Is that your greatest wish this Christmas—for a silent night? Or, maybe just a moment of quiet to gather your thoughts (and your wits), before the next party, family gathering, shopping trip, or sugar-filled kid tantrum. Whether the child is yours, or someone else’s.

In this season of joy, we sing about a silent night, but the Christmas season can be anything but quiet. We celebrate in noisy crowds at work and home, watch tons of movies, and play a steady diet of Christmas music at home and in the car. Everywhere we go music blares to “put us in the mood.” I think if I hear Madonna’s “Santa Baby” one more time I’m going to…well…I’m not sure what I’ll do. But it won’t be pretty.

How can we keep Christ as the focus and true meaning of Christmas when we’re constantly inundated by meaningless noise?

This Christmas, or anytime we’re feeling rattled by the never-ending chatter, inside or out, Pastor Jon Courson suggests taking a “word fast” to reset our bodies and spirits. How? Turn the radio off in the car; take a walk, or exercise, without ear buds; spend a night with your family without a movie or music playing. We could even—GASP—refrain from talking ourselves.

Does this sound good? You may be nodding your head, but also thinking how implausible this would be. For while we crave silence, we also fear it. Why?

  1. Because we think if we don’t speak those all-important words, the world will fall apart.

“When I am quiet, I am genuinely helpless. After all, who will tell it like it is unless I open my mouth? Who will straighten out the situation unless I pontificate and proclaim my theories or vast understanding?

When like my Lord, who, when He was reviled, reviled not back, who, when He was questioned by Herod, spoke not a word in return, I am quiet, I am helpless. I must depend solely upon the Father for defense, for justification. And that’s scary” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary).

We also fear silence, because,

2. When it’s quiet, we see ourselves for who we really are.

“When the television isn’t blaring or the music isn’t playing, when the voices aren’t chattering, when it’s just me and my Lord in silence—suddenly, confronted with my flaws and hypocrisy, I realize I’m not as deep and spiritual as I like to think I am. My thoughts wander easily. My body gets restless physically. When I don’t feel the presence of God, it haunts me” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary).

So while we yearn for and desperately need silence, we also avoid it.

Why is it so important to pursue?

First of all, we’re constantly pouring out, especially at Christmas. We’re giving, helping, serving, and going to events we don’t necessarily want to in order to please our boss or someone we love. And it saps our strength! The best way for God to refill us is to get alone with Him–to worship, cry, or simply let Him hold us (even if it’s just a quiet walk around the block, or drive home from work). In doing this we open ourselves to hear His voice and be refreshed.

Even Jesus did this. During His years of ministry, after hectic times of teaching, healing, and conflict, Jesus withdrew for a quiet time with His Father. He also encouraged His disciples to step away. He is still calling His followers into times of silence and refreshing. Even, and perhaps especially, at Christmas.

Secondly, we need times of silence for God to give us perspective. In the cacophony of voices, we can get confused about what is true. The world is quick to tell us what to think about right and wrong! But when we get alone with God—when we enter His sanctuary—everything makes sense again (Psalm 73). Truth, after all, is not what man decides is true today, but what God says is true for all eternity.

Even though our noisemakers may differ a bit from believers in the past, they also suffered constant bombardment from the world, and had to choose to be still before the Lord. Those who were wise learned to be intentionally quiet. And we can do the same.

I desperately need this! And it is my prayer for all of us this Christmas. As we fast from noise in big or small ways; as we let the noise subside, inside and out; as we breathe in the Spirit of the living God—I pray all within us will become calm and bright, filling us once again with Christ’s empowering peace.