Silent Night

Son: Was the night when Jesus was born really silent?
Me: No, not really.
Son: Then why do we sing, Silent Night?
Me: That’s a good question. Take a look at the words to the song. It’s about the silence of the shepherds who were worshiping Jesus.
Son: Oh. (Pause.) It couldn’t have been silent anyway, with all those angels singing.

9 comments for “Silent Night

  1. I love your son’s response, Kaimi.

    I love the tune and overall message of “Away in a Manger”. However, “little Lord Jesus no crying he makes” is one of those lines that I come close to despising. My wife just laughs at me, but I can’t stand the dehumanization of Jesus – and that line epitomizes it all.

    Otoh, one of my favorite parts of the Church’s “Luke 2” video is that you can hear the flies in the manger. That touch adds such reality and means a lot to someone who was raised in farm country.

  2. When I was little I asked my mother why Jesus never cried, since I learned it in the song. I was shocked to learn that the song wasn’t really true.
    This is just one more reason to really study the gospel. When my kids start asking questions, I had better have a good, non-apocryphal answer. Especially since they still believe everything I say.
    I love your response about the shepherds being silent, though. Was that spur of the moment inspiration or had you actually thought of it before?

  3. I hate it that people conflate the idea of goodness with silence in children. All babies are good. What all parents want is an “easy” baby, quiet and undemanding. I doubt Jesus was an easy baby. On the other hand, when babies sleep there is something beautiful in their faces which just feels heavenly. I am sure that was there in full measure too.

  4. “The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes…”.

    So between the cattle lowing, the flies buzzing, etc., it wasn’t all that silent.

  5. That\’s a question I brought up at our last choir practice before our Christmas performance: \”What\’s with all the silent childbirth?\” I mean, you\’ve got \”Silent Night,\” you\’ve got \”O Little Town of Bethlehem\” with \”How silently, how silently / the wondrous gift is given\” — heck, that almost sounds like a Scientologist version.

    \’Course, the silence ends as soon as the Little Drummer Boy shows up…

  6. It is true, babies do not sleep quietly. Having said that new born babies sleep almost 24 hours a day. Just ask a mom who takes her quiet little child home after a day or so in the hosital only to find that the baby is anything but quiet. In fact it is hungry and crying what seems like all the time even though it is sleeping most of the time.

    On the other hand these lyrics are supposed to create a mood and evoke certain feelings. They are not meant to teach facts about how much this child might or might not have cried. The night was dark, no electricity, no radio, no TV, to ringing phones, no ipods, that seems pretty quiet to me. There wasn’t any fanfare until after the birth. No reporters outside keeping watch with their cameras and microphones. That seems pretty quiet to me. It wasn’t quiet when the angels showed up either. But, neither was it broadcast about immediately and that is how the wondrous gift was given silently so only a few selected people knew about it. Reverently, quietly that is what it is about.

  7. I know that the idea of these songs is to evoke a mood. The problem is that these mood setting songs become the sum total of what some people know about the history of the event. False images persist in our consciousness no matter how hard we try to purge them and replace them with a better understanding. Of course that understanding is probably false too, so there you go. We need prophets!

    Anyway, any birth without an epidural ain’t going to be silent.

  8. That certainly is true in my experience. However various instructors in the various kinds of natural child birth think otherwise, at least for those with a high pain threshold.

    Maybe we don’t need to understand the historical, factual perspective of the events. I can’t who remember who said it, but someone said we learn facts from history we but it is through fiction that we learn truth. So what is the truth that the poet wanted to express? When it comes to poetry and fiction your interpretation is as good as anybody else’s.

  9. >Anyway, any birth without an epidural ain’t going to be silent.


    My husband always wants to know more about the midwife.

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