Before Incarnation Comes the Silence

Mary and Joseph on the way to Bethlehem

We associate the Christ Child’s arrival with angelic pronouncements and nighttime fanfare: the heavenly hosts singing and sending brilliant disturbance into the lives of shepherds, townspeople, and even great kings.

However, as we approach our celebration of the great event, let us consider its silent aspect.

Before holy announcement opened the skies, the darkness sparkled quietly with distant stars. Shepherds could hear the normal sounds of wind moving across the landscape and creatures sleeping or creeping. But nothing remarkable or new. They endured the long hours this night just as they did every other night. Any break in the silence was made by their own low conversations around a campfire.

Elsewhere, Mary and Joseph bedded down as best they could in a shelter made for animals. They listened to a cow and their donkey rhythmically munching hay. Perhaps they heard voices of people in the distance. But Mary was intent on saving her energy for the childbirth that was imminent; Joseph did his best to create calm around his young, vulnerable wife. They had kept each other company through a long, difficult journey and cold nights along the way. Most of the time, they were too weary at day’s end to talk much.

Before Incarnation comes the silence. It is the silence of normal life, of enduring hardship, of waiting for what is promised. Poor shepherds waited for the winter to end and hoped that life might get better. Mary and Joseph waited for a birth, not knowing what it would do to their not-so-normal lives. They knew it was good news, an answer to their ancestors’ prayers and hopes.

In these final days before Christmas Day, may we appreciate the silence of our own waiting and enduring. We do not know how Christ’s presence in us will interact with the “normal” of the days ahead. We concentrate now on creating a calm space in ourselves—a space that will welcome the Christ life anew. Every day will bring its unique opportunity to welcome Jesus. How we welcome him will be enhanced or hindered by how we keep our hearts in the stillness beforehand.

Dwell in your silence. Create calm wherever you are. Prepare a welcoming place for the birthing of love.

About Vinita Hampton Wright 176 Articles
Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

9 Comments on Before Incarnation Comes the Silence

  1. For me these beautiful thoughts should not be confined to Advent 2018. They remind me of how to live my life daily, because I want to live mindful always of Christ’s coming in 2019, and indeed in every moment in between. Thank you!

  2. Dear Vinita,
    Thank you for all your reflections through the years. Always thought provoking and helpful. May your Christmas be full of Joy & many blessing for your work be given. A.M.D.G.

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