For over twenty years I sang or heard those words in the familiar Carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem: "How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given..." and I unthinkingly assumed that the phrase referred to the birth of baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
Then, when I was twenty-five years old, it was my privilege to observe the birth of our first child, Matthew; and it was that Christmas, as I sang those words, that I stopped and thought about them for the first time. Of all the possible adverbs I might choose to describe the birth of a baby, "silently" would definitely not be one of them.
It dawned on me that maybe I had been missing the point of the song; so I read the words carefully, and found that this old Christmas Carol had a lot more to teach me about the meaning of Christmas than I had ever imagined. Listen to the words:
"How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to 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."
These lyrics are not about the baby Jesus being born in Bethlehem; they are about the resurrected, life-giving Christ entering the human spirit of a person who puts their trust in Him. Although this supernatural entrance of Christ is invisible and silent, its effect is life-changing, because God comes to live in a human being. One of Jesus' names is Immanuel, which means God With Us. It is wondrous to realize that God wants to dwell in you! In fact, He created you with that very relationship in mind.
Jesus, by His death for us on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead, has already done all that is necessary to forgive your sins and bring you to God. Your part is simply to believe it, and surrender your life to Him. "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord; and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9-10).
If you want Jesus Christ to do for you, and in you, that which He came to earth to do, namely, forgive your sins and come to live in your spirit as God With YOU, the last verse of the song makes an excellent prayer to receive God's "wondrous gift."
"O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas Angel the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Immanuel."
Copyright 2003 by Larry Naselli