SILENT NIGHT, PART 2

We have spoken of the way, in 1818, this carol came about.  From the majestic heights of the Austrian Alps we see the image of the village covered in snow and the profound silence that the snow brings.

Snowy branches.JPG
Snow in branches, undisturbed by frenetic activity on the ground below.

While the carol is a calming influence in a season of tumultuous activity, the carol is also calming because of its sound theology.  Let us look at the words of this carol and consider the Scripture that relates to each stanza.

  • 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 prophet Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 7:14:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  

This prophecy was quoted in Matthew 1:23 with a small addition, the meaning of the term “Immanuel”: 

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to her son, Jesus.   Indeed, she confirmed that this prophesy was being fulfilled when she said, in Luke 1:34:

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Then there is the phrase “Sleep in heavenly peace”.  Jesus is, truly, the source of peace.  When His disciples were afraid, He said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14:27

The peace Jesus provides is overwhelming, and is heavenly peace!

  • Silent night, holy night,  Shepherds quake at the sight; Glories stream from heaven afar,  Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!  Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!

While the Holy Scripture does not use the word “quake” to describe the shepherds on that hillside, the Scripture does support the concept in Luke 2:9 where we read:  

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” 

I have to say, if I saw an angel of the Lord, with the glory streaming from the angel surrounding me, I believe that I would be filled with fear and would likely “quake” too!

Then we read in Luke 2:13-14 that there was great singing by the heavenly host:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

I can’t write these words without smiling and hearing in my soul the choir singing these words during Christmas anthems.  Another way to say “Glory to God” is by use of the word “Alleluia” or Hallelujah meaning “God be praised”.

“Christ the Savior is born”.  The angel told Joseph that Jesus was going to be the Savior of men when he announced to him that his betrothed was with a heavenly child.  

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:21

The angels also announced this to the shepherds on that hillside so long ago: 

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:11

When Jesus became an adult, He ministered three years and then “set His face toward Jerusalem” so that He could fulfill the mission assigned to Him by the Father — being the sacrificial lamb crucified in atonement for the sins of His people. He was, is and forever will be our Savior.

  • Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure lightRadiant beams from thy holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

It is true that the babe in the manger was the Son of God, and it is also true that He was “love’s pure light”.   Jesus said:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

John 8:12

I doubt that the Babe in the manger had either a radiant face or a halo around His head as depicted in religious art.  But radiance does apply to our Lord.  Think of the description of Jesus when He was transfigured before three of his disciples.  Matthew describes it as follows: 

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

Matthew 17:2 

Redeeming grace was truly brought to earth when Jesus was born.  Paul sums this up in Galatians 4:4-5 where he says:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

The carol concludes with the profound statement “Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.”  This is, too, an accurate statement and it is an affirmation of faith and belief in that wonderful Babe.  

Paul writes:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11.  Jesus is Lord of all, and He was Lord even as the Babe.  He gave up His heavenly place so He could save us from our sins; but He was no less Lord when He was a man than when He was in heaven.  The God/Man Jesus Christ is and always has been part of the Triune God, from the time before time began and He will remain such when time no longer exists and we are in heaven for eternity.  Jesus is Lord.  Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

Yes, the beautiful carol “Silent Night” sums up the theological point that Jesus is the Son of God, Who was born of a virgin and Who came into this world for the purpose of redeeming us from our sin.  The Babe Who is the Lord of all.  The salvation story is on full display in this beautiful carol. Praise the Lord!

May the blanketing silence of snow cover you, whether literally or figuratively, so that you experience the peace that our Savior brings to your heart and soul even in the hectic days of the Christmas season.  The Psalmist says it this way:  

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10.  Unfortunately, we cannot be still so that we can know God when we are running frantically in hyper-mode to get everything accomplished that we think needs to be done.  Nor can we be still so God can make Himself known to us when His voice is drowned out by the cacophony of electronic beeps and tones, television’s call to view programs of no redeeming value, malls demanding that you purchase goods that you think will satisfy hunger and need but which will only wind up stacked against the wall, unused. You can likely add other scenarios that keep you from being silent before God.  

Remember the silence of that holy night when Mary and Joseph looked with loving eyes at the Babe Who was born so miraculously.  

Perhaps listening to Silent Night will get you into the stillness mode.  Here is “Silent Night, Holy Night” as sung by Saint Michael Singers on the album Gloria.  

Do whatever it takes to let yourself “Be still”. You will be glad you did and your relationship with your Father will grow stronger this Christmas season.

Father, thank You for Your Word that tells of the birth of Jesus even hundreds of years before it occurred.  Thank You for Your Word that speaks to us today, thousands of years after Jesus was born, telling us of His birth, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return.  Help me to keep my eyes on You and Your gift to us, the Babe in the manger who became our Sacrifice on the Cross and is now our Savior in Heaven.   Give me the grace to “Be still”, even when chaos reigns around me, through the power and love of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior.

PALACES, DOMINION, AND ME?

I watch the BBC drama Downton Abbey when it is being aired, and I will record it if I am not able to see an episode when it first comes on television. We have DVDs of the earlier seasons and will watch those episodes on occasion “just because.”

 

One of the main characters, in my humble opinion, is the castle itself.  Rather than being called Downton Abbey, the castle’s real name is Highclere Castle. It is located in Hampshire, England and is the home of Lord and Lady Carnarvon. It is an imposing, but beautiful, castle which is decorated with exquisite furniture, massive portraits and paintings, ornate staircases … well, suffice it to say that it is what little girls dream of when thinking of the princess in the palace!

 

I recognize that Downton Abbey is a drama and that it is a fictional representation of how titled English landowners lived in earlier days. But for me as an American, who has never lived in that type society, it is a fascinating look at how the Dukes, Duchesses, Ladies and Lords lived while the servants were living and working behind the scenes.

 

When we were in England several years ago, we did not see Highclere Castle but we did have occasion to see a number of other castles and palaces.

 

I had always heard of the White Cliffs of Dover, so we went to Dover, England and discovered an incredible castle, thriving busy port, and beautiful chalk cliffs.

Dover cliffs
The white cliffs at Dover, England.

 

According to information obtained about Dover Castle,  William the Conqueror strengthened the defenses at Dover with an earthwork and timber stockade in 1066, and from that point on, Dover Castle was garrisoned uninterruptedly until 1958. The stone castle was built by King Henry II in the 1180s and it sits above the white cliffs where there is the shortest sea crossing distance between England and the continent.

Dover castle 2
Dover Castle sitting high above the cliffs and defending the narrowest waterway between England and the continent.

 

Dover Castle was an incredible example of a medieval castle. In short, the trip to Dover, England was great!

 

Of course, we also visited Buckingham Palace in London. The crowds made it difficult to get a picture of the palace in its entirety, but suffice it to say, it was huge, and beautiful.

Buckingham palace
Buckingham Palace, London, England.

This is Buckingham Palace from the gardens between the commercial area and the palace. The palace is protected by a huge gate as well as uniformed officers.

Buckingham palace guiard
Buckingham Palace guard.

 

We also had the privilege of going to see Blenheim Palace, the place where Winston Churchill was born. Today, it is the residence of the 12th Duke of Marlborough.

 

It, too, was immense and ornately furnished. We were not able to take pictures inside and the outside was undergoing some renovation, but the scope of the palace is clear.

 

This picture is of the gate that you go through before you get to the palace building itself.

Blenheim palace Gate
Blenheim Palace Gate.

 

After you go through the gate, you come into a courtyard with the palace surrounding you on three sides.   This is one of the sides of the palace.  On the right edge of the you can see the main section of the palace.  There was a great deal of renovation work going on so we were not able to get good pictures of the front of the palace itself.

Blenheim palace buildings
One part of Blenheim Palace. Incredible beauty on a gigantic scale.

 

The palace grounds were beautiful.  This is just a small portion of the grounds surrounding the palace.

Blenheim palace grounds
Just some of the palace grounds surrounding Blenheim Palace.

 

The size of the palace was mind-numbing for me. A picture of one of the statues that surrounded the walkway outside the palace with a man standing nearby is, for me, a real perspective setter.

Blenheim palace statuary
Statue at Blenheim Palace.

 

Obviously, I cannot imagine living in this type of opulent surroundings, complete with the incredibly large staff that would be required to run the place.

 

But, watching Downton Abbey brings into sharp relief one clear fact.

 

The lord was the absolute ruler of the house and realm associated with the palace. Indeed, the serving staff referred to the Lord of the house as “M’lord” and his wife was “M’lady”. No first names … no pet names … no familiarity expressed, even though they may have known many secrets about the family members. The immutable fact of sovereignty over-rode anything else.

 

Simple as that. The will of the master was controlling and it was carried out by those under his authority. In short, the lord of the house had dominion over all his realm. Even the people in the village attached to the castle would bow or give homage to the lord of the estate when he rode past. This was the person who had control of their destiny; this was the person whose will would prevail and to whom they were subject.

 

The Old Testament prophet named Daniel had a vision of the son of man who was given dominion over all things:

 

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14 ESV

 And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

Daniel 7:27 ESV

 

Here, the word “dominion” was taken from the Aramaic, and the transliterated word used is sholtan. The meaning for this term is “sovereignty” or “realm”.

 

Imagine living in a realm where the One in charge has full dominion and authority. Imagine a Sovereign who is loving and Who puts the interests of those in His realm over His own. Imagine a realm where the Sovereign is not questioned and His edicts are not reversed.

 

Imagine living in a realm where the Sovereign loves us so much that He died in our place so that we become His redeemed people. Imagine being under the sovereign rule of the Child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, Who was, is and always will be the One who bears the name: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, … Jesus.

 

If you have not watched Downton Abbey, check it out. I think you will find the setting beautiful and the interaction between characters intriguing.

 

But, on a matter of eternal significance, if you have not met the Lord of all Creation Who will have a kingdom where all dominions will serve and obey Him, open your Bible and meet Jesus.

 

And, if you have met Jesus, and He is your Lord and Savior, then bend the knee, humble yourself, and thank Him for the salvation that has been given to you, for His grace and mercy and love, and seek to know Him more and more each day in this new year.

 

Father, help me to love you more, help me to serve you, and help me to learn more of your holiness, love, mercy and grace so that I can reflect that to those I come in contact with at home, work, school, church. Thank you for your Spirit and for your grace.