Traditional Christmas Songs are Usually About Jesus Being Quiet. Why?

Ever noticed how many Christmas songs focus on Jesus being quiet?  Our most traditional hymns seem to be enamored with describing a silent baby – and little else.  Here’s some examples:

Warning: this post might criticize some of your favorite songs.  You may want to turn back, now, if you’re terribly nostalgic.

1 – Silent Night

Let’s look at the lyrics of this song.

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.

So, this song is about Jesus being quiet and calm.  And a strangely bright night that is also very quiet.  (Why is it so bright at night?)  And why does that verse do little more than emphasize that Jesus was not making any noise?

When the song is over, I feel like I’m the only person in church who realizes that we just sang about a how calm He was.  For many people this is the most dramatic part of the service, but the song always leaves me confused and nearly asleep (due to the lullaby-ish melody).

2 – O’ Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem
how still we see the lie
Above they deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by

This song usually follows, or precedes, Silent Night, so I get to spend a good amount of time on Christmas Eve considering that Jesus was apparently born on an oddly quiet evening.  This time we’re singing about an entire city being peaceful and never entering REM sleep overnight. 

Of course, that song does move away from the extolling the virtues of quietness and into some theological stuff, but we still have to spend a decent amount of time singing about a lull in the air.

“He’s being quiet.  Someone should write a song about that.”

3 – Away in a Manger

This song has six verses.  The first two describe Jesus sleeping, quietly.  Then this happens:

The cattle are lowing
the baby awakes
the little Lord Jesus
no crying He makes

Everything was going just fine, until some thoughtless cow made noise near the manger.  But, don’t worry – Jesus was still not making noise!  Whew, that was a close one.

Christian theology teaches that Jesus’ birth was a miracle by which God became man and, in doing so, was able to offer redemption to the world.  But these songs are more interested in quiet children.  (Is it possible that these songs are just propaganda tunes written by parents of loud children?)

As you can see, it’s easy to spend half of a Christmas-themed church service singing about Jesus’ introverted behavior as an infant, but I can’t figure out why.

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