-7 (NRSV)
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness —
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.