“Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.”
I’m not sure about you, but the moment I hear the song “Silent Night” I am instantly entered into a sacred space. There is an anointing on the song that is beyond most songs I know. The song makes me feel like I was there, on that sacred night, that our Savior was born. It boldly reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas, that it is the birthday celebration of the King of the World, Jesus.
There is a beautiful diversity to the song Silent Night, in that it is sung in about 300 (plus) different languages and dialects around the world. It is in fact sung on every human inhabited continent: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. Wow. Pause and picture that. First picture the beautiful ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of our world. Then picture Silent Night being sung in the diversity of these global locations. The unity present in this, stunning!
I have fond memories of when I was a little girl, singing it in my Native tongue, Faroese. I wonder what language you first learned Silent Night in, and/or have sung it in. It is an insightful thing to remind yourself of, as it speaks to the beautiful diversity of our world. I personally have heard it in Faroese, Danish, English, French, Spanish, Hawaiian, Dutch, Italian, Icelandic, Portuguese, Swedish, and Afrikaans. My encouragement to you is to listen to Silent Night in a diversity of different languages.
I tried looking for an ethnically accurate picture of the birth of Jesus to add to this post, and I struggled to find one. I remember as a little girl hearing the beautiful Christmas story. I remember the felt boards that were used, me sitting and listening intently as my Sunday School teacher shared the story. The baby Jesus I grew up learning about, looked just like me. Still to this day when I google baby Jesus, I find pictures that look like me.
Let’s add to this conversation by looking a little bit at the extended genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. It was yes, written to establish the Jewish identity and lineage of Jesus as the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Let’s though, look at it through the lens of ethnic diversity. For simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on the four women who were named, in addition to Mary. Within a Biblical ethnic context, Mary was an Israelite, and the other four were foreigners. Two were Canaanites, one was a Moabite, and one was a Hittite. In case you didn’t know, Canaanite is an ethnic catch-all term covering various indigenous populations. With these women named as part of Jesus’s lineage, it would be wise for us to stop picturing Jesus as a pale-skinned, baby, lying in a manager. Because baby Jesus, as much as I might wish it or think it, looked nothing like me.
In his flesh, baby Jesus embodied the ethnic (and racial) diversity that would mark His church. Jesus’s kaleidoscopic heritage points us to the day when every tribe and tongue will bow at His name. It points us to the vision that is given of the church in Revelation 7. It reminds us, that the color of our skin, the texture of our hair, the dialect of our speech, and the story of our heritage are important to God.
Like a stained-glass window catching the radiance of the sun, similarly, all our ethnic and racial diversity reflect the glory of Jesus. It is beautiful when we study the Bible through ethnic (and/or racial) diversity. So, this Christmas season, as you read the birth of Jesus, do not miss the glorious diversity of who He was. Celebrate it and thank God for it!
While also celebrating and thanking God for the ethnic (and racial and cultural) diversity that makes up our church. Let’s finish with a celebration of “Silent Night” in Spanish:
“Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor.
Entre sus astros que esparcen su luz
Bella anunciando al niñito Jesús
Brilla la estrella de paz
Brilla la estrella de paz.”
Maria Hansen-Quine, LASW, MSW, CSC
Hillsong Global Race Diversity and Inclusion Manager