‘How silently the wondrous gift is given’
One Christmas in London Phil Yancey went to hear Handel’s Messiah. He says: ‘I’d spent the morning viewing remnants of England’s glory – crown jewels, a gold mace, the Mayor’s gilded carriage…such images must have filled the minds of Isaiah’s contemporaries who heard the promise, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed” (Isaiah 40:5 KJV). No doubt the Jews thought back to the glory days of Solomon when “silver and gold [were] as common…as stones” (2 Chronicles 1:15 NIV 2011 Edition).
The Messiah who showed up, however, wore the glory of humility…The God who could order armies and empires like chessboard pawns emerged as a baby who…depended on a teenage couple for shelter, food, and love. In London I caught glimpses of the way rulers stride through the world: with bodyguards, trumpet fanfares…bright clothes…flashing jewellery. [A head of state] had recently visited the U.S. with 4,000 pounds of luggage…2 outfits for every occasion…a personal hairdresser…and a host of other attendants…God’s visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants and nowhere to lay the newborn King but a feed-trough. A mule could have stepped on him!
The sky grew luminous with angels, yet who saw that spectacle?
Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks of others, “nobodies” who failed to leave their names.’
The story inspired an Episcopal priest visiting Bethlehem in 1865 to pen the familiar words: ‘How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts of human hearts the blessings of His heaven. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin; where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.’
‘You will find a baby…lying in a manger.’ Luke 2:12 NIV (2011 Edition)