Do you hear what I hear? Unless you’ve got dub-step “Jingle Bells” coming at you from one side, and “We Wish You a Reggae Christmas” from the other, then probably not.
It’s Christmas season in Papua, which means Peak Noise, particularly in the form of Pondok Natal, or Christmas booths, which blast almost nonstop Christmas music of any and every variety.
Papua, at least in our neighborhood of Pos 7, is already a noisy place. The Pondok Natal is overlaid on the usual cacophony of motorcycles revving, pigs squealing, kids shouting, funeral procession sirens, and construction noise that punctuates the air on Pos 7, our neighborhood. Add to that the Christmas fireworks and bamboo canons, and you are guaranteed there will not be such a thing as a “silent night, holy night” on Pos 7. Starting December 1, I can feel myself slowly morphing into the Grinch: “Noise! Noise! Noise! That’s one thing he hated! The noise!”
What is it about my soul that yearns for quiet, particularly at Christmastime?
I think in part is has to do with remembering Christmases of yore, when I could snuggle on the couch under a blanket, a fire crackling, and Christmas music (of my choosing, not my noisy neighbors’) playing softly in the background. It’s easy to contemplate the Christ child in quiet moments like that, and I long to recreate that feeling, which is nigh unto impossible in the tropics.
And yet there is something to be said for almost constant noise, in that when you have a break from it, you notice the quiet and relish it. This happened the other afternoon. We all became aware of the quiet that had descended; the Pondok Natal had ceased, the construction across the street stopped. It was just the breeze in the palm trees, and a beautiful sunset on display for us to enjoy. The light coming through the palm trees was almost supernatural, and we sat and basked in the quiet.
That holy moment of enjoying God’s creation – the sunset, the breeze, each other – was noticed because we had been subjected to constant noise, and then it was gone. That holy, beautiful moment might have gone unnoticed were it not for the contrast between noise and quiet.
And so I wait for it. Wait for the silence, wait for the Christ child. Isn’t that what Advent is all about? Waiting for the miracle, which in my situation, seems to be the miracle of quiet.