December 27, 2009 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
"How Silently, How Silently, the Wondrous Gift is Given"A primary part of our mission at Samaritan is to create and offer programs related to Family Wellness. Most of our programs teach the skills and habits needed to create and strengthen healthy relationships--between parents and children, spouses, parents and teens, friends, colleagues--any and all relationships. We teach these classes at churches, YMCA's, schools, businesses, and at our offices. There is one skill that we teach that participants in our programs have told us makes a world of difference in their relationships, once they have mastered it. This skill is the ability to stay calm and keep one's voice soft in the midst of a heated argument or conflict.
Everyone of us has done the opposite of this skill on countless occasions. When a situation or conversation becomes tense, our natural inclination is to become intense ourselves and to speak loudly as a way to try to be heard. The typical response when we feel like someone is not listening to us is to speak more loudly: A coach feels like her players aren't listening and so she begins to yell; a father feels like his children aren't listening, and so he gets angry and yells; spouses feel like they are not being heard and so they both begin to raise their voices until there are two people yelling and no one listening; a teenager's volume goes from zero to a hundred when she feels like no one is listening to her.
These examples show how much we all long to be heard, and yet at the same time they show how easily we can sabotage our efforts to be heard. Raising our voices when we do not feel heard pretty much guarantees the outcome we are trying avoid. The principle that we teach in our classes is that staying calm and keeping our tone soft is what will maximize our chances of being heard. A soft heart and a soft voice can almost always restore a break down in communication and connection that has been caused by hard hearts and loud voices.
Christmas is the incarnation of God's love through the soft heart and soft voice of the Christ child. Jesus entered a world just like our world today; a world of hard hearts and loud voices, a world of heated arguments and conflicts. The genius of God is that God did not send one more loud voice into the world to try and drown out all the other loud voices. Instead he sent the voice of an infant, the voice of Love into the world to gently soften our hard hearts and loud voices.
Silent Night is perhaps the most beloved Christmas carol because it softens our hearts every time we sing it, especially on church on Christmas Eve with just the candles lit. I am pretty sure there will never be a Christmas carol called, "Really Loud Night." It is in the silent and soft moments of this season that we most clearly feel God's love, as well as the love we feel for one another.
We at Samaritan wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas, filled with many quiet and soft moments of Love.
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