Silent Night

My eyes had just shut down when a tiny voice crying out pried them back open. To my left, Joseph moaned and started to raise his head.

“Shhhh. I’ve got this. You go back to sleep.”

I kissed my husband on his shoulder as I dragged myself back up to my feet. He was already back out like a light. I made my way over to the repurposed feeding trough that was serving as my baby’s crib. I wanted to reach out and pick him up, but for a second I just stood there in wonder. This tiny miracle was jerking his fragile little arms in rhythm to a plaintive wail so soft nobody but a mother would wake to it. Nobody but me.

I still can’t believe I am a mother. It has been less than two days since. I still will find myself reaching to a belly no longer swollen. I pick him up and hum to my boy as he begins to nurse. Together we stroll out the door and into the night air. This evening seems such a contrast to the whirlwind of a night when my baby first came into the world. That night was so crazy. Now…

The stars seem especially bright tonight. These stars here in Bethlehem are the same stars I have seen a thousand times in my home of Nazareth. Mostly. Except for that one big bright one directly overhead. Where did that star come from? Will I ever get back to Nazareth? Doesn’t scripture say that this is where my boy is to be? Well, tomorrow He can be the Messiah. Tonight, he is just my precious baby.

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

They still aren’t back. Should I be worried? For about ten minutes last night, I felt honored to be trusted enough to be left alone with the care of all our sheep. Then it started to dawn on me, they get to all go see the baby those angels were talking about. They are all out having the time of their life and I am out here all by myself. Bored. Bored and… scared. I am out here all by myself with all of these sheep. What if one gets lost? How would I be able to go find it without leaving the others behind? Worse, what if a wolf or a wild dog shows up all mean and hungry? Or a lion? Or a bear? I’ve never seen either one of those, but didn’t King David kill one of each right here on these very hills? I mean, I have been practicing with a sling of my own but I am no King David.

But that baby is. That baby everybody else but me got to go see is supposed to be the Messiah. He is the Son of David. I’m just the son of Melki. Nobody really cares about me. After all, they all just ran off and left me here to get eaten by lions and bears and wolves.

Maybe when they come back I will get a chance to go down into town and see him myself. I would have to bring a gift. What gift could I give that is fit for a king? Maybe I could play him a song. I am a lot better with my drum than I am with my sling.

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

Finally, we get a night to rest. Melchior has been pushing us hard the past couple days. He kept saying that he had a dream we needed to hurry away because Herod would be close behind us. I think the man worries too much. I had a dream too but in my dream, I was only warned not to go tell Herod where we had found the baby. I could tell Gaspar was just as skeptical as I was, but he was fine with rushing back. After all, he still has that pretty young wife he is eager to return to.

All the same, it is nice to be able to finally set up camp and enjoy a night of peace and quiet. I wonder what they are doing now? The child King was as cute as any year old boy would be. At that age, they are all cute. There is a wonder and a joy in their eyes as everything they discover in this world is fresh and new. But that is every child at his age. This boy didn’t seem any different or special. Of course, there was the star and the rumors about the crazy shepherds. Without those rumors, I would have doubted we had found the right house. Everything seemed so… domestic. It all seemed so normal. Is this really the child who is destined to turn our world upside down?

Silent Night, Holy Night
Son of God, Love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at they birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth

The night air is cold tonight, but I am still glad to have taken the long route home. I love the view from up here. You can see all the lights of Oberndorf. We just had a troupe of actors in tonight. They were supposed to have played at the church but since our organ is broken, they performed at the mayor’s house instead. The Christmas story is a familiar one but still rings music in my heart every time I hear it played or preached.

I wonder if the shepherds were on a peaceful little hill like this one when they heard the angel’s message? What would it have been like to have heard that message and then be able to go see the Christ child newly born? I have been working on a little poem. I think tonight, right here on this hill I will sit down and finish it. If I can sort it out tonight then first thing tomorrow I will give it to Herr Gruber and see if he can’t put it to music. We will need to have something for our Christmas since that organ still is not fixed. Let’s see…

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht
Die der Welt Heil gebracht
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt seh´n
Jesum in Menschengestalt
Jesum in Menschengestalt

Silent night? No. Not really. The guns are silent, but the troops… they’re having a party. I can’t believe this is happening. It is so surreal. Here I am, an obergefreighter sitting here in no man’s land sharing a smoke with a British corporal. Together we are watching my boys play his in football right on the ground that we were fighting and killing each other for just hours earlier.

This war had found itself a rhythm. They would barrage us and we would all take shelter in our trenches. Then they would up and run at us. We would shoot them down until they ran back into their own trenches. Then it would be our turn to have a go at the barrage and suicidal run. Back and forth both sides would take turns feeding ourselves into the meat grinder.

But not tonight. Not this Christmas. It all started when one of our divisions started making improvised candles and placing them atop their trench. The British stopped firing at that trench and it didn’t take us long to all have candles. Once their guns all went silent, so did ours. Then someone on our side started playing guitar. A few of their boys recognized the tune and joined in singing. Their words seem strange, my English is no good, but we all know the song. It is a German one, after all. Before we knew what was happening, men from both sides were climbing out of their trenches and shaking hands in the middle. So here I am. Sharing a smoke with a chap named Billy. There is something about Christmas that can bring peace even to this ugliest of war zones.

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht
Wo sich heut alle Macht
Väterlicher Liebe ergoß
Und als Bruder huldvoll umschloß
Jesus die Völker der Welt
Jesus die Völker der Welt

It doesn’t feel like Christmas. This is my first year ever of not being with family for the holidays. I love the view from my porch, but it just doesn’t seem right to see so many houses and buildings with no Christmas lights. And there is no snow on the ground. It is barely even cold out here. Back home about this time of the evening, we would all be piled into the car on our way home from the Christmas Eve service. What is normally a ten-minute drive will take them about thirty tonight as they meander through every culdesac and side street they can find to “ooh, aah, pretty” all the Christmas lights.

Not me anymore. A civil war fought by my neighbors to the south has sent refugees streaming over borders in their hundreds of thousands. God has called me to come and be here and do whatever I can to help. What can I possibly do that will make a difference to such insurmountable needs? I am not trained for this. I wasn’t ready for this. What can I possibly have to offer except… Him?

Silent Night, Holy Night
Mindful of mankind’s plight
The Lord in heaven on high decreed
From earthly woes, we would be freed
Jesus, God’s promise for peace
Jesus, God’s promise for peace

7 thoughts on “Silent Night

  1. This brought tears to my eyes. It is such a warm, personal, compilation of stories told by many different viewpoints, all centered around my favorite Christmas carol. Thank you for this most lovely story. It will certainly stay with me all through the Christmas Season. Jan

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