We are in the third week of Advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin for “to come”. The symbolism of the season is our waiting, our expectation for Emmanuel (Emmanuel is Hebrew for "God With Us"). We are in the season of “waiting for God to come and be with us”. Contemplative Christians like to wait in expectation for God within us - to lead us. Many Christians believe this indwelling spirit occurred first at Pentecost when the spirit of God rested on the apostles.
The eight nights I spent in Israel was a great occasion for me to celebrate our contemplative manner of worship. Whether at the Mount of Beatitudes (where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount) overlooking the Sea of Galilee or the 1600 year old Church of the Holy Sepulcher which contained the traditional sites of Calvary and the tomb of Christ, I spent much time in silence. Whether I was standing in the ruins of a the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus proclaimed he was the Bread of Life, or where I sat in a cave near a wide open sheep field in Bethlehem, the site that celebrates the Angel of the Lord delivered the good news of the coming Christ to the lowly Shepherds, it is near silent there. In these moments, I communed with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit...and found truth. Truth being holy silence.
We don’t all believe the same things. But, we just choose to concentrate on the what we have in common. One of those those commonalities is our pursuit of the truth as communicated to us by God (in scripture, contemplation, people, circumstances). But, between all those truths that we are taught, we find silence. Silence is the foundation from which all truth comes - stillness was there first. It is the blank page on which the words are written. The fabric that holds the pattern. Everything springs from, and is contained in, the stillness.
Creation itself came from the silence: Genesis 1:1 talks about “the Spirit of God hovering over the still waters”. Later in scripture, the Israelites waited in expectation for the arrival of the Messiah during a long period of silence lasting centuries - they were waiting for the Advent of Emmanuel. Emmanuel, the Messiah, our Christ, was born during the "silent night" after this long period of quiet waiting. Let’s use this season to remind us of the importance of quiet or silent anticipation of God with us, Emmanuel. But also let us celebrate the silence that exists within (and between) each of those within the body of believers.