When the first cry of the newborn Messiah trumpeted from that cattle stall in Bethlehem, four centuries of silence from heaven ended. And when it ended, it did so with a flourish! Angels sang, a king railed, a city was troubled, shepherds testified, cattle lowed, a prophet preached, saints rejoiced, astronomers inquired, and so on.
John’s gospel doesn’t give any information about the birth narrative of Messiah – and yet, in a telling way, he does. The disciple whom Jesus loved opens his record with the statement:
In the beginning was the WORD…
The Greek has it:
The exhaustive testimony of God. The reference library of the Almighty.
This is how the writer of Hebrews opens his account, following the formula of John:
On that Silent Night, Holy Night, while all the world in stillness lay and all of heaven held its collective breath, a mother spasmed and contracted and a baby’s cry split the night sky announcing to all of creation that God was with us. The Word had broken the silence.
God was ready to talk.
Once upon a time…there was a Silent Kingdom.
The people of this kingdom had been cursed to live their lives in muted silence.
Little girls grew up to never hear their daddies or husbands say the words, “I love you.”
Babies came into the world without crying.
Try as they might, they just could not laugh or hear the sound of laughter.
Soon they forgot how.
There was no such thing as singing and choirs and storytelling.
The silence was awful.
Over time, because sound was not heard, their hearing had become dull. Because no one remembered how to speak, even writing became a thing of the past since no one could converse about what was written.
There was no revelation, no news, no stories, nothing at all to report.
In time, they grew apart, everyone going their own separate way, living isolated from each other.
To be reminded of their deafness by being around others was too much to bear.
The kingdom was full of sadness, despair and loneliness.
The very oldest among them, however, a very, very old man, was the last one who could even remember what sound sounded like.
One evening, he was out gathering sticks for a fire that could not crackle and spit and hiss, when he spied a bird in a nearby tree, and the most amazing thing happened!
The very old man heard the sound and was so very stunned, he dropped the wood – and actually heard the clattering of the sticks as they spilled at his feet!
The old man ran to the nearest neighbor’s house – a very far run indeed – as fast as his very old legs could manage.
With each step he could hear as his feet pounded against the earth.
He so desperately wanted to tell everyone, not only WHAT he heard, but THAT he heard!
But the first neighbor could not hear his voice, he only saw his mouth move. This only frustrated the old man, so he continued on to the next house, then the next, but, sadly, it was the same wherever he went.
He didn’t know what to do.
He heard, and he wanted everyone to hear too.
The old man decided he would go back into the woods where he first saw the songbird.
He thought he might catch the bird and bring it into the village and the countryside.
What the old man did not know at the time, was a little girl followed him as he ventured back into the woods, quite intrigued by the old man’s actions.
When the old man got to the tree, he saw, to his great dismay, that the songbird had left.
He cried, “Little bird, come back!”
And when he said the words, the little girl heard!
The spell had been broken for her as well.
Then the old man understood.
It was not the songbird that broke the spell, but the tree itself!
You see, each and every generation had grown up in proximity to the tree, and could have discovered the secret, but only a few ever did.
The tree the old man and the little girl had found was an enchanted tree whose power could break the spell of silence every hundred years.
A bird would announce the day the spell was lifted and if someone was nearby to hear it, they could enjoy the sound either by themselves, or share its blessing with the rest of the village.
The old man and the little girl wanted everyone to hear!
Together they finally convinced all who would to come to the tree, and all who did could finally hear.
Those that would not be persuaded, however, lived in muted silence the rest of their days.
This Advent, give thanks that our Lord drew near and spoke the word of comfort and joy and life to our heavy-laden hearts – and that you’ve heard the glad tidings. Like the shepherds, go and tell everyone what you’ve seen and heard. Tell of the Tree of Life and His desire to set everyone free.
If you have ears to hear, hear what the Lord says, and do it.