Music is shaped by silence. Now, that may not make much sense to you right now. It would seem to be more obvious that music is made of the voices of instruments and people. And that is true. Without those voices, music doesn’t exist. We hear their voices but what gives shape to the music are the small slices of silence between the notes.
Consider something as simple as the kick drum. It really only has a single note to speak. But the boom/silence rhythm of the kick drum creates a foundation for all the other layers of sounds that follow it. We find similar beats of silence throughout the Biblical narrative.
For our Christmas series this year we’re going to consider four specific beats of silence. Three of them are directly connected to the birth of Christ and one comes a bit later. Those beats of silence give us space to listen, ponder, and rest.
The first moment of silence is found in Luke’s account. “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.” (Luke 2:8, NLT) It may not seem to be an obvious moment of silence so let me paint a picture. I always imagine the flock in a shadowed valley with brilliant stars overhead. The sheep are still and settled for the night. Some shepherds quietly stand at the perimeter while others sleep. It is a moment of peace and calm.
We know what comes next. But at that moment, just before the angels appear to proclaim the good news and sing loud praise, all is quiet, normal, and at peace. Have you ever noticed that God often works that way? There are only a few instances when divine interaction followed loud requests. But there are many times when God shows up during the normal and mundane times of life. Consider that time when Abraham and Sarah were doing life around their home and three men walk up. Other similar accounts include Noah, Gideon, Moses, David, Mary, Peter, James, John, Matthew, and even Saul. Moments of normal everyday life punctuated by the presence of God.
Human lives are so wrapped up in cause and effect that we tend to do things to encounter God. But faith isn’t based on cause and effect. In a bit of a difficult passage, Paul explains it best. The Message translation puts it this way, “But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying? The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us.” (Romans 10:6–8a, The Message)
While I enjoy worshipping, praying, encouraging in fellowship with others, I find for myself that those close encounters with God most often happen in moments of silence. Sometimes even when my thoughts are on the mundane and common things of life.
The shepherds on that silent night weren’t expecting what came next. Maybe they were looking into the heavens and pondering deep things. But more likely they were considering where to pasture in the morning or where to find water. They weren’t actively listening for God’s voice as much as for the footfalls of predators and the settled-ness of the flock.
My encouragement for you is to rest in faith. Find those quiet times where listening is easier. But also know that God can and will speak to your heart during the everyday things of life.