All is not calm, all is not bright…
One of my favorite hymns from childhood is “Silent Night” by the German priest Josef Mohr written in (or maybe before) 1816.
Needless to say, northern Europe in the early 1800’s was neither calm nor bright, nor holy, nor at peace, nor filled with love’s pure light, nor redeemed by grace.
There was a high infant mortality rate, crop failures, ravaging disease, and horrendous slaughter. Europe had had almost continuous, calamitous war for 25 years! No “calm” there.
Napoleonic troops and anti-French troops had ravaged back and forth. 558,000 French-lead soldiers died during the campaign into Russia. In 1813, over 600,000 soldiers fought in one battle alone at Leipzig, Saxony. As many as 110,000 were killed or wounded.
Approximately 1 million or more civilian died from the war. Total war deaths reached between 3 to 6 million! Then Germany as a confederation was created from parts of the former Holy Roman Empire, however, German nationalists assassinated leaders…
Speaking of assassinations, that takes us back to the time of Jesus’s birth in Roman Palestine under Herod the Great in about 4-3 B.C..
Not a time of love, peace and light either.
Nor was Britain at the birth of the Quaker movement (so dear to my heart). Strangely, not even the early Quakers waged peace, contrary to Friends histories and popular understanding! Many of the Quakers fought in the great slaughter of the English Civil War.
George Fox, who would later emphasize the peaceful way of Jesus, at one point urged the Puritan killer Oliver Cromwell to carry forth his holy war all the way to Rome!! “Let thy soldiers go forth…that thou may rock the nations as a cradle.”
Not at all like the cradled-manger of Jesus.
So much for “silent night, holy night”…
Instead, even with the Friends of Jesus, the Children of Light, we have an "ocean of darkness" at first…
Nor was America peaceful in the time of my own childhood, when in a small Nebraska village, we sang this beautiful carol, shining the God’s light out into the overwhelming darkness of fighting and killing…
Consider this powerful “Silent Night” meditative song by Simon and Garfunkel:
What a paradoxical contrast between the way of Jesus and the, too often, horrific way of us.
May we truly witness of the love and peace of God in this often Christ-less, unholy season.
In the Light,