“One Can Hear the Falling Snow” Christmas 2016

“One Can Hear the Falling Snow”   Christmas 2016

Rev. Jim Ryan

“Still, Still, Still” is a Christmas lullaby.  Youtube.com has several choices (some in the original German) if you would like to listen to it.  Here are its words

Still, still, still
One can hear the falling snow.
For all is hushed;  the world is sleeping
Holy Star, its vigil keeping.
Still, still, still
One can hear the falling snow.
 
Sleep, sleep, sleep
‘Tis the eve of our Savior’s birth.
The night is peaceful all around you
Close your eyes; let sleep surround you.
Sleep, sleep, sleep
‘Tis the eve of our Savior’s birth.

 

Dream, dream, dream
Of the joyous day to come.
While guardian angels without number
Watch you as you sweetly slumber.
Dream, dream, dream
Of the joyous day to come.

 

It’s easy to see that this song was likely written to settle nervous and hyper-expectant children on Christmas Eve.  Be that as it may, it is the first two lines that offer focus for this reflection,

Still, still, still
One can hear the falling snow.

 

If you’re lucky enough to live here in the north country, as in Wisconsin, you may know exactly what it means to hear the falling snow.  It’s when you stand out in the snow – in the middle of a deep snowfall – it’s night – nothing moves – no wind – all is calm – all is still.  In the stillness you can hear the falling snow.

This past March I escaped from the north to the south, to Spring Training in Florida, where two of my brothers live.  One brother and I did a 4 day, 5 baseball game marathon crossing the state in a 25ft camper.  It was a wish-fulfilling bucket list experience for 2 – should we say “dedicated?” – fans.

Memory tells me that one of those nights around the campfire (we stayed each night in a State Park campground) one of our conversations had to do with snow.  Considering that I had just left it all behind up north the topic had to come up.  We talked about snow, slush, ice, drifts, etc. – pretty much all the inconveniences of the white stuff.  But then a confession from my brother who grew up a Northerner but who has lived in the deep South for over 35 years.  He admitted that he actually missed snowfalls and that unofficial holiday of the North – the Snow Day.  He longs for those times of standing in a moonlit field in a foot and a half of snow and loving the quiet.  And as we all know you don’t just drop in and visit during a blizzard.  You have to live in it to hear the falling snow.

Still, still, still
One can hear the falling snow

Still is one of those words that is useful in talking about both time and space.  For example, still means, in time, “even now.”  Still also means, in space, “still here.”  Still opens for us dimensions that help us get behind the noise and the ruckus.  Still opens us to the backstory to all the activity and hyper-anticipations of Christmas.  Expectant children on Christmas Eve must sleep and dream to still their nerves and their impatience.  Clear-eyed adults must see through the noise to experience the stillness of the backstory.

We typically celebrate Christmas that is all about story and motion and journeys and stars and all the rest.  But to understand Christmas beyond all this motion and noise we must experience its backstory which is Incarnation.  Divine becomes human.  Word becomes flesh.  We – You and I – are connected to the Whole of Being.

This understanding requires one to have a notion of stillness for behind, between, and beyond the hectic pace, all its comings and goings, the nervousness of worry, anxiety, and even dread – this seemingly neverending hubbub – the backstory is hearing the falling snow.

A reassuring thing about experiencing stillness is that one gets to rest in the middle of it all, to stand in that moonlit field knee deep in snow – all calm, no wind.  One may withdraw from the hubbub to a time and a place of connection, a participation in the life that needs nothing more than the Word of God among us, the One who makes us whole.

If you have been blessed to be with one who is dying, maybe this blessing included stillness.  Upon dying, after all the care, all the doing for, all the worry to do just the right thing there comes the gift of stillness.

What is this stillness?  Is the spirit of this one’s life now hovering?  Is the bond of love seeking a deeper closeness between you both?  Is this presence of unity the blessing before the horrible terror of absence sets in?  Whatever it is, it happens in stillness.

To experience such a death is to be prepared for Incarnation.  Something needs to be the puzzle-solver, the settler of emotions run amok, the assuring one.  This something is the divine-human connection of Word become flesh.  The indicator that Incarnation takes root in us is to hear the falling snow.

Philosophers say that thinking is the experience of the divine present in us, and language is the way we trace this presence.  So often when we speak of divine presence it sounds like after-the-fact.  We reflect on an event, an occurrence that shakes us and we say, “God did that” or “God was present in that moment.”

To be still here and now, to experience the divine, to hear the falling snow takes willingness; it takes openness.  So we say the backstory of Christmas is Incarnation particularly so in our conviction that we, too, are Word become flesh.  You are Christ, I am Christ come into the world.

 

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