Silent Night

I grew up in a loving, unique, at times hilarious, secular, sort-of-Jewish family (my dad was Jewish, my mother Finnish).  We acknowledged Hanukah, and we also celebrated Christmas.  We always had a Christmas tree, which my dad dubbed, “the Hanukah bush,” and we excitedly exchanged presents each Christmas morning.

For the first eight years of my life, Mom and Dad did a decent job selling my younger brother and I the Santa Clause spiel.  However the charade awkwardly derailed when I was 9.  My brother and I woke up early Christmas morning to find that Santa had delivered nothing.  I cautiously crept into my folks’ bedroom to share the bad news: we’d been forgotten.

Turns out Dad had been at an impromptu company Christmas party the night before (he was a liquor salesman) and didn’t arrive home until everyone in the house, including Mom, had long since gone to bed.  Apparently it was his duty to set up all the Santa gifts, but (likely from having one too many with the boys) he forgot.

“The keys to the car are on the chest of drawers,” he mumbled. “Check the trunk.”

I collected the keys and led little brother outside our apartment into the parking lot.  We walked to the car and I popped the trunk.  My suspicions, which had been growing for a few years, were immediately confirmed–of course there was no Santa!  Nonetheless we gathered the new toys, carried them inside, placed them beneath the tree, and then tore into them like nothing ever happened.

Despite my secular upbringing deep down inside I knew there had to be more to this Christmas thing than just a mythical chubby fellow with a white beard bearing gifts.  Each year in school we would sing Christmas carols of the spiritual variety.  This could never be accomplished today due to political correctness, but quite frankly some of those songs really stuck with me—particularly, Silent Night.

The following Christmas I decided to go caroling in our apartment complex.  I enlisted my brother to accompany me.  In no time he picked up the words as we went door to door singing, Silent Night. Smiling neighbors opened their doors as the two of us performed.  I didn’t exactly know what the lyrics meant, but I certainly believed them more than I ever did Santa Claus.  Greetings were exchanged.  Cookies and cocoa were offered.  It was wonderful.  I went to bed that night with the song swirling in my head.

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright


Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight

Glories stream from heaven above
Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born.

God used this beautiful hymn to stir my heart and give me hope.  I had just endured the worst period of my young life; in September one of my best buddies had been fatally struck by a car; I had witnessed the aftermath.  I so wanted to believe there was a God who could save me and assure me life in heaven.  Silent Night was a seed that eventually brought faith and love into my life 10 years later, when I finally surrendered to the Savior.

May I encourage you to experience God’s love during this season by singing and listening to the real songs of season, all the more so if you are raising young children.  Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph are cute, but incapable to providing what a longing heart needs—Jesus.

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Brian Sussman

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  1. Wonderful story Brian, I’m glad you found your Savior. I found Him at a youth retreat my parents forced me to go to. God works in wonderful ways. Merry Christmas!

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