Thursday, December 24, 2009

Still Small Voice

Elijah was in a tough spot. Because he had proclaimed God's word, he was extremely unpopular with the powerful people in Israel. In fact, he was hiding out in a cave because a lot of people were trying to kill him. God knew that Elijah was feeling kind of down because it seemed like he was the only one left who really cared about God. God decided to give Elijah a very special experience—He told Elijah to go outside and stand on the mountain because He Himself was going to pass by. "Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave." (1 Kings 19:11–12)

Elijah was accustomed to seeing God work through powerful miracles. Elijah had been fed by animals and angels. He had proclaimed a famine that came to pass. He had seen the miracle of the widow's oil and meal that were never exhausted and had raised the woman's son from the dead. He had stood on a mountain in front of all the people when the fire of God consumed their sacrifice as proof that the Lord was still among them. Elijah was probably expecting a powerful wind, an earthquake, or a fire because he knew God was capable of all these things. Yet we do not always connect best with God through flashy miracles and big events. Sometimes the gentle whisper, the still small voice, is what touches us most, and that was the gift that God gave Elijah in his time of need.

Christmas Eve is my favorite night of the year. No matter where I am on Christmas Eve, I always attend some sort of late service that starts around 10:30 or so and ends around midnight. Towards the end of these "midnight mass" services, the people sing "Silent Night". Usually the lights are dimmed, and sometimes we light candles amongst the congregation. There, as I sing quietly in the dark, the sense of a still small voice comes upon me and I feel that God is truly among us. It is that moment when I most fully realize that Jesus is a very real, intimate, and beautiful part of my life, and I feel overwhelmed with love and gratitude because of that. At the end of the service we will stand and sing "Joy to the World" and my joy will be all the more powerful because it has been bolstered by the still small voice. The service could have been designed with nothing but loud and joyful songs as we rejoice in the savior's birth, but it's just as powerful to be still for a moment and really appreciate the love that we are celebrating.

There many passages in the psalms that advise us to shout to the Lord, to sing and dance, to play the trumpets, and to rejoice loudly. Still, there is a time for us to stop and be quiet and just realize the importance of God in our lives. Every once in a while, we need to clear out all of our fears and distractions and even our loud hymns of praise so that we can just be still and let God pass by our hearts. "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10) God will be exalted, and there's plenty of time for praise. But sometimes we just need to take a moment to be still and listen for the still small voice that tells us that God is here and He loves us.

Tonight at about 11:45 or so, I will be still and know that Jesus my savior has truly come to rescue me from darkness. I will hear the still small voice of God in my heart whispering his love for me. I will feel tears well up in the corner of my eyes, and I will feel peace as strong as any peace I have felt all year. In that one moment, I will know that no matter what happens around me, things will be right deep within my soul because God is there. And then I will be ready to stand and sing "Joy to the World" with all my heart.

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