Christmas: When God Refuses to Speak

Have you ever been speechless? Can you think of a single moment in your life in which you were so…

angry or…

happy or…

devastated or…


that you just could not find the words? I can recall a few moments over the past year in which I could not mutter a single word. I remember the lack of words I could place on the experience of getting a new job this year. I remember not being able to adequately put words together when Morgan and I had to put our dog down earlier this year. I remember the gibberish leaving my lips when Morgan and I finally closed on a house after searching for months this year. I remember Morgan’s grandmother passing away in August after a hard-fought battle with Alzheimer’s and how little words meant in that season. I can recall being completely speechless this year.

Can you?

Now, can you recall a moment in which it felt like you could no longer hear the voice of God? How about a moment in which you cried out and begged for some Divine response to some disorienting question and did not hear a peep? Or, maybe you gave up on the idea that God speaks at all a long time ago.

My hunch is that many of us–if we decide to be brutally honest with ourselves–could admit to saying that we have experienced silence from God. And, my hunch is that for many of us this holiday season might actually make that silence even more palpable than ever before. All of the celebration, the church services, the gift-exchanging, the traditions, and the sentimentality of it all can–perhaps–just accentuate the silence(s) we have experienced. Perhaps, you have lost a loved one this year and are in the process of grieving. The happiness and cheer of this holiday season might make you even more aware of the silence you feel within yourself. Perhaps, you have other major life events happening that have rendered you utterly speechless and this holiday season simply prevents you from finding the words you might be searching for. Perhaps, Christmas just makes you feel isolated and forgotten because all you can truly hear is…the silence.

Christmas is actually a perfect season for those that feel like God no longer speaks.

The central claim of the Christmas story (in my opinion) is that God becomes a human being. God enters the world…God becomes Flesh…Jesus is born…God becomes incarnate…there are so many ways we could make this claim. But, this reality seems to be far more than some theological statement. We are talking about a paradigm shift in how we can understand who God is through this event (the incarnation). The Christmas story is radical, paradoxical, confounding, disorienting, perplexing, and stupifying.

We celebrate the event of God becoming a human being during Christmas. But, the way in which God becomes human is quite unexpected. God enters the world not as a fully grown human being capable of leading some religious or political uprising. Rather, the Christmas saga is all about God entering the world in the same way that each and every one of us enters the world. God is born into the world.

God enters the world and must depend upon the care, the warmth, and the love of others (Mary and Joseph) to survive. God becomes completely dependent upon others for Life. The Christmas proclamation is that we find God in a manger, wrapped in clothes, depending on others to stay alive. Christmas is all about God, the infant.

On the surface, the Christmas narrative presents itself paradoxically with the mere fact that we find the “all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present” God becomes powerless, void of knowledge, and confined to a single time and space in the cosmos. Sure, people try to do some theological gymnastics to maintain that God still retains God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence due to the triune Godhead or something like that. But, these theological gymnastics take away from the central paradox of the Christmas message. When God enters the world, we are not being deceived. Jesus was an infant incapable of speech, a child without knowledge, and a powerless boy. God was no longer “up in the sky” pulling the strings. The fullness of God was in the manger, breastfeeding on Mary, needing the warmth of others just to stay alive. That is a radical, paradoxical, and disorienting concept.

But, the paradox goes deeper.

The claim that God becomes an infant encapsulates a truth that resonates so deeply with me that I am drawn deeper into the Christmas story. The word ‘infant’ comes from two Latin words (in + fans) and it literally means “not speaking.” An infant is that form of humanity that is completely incapable of speech. Infants cannot speak. We find God incapable of speaking in the Christmas story.

The Divine Word becomes incapable of uttering a single word. The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us, but in so doing becomes completely speech-less. On Christmas, God becomes silent. On Christmas, God refuses to speak.

This speechless, silent, and infantile God decides to become something which I believe all of us can relate to in the Christmas story. Every time we encounter a moment in which we become speechless, perhaps we are bumping up against some event that is incredibly Divine. Every time we brush up against a moment in which we are so angry, or happy, or devastated, or excited and incapable of muttering a word, perhaps we are being invited into the precise space the silent, speechless, and infantile God resides. Each time we cry out and beg for an answer from God, perhaps we are actually leaning into the Word which is without any words at all.

Maybe this Christmas is your first without a loved one and you are struggling to find the words to express how you feel. Perhaps, the paradox of the incarnation is that God joins you through that very speechlessness. Maybe this Christmas is nothing more than a reminder that God has become silent in your life. Perhaps, the mystery of the Word becoming wordless in this world could be a reminder to you that God knows the silence more intimately than we could ever know. Maybe this Christmas has left you feeling isolated and forgotten because of the silence in your life. Perhaps, the miracle of God refusing to speak is the very event that brings you the peace you are seeking this Christmas season.

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