“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given,
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.”
O Little Town of Bethlehem, verse 3
I love the Christmas Eve services here at First Presbyterian. The happy chaos and quintessentially American “Christmas Pageant” of the 5:00 service, the crowds, grand processional and candle lighting of the 7:30 and 11:00 services, the “red coats,” the faces I have not seen in a long time who have returned for the holidays…I leave exhausted early Christmas morning but it’s hard for me to imagine it any other way.
The first Christmas wasn’t anything like that. As far as the world knew things were no different. It was the same difficult and troubled place the people alive at that time had always known. But starting that night, quietly, one person at a time, things began to change.
“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given…”
With the exception of those fortunate shepherds the message of Emmanuel came not with light and sound, but softly, poignantly, inserting itself into the core of our being. Luke records that “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
“So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heaven.”
Does it seem to you as it sometimes does to me, that in our well-intentioned efforts to give the Christmas season the attention we think it deserves, we have often so covered up the message with our own holiday noise that we are no longer able to hear it?
“No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin…”
Take heart. O Little Town of Bethlehem reminds us that even now, whether the noise and confusion comes from the holiday season or from any other worldly source, Jesus stands ready to enter the willing heart, just as He entered Mary’s all those years ago.
“Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.”
About the Contributor
Holt Andrews, the FPC director of music, is so enthusiastic about seasonal music that he has written TWO devotionals for our 2016 Advent Booklet.