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December 23, 2012

MAY: Silent Night

> SOUTHERN INDIANA —  EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final in a multicolumn series about Christmas. Read past columns at

The headline of the London paper said it all. “Yule Be Sorry.” Last Christmas the Victoria Centre mall in North Wales continued its holiday tradition of inviting choirs of school children to sing carols in the evenings leading up to Christmas. The schools were allowed to raise money from tips donated by the mall patrons.

Twenty-nine children, ages 6 through 11, from a school in Llandudno, North Wales, took their place in the open area outside the shoppes. Accompanied only by a CD played on a small stereo, the students sang with all their hearts. And apparently with all their volume.

Three store owners complained to the mall security and asked that the students be made to stop singing. Two mall guards approached the students and asked them to leave. When headmaster Ian Jones refused, police were called to intervene. After a brief confrontation with Jones, the police chased the students, their parents and the holiday spirit from the mall.

When asked, a perfume shop owner said that the children were so loud their customers had to shout to make their requests known. A shoe repair store worker said that the children could be heard even over the sounds of their machinery. The children, like so much of the season, were just too loud. Ironically, one of the carols sung by the children was “Silent Night.”

While the incident was handled poorly on several levels, most of us can relate to wanting a little more peace and quiet through the holidays. Amy Grant, whose life in the Christian and country music spotlights has been anything but calm, expresses the sentiment in a song she co-wrote with Chris Eaton.

“I need a silent night, a holy night; to hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise. I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here, to end this crazy day with a silent night.”

If the truth be told, it probably wasn’t a very “silent night” when Jesus was born either. Bethlehem was the center of a pretaxation census that had people from all around returning to the husband’s place of birth. Estimates guess that the small village’s streets were at least four times as crowded as normal. Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in any of the inns.

Barns filled with animals are rarely quiet; neither are streets filled with people who are about to be taxed by an oppressive government. The cries of a hungry child pierced the darkness. People were away from their homes when they didn’t want to be. A military presence patrolled every street and alley. Long lines were formed by impatience, irreverent, subjugated citizens. Who in the world could have a silent night under those conditions?

Shepherds whose night was interrupted by the boisterous celebration of a host of angels.

Wise men who faithfully followed a star and verbally sparred with Herod.

Mary who in spite of the commotion treasured all these events in her heart.

Maybe silence isn’t about a lack of noise. May God grant you the blessing of a “Silent Night.”

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast.

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