Life + Culture

Silent Night: A Christmas Lullaby for God’s Beloved

Silent Night

To us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. –Isaiah 9:6–7

No baby is born on a silent night, especially not in a stable. Anyone who has experienced the miracle of childbirth knows there can be a lot of noise involved in welcoming a newborn into the world. It’s beautiful, even sacred, but it is not quiet.

Add to that an audience of animals, possibly offering their unintelligible commentary before, during, and after the delivery, and it may very well have been a relatively raucous scene. And all of that was before visiting hours started.

No, “silent night” means a night like any other. This was an ordinary Monday night or Tuesday night or Saturday night, like the one you had last night. It was an ordinary family in an ordinary town tucked away in a very ordinary stable. And yet there was nothing ordinary about this birth, this night, or this boy.

Beautiful Baby

The Son of God became a baby boy — holy infant, tender and mild. That was the promise God’s people received from Isaiah, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). And a little later, “to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).

It was one thing to know that the Messiah was coming, and to even know that he would be born like any other man, but oh, to see the Son of God small enough to be laid in a manger. How could all of that power, love, and purity live in such a little form? How could the Extraordinary be carried in such an ordinary body? How could the Sovereign be seen so simple and helpless? In those tiny ears and tiny cheeks was history’s greatest hero. Christ the Savior was born.

His shoulders were small and undeveloped, and his frame was fragile, but he had come to carry a weight unlike any other. He would bear the sins of the world, and establish his kingdom in every corner of the globe. From the moment that baby opened his eyes on little Bethlehem, his name was “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). His life — from its very first breaths — were marked with an unprecedented wisdom, power, majesty, and glory. All held, for a time, in an infant’s body, and all waiting to be exercised in love on our behalf.

Prince of Peace

In the end, “Silent Night” is a lullaby about peace. For sure, it inspires pictures of baby Jesus sleeping soundly the evening he was born. But as the song progresses, it’s increasingly about the peace he brings, not the quiet he might have enjoyed that night. When our Savior came, “he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:17). He brought a stillness to our relationship with God and with one another, where there had only been conflict, hostility, and wrath.

The same Jesus who presumably slept like a baby on that ordinary night also preached rest to the weary and rebellious among us.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)

With the good news of the gospel — purchased by his blood and proven by his resurrection — Jesus sang the lullaby of salvation over sin-sick souls like ours. He sang our souls to sleep in the rest of our peace with God. And when we woke in the morning, we met the dawn of redeeming grace, the never-ending fountain of new mercies.

So child of God, sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.

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