I have to admit that every time I sing Silent Night, I get lost in a mystical, dream of what I imagine that holy night was. I imagine the stillness. I close my eyes and picture the barn where Mary and Joseph cradled sweet baby Jesus, smelling of fresh hay and little lambs bleating a C major chord. The new parents must have had a full meal in their bellies after their long journey and were snuggled in with their new child, all smiles and tears of joy. I imagine the inn's neighbors with flushed cheeks, stopping at one drink that particular evening and going to bed early. The only noise on the streets was from a few families happily shuffling by, glad this new census call gave them an opportunity for a family vacation. And our Lord! Our Prince of Peace! I imagine after his first few breaths, he latched easily onto Mary's breast. I picture the newly born Christ child falling asleep quickly in his mother's arms, calm and quiet.
But the truth is, this still, silent night is what I imagine because this is how I WANT all things "holy" to be. I want order. I want things to be tidy. I want everything to go smoothly and perfectly because that makes me feel comfortable. And when I'm really honest, I desperately want God's call for peace throughout Scripture to be a smooth and tidy process too.
But what if the Prince of Peace is not a silent night? What if the Prince of Peace truly is a crying baby, totally vulnerable to the world, completely dependent upon his mother's milk to survive, and absolutely unconcerned with keeping order?
The Scripture for the second Sunday in Advent speaks of peace. Isaiah says, The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)
Isaiah's particular picture of a peaceful world sounds poetic, but when I think about what it would actually take for a hungry sharp-toothed wolf to live harmlessly with a lamb, the steps to peace do not seem very orderly. What would it take for the Cary Millionaire to live with the Syrian Refugee family that just relocated to the Triangle last week? What would it take for the 12 year-old-boy with Cerebral Palsy to be included and welcomed to speak his mind just like every other citizen? What would it take for the pro-life voter and the pro-choice voter to sit down and share a Sunday night meal together, EVERY WEEK?
The way of peace is no silent night. Achieving peace today is going to take a radical lifestyle shift for Christians. We have tried empty prayers and handing out meals. It is time to take to the streets. Meet someone who makes you uncomfortable and become friends, real friends. It is past time we open our front doors and welcome in the modern-day Mary, wandering pregnant teen whose government forced her to move her family to an unknown town.
That last line of Isaiah 11:6 is perhaps the MOST unsettling in my quest for quiet: A little child shall lead them. This is what defies all of our imaginations. God took on flesh. God came to us as a newborn non-white baby to lead you and me in the way of PEACE—not order, not perfection, but the most radical peaceful thing of all: loving your enemies. I’m ready to sing Silent Night this year differently.
The child will lead us.