An oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines two contradictory words. The term comes from the Greek words oxy (sharp) and moros (dull.) So even the word oxymoron is an oxymoron!
Other examples of oxymorons include:
- Pretty ugly
- Jumbo shrimp
- Long shorts
- Plastic silverware
- Boneless ribs
- Dry ice
- Freezer burn
- Fresh frozen
- First annual
- United Methodist 🙂
The title of a popular Christmas carol could also qualify as an oxymoron: Silent Night. Has anyone experienced a holiday season that is quiet, holy, calm, and bright? In our frantic, frenetic, contemporary culture, such a concept sounds like a contradiction in terms.
First, there are the malls. Some people tell me that they actually LIKE waiting until the last minute to shop in crowded stores. These folk LOOK relatively sane, but I would not trust them to handle sharp instruments or operate heavy machinery.
The parking lots and stores are filled with the jolly sounds of cars honking, bells ringing, children crying, parents screaming, credit cards swiping, and cash registers beeping. The deafening din overpowers background Christmas music like Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer and The Redneck Twelve Days of Christmas.
(And if I hear Elvis singing Blue Christmas one more time, then I will run screaming into the woods!)
Some people avoid the mall madness by shopping online. However, this doesn’t avoid the increased decibel levels in our homes. There is the cheerful sound of children fussing and parents grumbling. The chief chef bangs pots and pans together in the kitchen. The resident engineer mutters over easy-to-assemble toys. Meanwhile, the TV and radio provide background noise.
Some misguided people come to church seeking sanctuary from the holiday storm. HAH! Good luck with that—let me know if you find it. We seldom get more than vague hints of a Silent Night in our congregational life. In fact, December is one of the busiest times of the church year. In addition to the normal full routine, there are banquets, parties, rehearsals, cantatas, and Christmas Eve services.
Silent night, holy night . . . not so much.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Despite the carol’s words, I doubt the first Christmas was a SILENT night either. The declaration of No room in the inn rang in Holy Couple’s ears. The sounds of the barnyard animals greeted them in the stable. The cries of labor and childbirth soon followed.
Then the angelic chorus sang loud enough to awaken all of creation. The shepherds crowded into the stable with a late night visit. And despite a carol claiming The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes, any first time parent knows better!
Christmas has NEVER been a Silent Night.
If you think about it for a moment, however, Christmas is filled with oxymorons such as:
- A virgin birth
- A human God
- A baby Savior
- Emmanuel: God with us
The Christmas story is the Gospel story—the story of the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who is head-over-heels in love with creation.
Matthew and Luke contain the traditional stories of Christ’s birth. However, the familiar words of John 3:16 proclaim the Lord’s purpose and plan: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I don’t wish you a silent night this year; however, I do pray that you experience a holy night—a sacred season in which you encounter God’s mercy, grace, forgiveness, joy, light, life, and love.
During December, we remember the reason for the season: Jesus the Christ who is the Savior of the World . . . and the Savior of our Souls.
Silent night, holy night, shepherds quake at the sight; Glories stream from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing Alleluia! Christ the Savior is born.