Spirituality for Today – December 2007 – Volume 12, Issue 5

A Holy Christmas

By Rev. Mark Connolly

Image of a silhouette of baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph on either sideThis month we celebrate the most important day in the history of the world: the birthday of Jesus Christ. Theoretically, a lot of us have been involved in Christmas shopping, sending of Christmas cards, getting arrangements for family reunions, all of which is wonderful. But on a personal basis, this month should find each one of us deepening our relationship with the son of God who was born in a stable and died on a Cross. Christmas has to be made sacred. Christmas has to be made holy in your own personal way. Let me give you an example.

Everyone has heard the beautiful Christmas hymn Silent Night. All of you can sing it or recite the words. "All is calm, all is bright, round yon virgin, mother and child". That song has been sung ever since it was written in 1818. It is a song basically that possibly could have been buried in history and never heard by any one of us. The story is simply this, in a small parish in Oberndorf, Austria, the Christmas Mass was a major event in that parish. And two men one known as Father Moore, a catholic priest, and a lay person by the name of Franz Gruber had written a hymn that was never played or never heard. It was written so that the majestic organ in this small church could play this unusual hymn "Silent Night". But even to this day no one knows what happened. The organ broke down totally. One individual walked into the middle of the sanctuary of this church in Austria with a small guitar and instead of the thunderous organ which the congregation hoped to hear, he played silent night with a guitar.

This song silent night came into existence in the strangest of ways and has been written about by spiritual writers stressing the theme that oftentimes a tragedy can lead to a triumph. Most musicians feel that if this song had been played on this tremendous organ it would never have conveyed the feeling of silence and beauty as it does when played on a guitar.

The story of Silent Night and the breakdown of a major church organ is a story of someone who was not overcome by adversity.

Each one of us during this Christmas season has been running and running to make Christmas happier for many people in and out of our family. But now that the great burden of the shopping time is over, we do have this last opportunity to make it more spiritual as Christ wanted it to be when He came into Bethlehem. The famous Abbott Marmion, a Benedictine monk, made a wonderful contrast between the majestic church organ and the simple guitar in the story of Silent Night. He said, the simple guitar is a simple way of becoming more meditative and more contemplative. He said, inasmuch as our whole life is surrounded by all kinds of noises and in our life it is the loudness of our society, the noises that engulf us from all sides, it is extremely difficult to contemplate and mediate. If you go back into the year 1650, you might remember there was a great philosopher by the name of Blaise Pascal that coined the expression, "all man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone"

When you think of the whole first Christmas scene, the shepherds were quiet, the people around the stable were quiet, the Wise Men were quiet. All were contemplating the birth of God's son who came into the world. And each one of us, if Christmas is to become more spiritual, has to take a segment, four or five minutes out of the 1440 minutes God gives us, just to think of why we buy gifts, why we send Christmas card, why we have these family reunions at Christmas. All of this reminds us of what Christ did for us by coming into our world at that first Christmas. The whole world has heard about the birthday of Jesus Christ. Called by Arnold Toynbee and other great writers, "the greatest event in the history of civilization", we all know the material value of it, but all of us must collect our thoughts, keep our minds serene and meditate and reflect on this event, the birth of Christ. This is the same Christ whose values we imitate today. The value of charity, the value of compassion the value of love. If we meditate, if we pray, those values become very real in our lives and they make Christmas more meaningful for ourselves and for others.