It’s a noisy time of year, isn’t it? Certainly, there are a lot of beautiful sounds of the season in the carols, bells and laughter. However, once we layer on the multitude of seasonal movies and television programs, Santas ho-ho-hoing, the revelry of parties, and a plethora of endless retail commercials and radio ads, we have quite a cacophony. In the midst of it all, I sometimes find it hard to hear my own heart beat.

I’ve found my mind drifting toward thoughts of silence – longing for it, really. While I love all the beautiful sounds of the season, I am a person that needs to re-center in silence. It’s precisely at this time every year that I’m struck by what a “wordy” society we are and how we do everything we can to fill the silence with something, anything, that takes the focus off the discomfort of the void. After all, in our silence we are alone with our thoughts – thoughts which many of us don’t even want to entertain, let alone deal with. This is a shame, because through the years and a lot of work with God, I’ve found that it’s within the silence that He dwells. 
I recently received a small book by Henri J. M. Nouwen entitled The Way of the Heart that is so profound. He devotes an entire section of the book to the discipline of silence and he speaks about it being the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit:
Silence guards the inner heat of religious emotions. This inner heat is the life of the Holy Spirit within us. Thus, silence is a discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive.

He goes on to offer a quote from St. Diadochus of Photiki to illustrate:
When the door of the steambath is continually left open, the heat inside rapidly escapes through it; like-wise the soul, in its desire to say many things, dissipates its remembrance of God through the door of speech, even though everything it says may be good. 

I have the mental image of myself never slowing down to be silent, but speaking forth “good things” in great number; all the while, there is a sweet and fragrant wisp of smoke escaping through my mouth, the remains of an inner fire untended. If I never stop to be silent, basking in the warmth of the fire and stoking it to maintain its flame, what good are my words to the world?
Is it not through the “still small voice” that God speaks most loudly? His plea for us to “be still and know that He is God” is for our benefit, because in the stillness and silence, away from distractions and the sound of our own voice, we can hear Him best. And, in this season, we are reminded that it was in the silence of night, away from the hustle and bustle of people and commerce, that His human voice was first heard in the cry of a baby boy.
In the midst of our “jingle bell” world, we can – we must – live “silent night” lives, keeping our inner flames burning bright for ourselves and those that will be drawn to its warmth.