“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.”
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Silence. In our hectic, pre-pandemic days, how often did we long for a few moments of silence? Time without the constant noise of traffic, cellphones and laptops, “talking heads” sounding off on TV, or people yelling, gossiping, chattering away?
But then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and it became easy to feel locked away, immersed in a sea of silence. Without our accustomed noise and human interaction, silence could leave us feeling empty, disconnected, even lonely.
This “COVID silence” is not the silence we find in Dennis King’s 2019 photograph. Instead, Dennis shows us our beloved Trinity Church just before dawn, while the snow is untouched. The light draws us toward the church door. All appears peaceful, still, . . . and silent. This silence anticipates the dawning of a new day; it is full of possibilities and hope, rather than being an empty, soundless void. It is a silence that can quiet our senses and allow us to feel God’s presence.
The Bible shows us examples of such “listening silence.” In Psalms, we find, “For God alone, my soul waits in silence” (62:1), and “Be still and know that I am God” (46:10). Jesus often removed himself from the crowds to commune with his Father in a still, quiet place. God didn’t come to Elijah in the wind or earthquake or fire, but rather in a “sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12 NRSV). Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that “silence means nothing other than waiting for God’s Word and coming from God’s Word with a blessing.”
This Christmas season we will join our voices with our Trinity family to sing “how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n.” Just as the gift of God incarnate came to us “silently” on a still, star-filled night so many centuries ago, may God and God’s word continue to come to us whenever we enter into humble, listening silence. Let us walk through those doors of Trinity together and leave the remnants of “COVID silence” behind us!