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Advent Day 1: Caves

Let's hear the stars do their talking

….This town closes down

The same time everyday Put out the smoke in your mind Let's put all these words away Lets put all these words away

Caves, Gregory Alan Isakov


Finding time for reflection in the midst of the Christmas chaos can be a struggle. If you’re looking for music that brings calm, rather than extra noise, Gregory Alan Isakov’s music has a quiet moodiness about it that is wonderfully soothing. ‘Caves’ isn’t actually one of his quietest songs (ironically), but the lyrics are a lovely ode to quietness.

Isakov depicts a scene that, in some ways, is not so different from the nativity described in Christmas carols like Silent Night and Away in a Manger - the stars, the silence, the town, and the cave. (Ok so the cave isn’t really a regular feature of the Christmas story, but apparently the ‘stable’ that we imagine may have actually been a cave.) Like Isakov’s song, these carols express a longing for peace and a rest from all the noise.

And yet I can’t help feeling that the night of Jesus’ birth wasn’t really very quiet at all. Whilst Bethlehem may have been ‘closing down’ on Mary and Joseph’s arrival, I imagine the scenes were far from silent. The local inns and houses were probably bustling, hence there being ‘no room’ for Mary and Joseph to stay. And unlike the carol suggests ('no crying he makes'), it seems highly improbable that Jesus was a quiet baby who didn’t cry. Smelly, scratchy hay is probably not the most comfortable bedding for a baby...

I guess in general though, most carols encourage rejoicing and singing, rather than quietness or silence, and so it makes sense that Christmas would be a noisy time of year, just like the biblical narratives suggests; there were angels singing and shepherds out gossiping about the miraculous child they had seen.

But after all the shepherds had left and baby Jesus was asleep, I wonder if Mary finally had a moment to sit in the quiet and reflect on everything that had happened. It says in Luke’s version of events that she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” I hope that you have some time this Christmas season, to “put all these words away” and ponder our real treasure: the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

Silent night, holy night All is calm, all is bright…

Christ, the Saviour, is born.


This is part of my blog series: "Unseasonal Songs: An Alternative Advent in Song Lyrics". You can find out more here.

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