A Time and Place to Sing ‘Silent Night’

And the Word became flesh and lived among us… (Jn. 1:14)

It was mid-December, and my friends at the jail asked if I would bring them a Christmas songbook. The following week I brought one with several choices. They immediately began to argue over which one to sing first until one guy said, “Stop wrangling. We’re going to sing them all. Let’s just start with ‘Silent Night.’”

They looked at me to lead them, but I said that one of them had to be the song leader. They began to look around the room, and then one of them said, “Shorty, get your [behind] out of bed. You’re our song leader.”

Shorty looked pretty sheepish about leading us, but the guys insisted. The moment he began, he took our breath away. He had one of the most tender tenor voices I’ve ever heard.

Pause for a moment to picture the scene. This wasn’t on Christmas Eve at church, when the lights get dimmed and everyone is dressed up in holiday attire. No, this was in a jail cell, with the lights glaring and everyone dressed down in their orange uniforms. Most of the guys were covered with tattoos and had been frequent flyers in the criminal justice system. This may have been one of the scruffiest choirs that have ever been assembled.

By the second verse, we all had stopped singing. We simply wanted to hear Shorty. By the third verse, everyone was crying.

Were the inmates crying for all they missed at home? Were they crying for mistakes they had made and the pain they had caused? Were they crying for the Baby Jesus to be born again in them?

Sometime during the month of December, I encourage us to find a time and place to sing ‘Silent Night.’ May we sing the carol into all the places, relationships, needs, hurts and desires where we need the presence of Jesus to be born again in our life.

If those inmates could sing that the Word, Jesus, became flesh in that place and in those circumstances, I trust that we can sing Jesus into all the places and circumstances where we need Him to be born again into ours.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Where do you need the presence of Jesus to be born again into your life and circumstances, your needs and desires, your losses and hopes?
  1. If you had been in the jail cell on the day I described, and if indeed—like me—you had cried along with the inmates, what would have elicited your tears?
  1. In your Christmas celebrations, what would it take for you to look for the presence of Jesus not just in the places you prepare and decorate but also in the unexpected, often messy, places?

2 thoughts on “A Time and Place to Sing ‘Silent Night’

  1. Helen Reynolds

    Well, this is different but Al and I went to St. Paul’s Christmas Eve service. At the end we sang Silent Night and it brought tears to realize that we had been singing that hymn together every year from our teen age years on. Sentimental memories. A bit different.
    Helen Reynolds

  2. A Blessed Christmas Day to you Father Nutter,

    Many’s the time, in Church, I’ll be listening to a song, and silent tears start to stream down my
    face. I can no more stop them than I could a broken water faucet. I’ve always attributed this to
    the absolute beauty of the song/hymn itself.
    After reading your story, I now am inclined to believe this occurs at times of tribulations in my life.
    I’m not consciously thinking of them, but Jesus has connected with me, as if to say, “I’m here my
    Child…” & that’s what I’m truly hearing in the hymn/song. Otherwise, why would I cry on one occasion of hearing it and not others? I don’t know ~ I ‘ve cried at the beauty of a sunset as well!
    Yours In Christ,

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