Posted tagged ‘Advent’

It Just Would Not Be Christmas Without Him

December 29, 2017

Dr. Steven J. Callis

 

These recent weeks have been filled with shopping, seasonal music, pageants, programs, Christmas goodies, cantatas, lights, trees, decorations, special parties and meals.  Thinking about family traditions of the season, complete this thought:  “It just would not be Christmas without…”

Presents.  Based on the time we spend shopping and wrapping, and the register in the checkbook, this is a huge part of the Christmas celebration.  At some point in life we make the transition to finding more pleasure in the giving than in the receiving.  Either way, the gift exchange is crucial.

Music.  Christmas songs have a way of lifting our spirits and putting a smile on our faces.  From the sentimental “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” to the hilarity of “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” song writers have collectively expressed the desires of our hearts and the merriment of the season.

Christmas Tree.  For most of us, Christmas morning is centered around the tree, covered with lights and ornaments and special decorations.  Beautifully wrapped presents find their place beneath it.  Until that time, we enjoy moments of gazing at the twinkling lights in anticipation of what is to come.  Such as it was, even Charlie Brown just had to have a tree.

Foods and sweets.  I remember my grandmother’s annual baking of her Christmas divinity and her delicious chocolate fudge; what a treat.  Will you enjoy the traditional Christmas ham again this year?  My choice never reaches the table, but those Italian Christmas trees always sound good to me (pepperoni pizza slices!)

My dad always enjoyed giving ‘gag’ gifts at Christmas, and blaming it on “St. Nick” or “The Jolly Fat Guy,” or “Santa.”  We have tried to continue the tradition, but Christmas somehow is not quite the same without my dad and his pranks.  Oh, how he loved the Christmas season!

In reality, however, it is Christmas even though dad is no longer with us.  Believe it or not, we can have Christmas without the music, and the presents, and the festive decorations, and the goodies, and the gags.  The reason it is Christmas is because Jesus was born.  God chose to lay aside His “God-ness” and take the form of a servant, teaching mankind how to love.

He still comes into our crowded, frustrated, confused, world that is bent towards egotistical living, selfish motives, and ungodly intentions.  He still chooses to live right in the midst of the messes and crises and fears of your life, guiding your steps and thoughts to the extent that you allow Him to do so.

I remember times of my childhood that we would tear open the gifts in a matter of only a few minutes, and then I would sit back and briefly experience the empty feeling that comes when I realized that the anticipation far outweighed the gifting.  I did not realize at such a young age the reason for such a let down, and I quickly ignored it ands began playing with the presents and calling friends on the phone to see what they received for Christmas.  Looking back, however, I know the reason for the emptiness: there is one place in each of us that only Jesus can fill.

Far too many people will awaken on Christmas morning and attempt to have Christmas without Jesus.  They may find temporary satisfaction, and a passing form of happiness; but He is the one who makes Christmas real.  In Christ is lasting joy and peace.  It just would not be Christmas without Him!

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Things to Do while You Wait

December 11, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

WAIT! …So, how did you do?  Generally speaking, our society performs poorly when it comes to waiting.  During the summers of my college days, most of the correspondence with my girlfriend (the lady I eventually married!) was by written letter; addressed, stamped, and mailed via USPS.  By the time it reached her two or three days later, any news it contained was past news!

The amazing development of electronic mail made it possible to for people communicate more quickly.  Then along came cell phones and text messaging, and e-mail became the new snail mail!  If we do not receive a response to our text within a couple of minutes, we become antsy.  We do not like to wait!

Nevertheless, we are forced do it several times everyday.  Shopping lines, traffic lights, health facilities, restaurants, medical test results, television commercials that interrupt our favorite shows…as much time as we spend waiting, one would think we might be better at it than we are.

In fact, it has been estimated that the average person spends seven years of life waiting!  Can you imagine that?  So, what do you do while you wait?

Many people go to their trusty, handy cell phone.  In a doctor’s office waiting room this morning I noticed that more than one half of those waiting for their name to be called were using their electronic devices.  Were they playing games, sending messages, or maybe searching the internet?

I often take something with me to read, but today I decided to leaf through a magazine that was provided by the doctor’s office.  I have never really looked closely at a People’s Magazine, so this was an opportunity to do so.  After several pages I realized that I was already familiar with most of the information I was seeing.  I glanced back at the cover and saw the date:  December 4, 2007!

And most of us have waited patiently (or not!) at a green traffic light for the person in front of us to look up and see that the red light had changed. It causes me to wonder if the field of chiropractic will become much more lucrative and in demand in the near future because of how much time we spend looking down or hunched over peering into that small handheld screen.

The Christmas season – Advent – is a time of anticipation, of expectant waiting for the coming of Christ.  It is a time to prepare for the spiritual side of the vastly celebrated holiday.  It is a time that we seek to draw closer to Jesus and invite Him to draw nearer to us.

At the birth of Jesus that first Christmas, the religious world had been waiting for 800 years from the time it was prophesied that Messiah would come.  We can understand, then, why Magi would travel nearly 1,000 miles to worship the newborn King, shepherds would leave their posts, and angels would joyfully declare, “Glory to God in the highest…peace to all people.”  The waiting was over.

God still comes to His creation.  No, not as a baby; but He chooses to be involved in the lives of humankind.  Those who seek Him find that He comes every day to make Himself known, to extend His mercy and grace, and to express His love.

This is Advent.  What will you do while you wait?  Certainly you will do some shopping and gift wrapping and eating – but will you take time to truly seek the God of our salvation?  Will you endeavor to make room for Him in the busyness of the season?  Will you notice it when He comes to you?

Joy to the World: a non-Christmas Christmas Carol

December 9, 2016

Dr. Steven J. Callis

 

                JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME; LET EARTH RECEIVE HER KING!  This exuberant song of praise and celebration is arguably the best known and most loved of all the traditional Christmas carols.  It seems almost a travesty to exclude it from any Christian Christmas program, especially one which is musical in nature.

                Listen closely to the lyrics the next time you sing it or hear it.  Have you ever noticed that this great song mentions nothing of the baby Jesus?  There are no references to angels, shepherds, wise men, or the Bethlehem star.  I made a quick survey of the Christmas songs in our church hymnal, and this is the only one that says nothing specifically about the Christmas story!

                Silent Night, O Holy Night, The First Noel, Away in a Manger, O Come all Ye Faithful, and even the less often sung, all declare the supporting characters and events of the birth of Christ.  However, in the festive Joy to the World, we sing only about Jesus the King and declare His victory over sin, bringing joy to those who heed His voice.

                The great hymn writer Isaac Watts composed the lyrics of this song in 1719.  The fact making it such a unique Christmas carol is that it was not written about Christmas at all!  It was a song, not about the first Advent of Christ, but about His second Advent; the Second Coming.  The original title was “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom,” Watts’ interpretation of Psalm 98. 

                In 1741 George Frederick Handel composed the music, and over a century later Lowell Mason wrote an arrangement that has stood the test of time.  Information on when and why the song became connected with Christmas is scarce.  However, the lyrics truly do ring out the message of the true meaning of Christmas.

                Advent is not only a time of anticipating the coming of Christ as Savior, but also a reminder that believers and followers of Christ live in hope and expectation of Jesus’ second – and final – coming to redeem His bride, the Church.  Just as people awaited the coming of the Messiah over 2000 years ago, so we wait with expectation today for His return.

                And so we will be presented with several opportunities this Christmas season to sing with magnificent jubilation this song of triumph as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior and declare our faith that He is coming again.  May you find true joy in Him this Christmas; a joy the world cannot take away.       

Martians, Earthquakes, and Reality

December 2, 2016

Dr. Steven J. Callis 

                Maybe it should have been broadcast on April Fool’s Day rather than as a Halloween episode.  News reports of an alien invasion by Martians were aired in 1938 titled, “War of the Worlds,” based on the H.G. Wells 1898 novel by the same title.  A radio drama directed and narrated by Orson Welles, it is said to have caused a mass panic, though some historians claim that “mass” is too strong a word because of the relatively small size of the radio audience.

                A similar event occurred in 1990, and the man at center stage was Iben Browning.  This report, however, was not a hoax or a drama program, but a genuine prediction of a major earthquake that was to transpire in the Mississippi Valley.

                With a doctoral degree in zoology, Browning worked in several scientific fields, including bio-engineering and “artificial intelligence”  – I will refrain from an attempt at humorous zingers here and let you insert your own. 

He eventually focused his interest and research on long-term weather forecasting and climate changes.  His prediction of a major earthquake caused considerable concern across the Midwest part of the country as residents and agencies prepared for a significant natural disaster that never came.  Experts examined his data and determined that his methodology was of a non-scientific character.

                Wikipedia describes him as being most notable for having made various failed predictions of disasters involving climate, volcanoes, and earthquakes, including the collapse of our government in 1992.  He wrote four books and held 90 patents.

                Since the first century, there have been approximately 175 official predictions of the end of the world; Armageddon, The Apocalypse, the second coming of Christ, and other similar terms of identification.  Nine of the predicted dates are still in the future. 

I appreciate the interest in the topic, and trust that the primary motivation is to prepare the general population for this climactic event.  However, speaking as the second person of the Godhead, Jesus declared that no one but the Father knows the time of the second Advent.  The repeated warning of the New Testament is to always be ready; be prepared and watchful, for it could happen at any moment.

Some people keep an emergency kit on hand in order to be prepared for crises such as power outages and water contamination.  The kit may include matches, batteries, flashlights, bottled water, non-perishable foods, and a battery powered radio.  They do not awaken each morning imagining that they will need the kit that day, but they are prepared if tragedy strikes.

Spiritual readiness works that way.  There is an awareness that Christ could return today, and we can live prepared for Him if it happens.  And it is that readiness which gives us purpose and mission to live each day with Him at the center of all we are and all we do.

Celebration of the first Advent, the birth of our Savior, is a reminder and an opportunity to prepare our hearts, evaluate the arrangement of our life’s priorities, and receive the coming of Christ.  Find a place of worship in your community this Christmas season and weekly hear the old but relevant story of God dwelling among us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Too Much Christmas

November 18, 2014

Dr. Steven J. Callis

Edward Pola and George Wyle declared it to be the most wonderful time of the year.  Bon Jovi wishes every day could be like Christmas.  It truly is a fun and festive season of the year, one that tends to melt hearts and bring out the goodness and generosity of people.

It is exciting to be part of the drama that unfolds as Christmas Day approaches.  As I child, the few days between school letting out and the arrival of Santa seemed like weeks or even months!  In my family the area beneath the Christmas tree was barren most of the two weeks it was displayed before the Big Day, and quite sparse even on Christmas Eve.  Then Christmas morning arrived, and the number of presents had doubled or tripled overnight.  Oh, how exciting!

Some of you like to complete your Christmas shopping early, maybe as soon as January!  For the most part, however, John Q Public begins thinking about Christmas coincidentally with the stores and media, which seems to come earlier every year.  There is some indication that we go directly from Halloween to Christmas, and Thanksgiving barely receives an honorable mention anymore.

Some radio stations are already introducing Christmas music in their programming, and stores have been displaying trees and decorations for a few weeks.  They want us to be certain that we do not miss this most wonderful time of the year!

Not meaning to be critical, my apprehension is not so much with the commercialism or whatever motivates our stores and stations and town streets to begin the Christmas season in October or November.  Rather, I am concerned that people may become weary of the sounds and sights and aromas and bustle and sales ads, to the point that before it ever arrives they simply want it to be over.  Too much Christmas can make us numb to the true joy and meaning of the season, when the actual time arrives to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The oversaturation of Christmas hype can easily rob us of the peace and joy we find in the truest reason for the season.  Therefore, I will choose to slow down and take it in bit by bit, to the degree that my mind and heart can receive it with meaning, appreciation, and adoration.  I will not allow too much Christmas to spoil my appetite for the real Spirit of Christmas Day.  I hope you will join me.

 

A Hillbilly Christmas Story

December 13, 2013

A Hillbilly Christmas Story – Steven Callis

Back yonder when Caesar Augustus decided it was high time to figer out how many folks was a livin’ in the vicinity of the Roman world, all the clans and their kin went to his home town to git counted.

So Joe Bob, known as Joseph in them days, wandered up from Nazareth, where him and his kin was a livin’, to Judea, at a place called Bethlehem.  Cause his roots go all the way back to David’s house, and all his kin was of David, that’s where him and Mary Jo went to git counted.  Mary Jo was pert near ready to have their first young ‘un.

Wouldn’t ya know it, that they was stuck in Bethlehem when the baby decided it was time fer him to be borned. Turns out all the hotels was full, and they was havin’ to sleep in the ol’ barn out back. Well, she birthed that boy, her first young ‘un, wrapped ‘im up real good and put ‘im right there in the feedin’ trough.

Well, there was some sheep farmers workin’ out in the fields one night when a angel of the Lord just showed up out a nowhere, and them farmers was skeerd!  Then that angel spoke up an’ said, “Ya’ll don’t need to be skeerd a start.  I’m a gonna tell ya somethin’ that’ll make you-ins and everbody else happy as a lark.  Today a Savior was born, and He is Christ the Lord.  Go take a look fer yourself.  He’ll be all wrapped up and layin’ in a feedin’ trough.

Then, all a sudden, a whole bunch a angels showed up and started singin’: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will to men.”  Then all them farmers high tailed it to town where they seen it fer themselves: Mary Jo, Joe Bob, and their young ‘un which they called Jesus.  Soon as they seen it and exchanged a few pleasantries, they run out and told everbody they seen, you know, about all this that they’d been privy to.  An’ ever last one who heered the story was down right tickled about it, and give praise to God.  But Mary Jo, now she just took to ponderin’ all them things in her heart.

Are You a Good Waiter?

December 7, 2012

I remember my childhood Decembers seeming exceptionally long as I awaited that exciting morning when we would gather around the Christmas tree to open presents.  The slow progression of the preparation for that day can be difficult for a young child. Gradually, the number of gifts beneath the tree would grow, and then during the night before Christmas, the number of presents seemed to double overnight! The waiting was really difficult, but well worth it!

Recently I spent almost an entire 5 minutes searching internet sites (our favorite fool-proof resource) to discover that the average person spends approximately 5 years of life waiting.  That number includes 6 months waiting at traffic lights, but the article said nothing of waiting on the phone for an available customer service representative from my internet provider.

For something we seem to practice often, some of us are not very good at it.  However, we must endure periods of waiting: for our food order, to see a doctor, standing in line for a purchase, auto repair, and so on.  There are some people who plan ahead in order to use those moments productively, so that the waiting is filled with activity and helps to pass the time.  Some restaurants help the cause by providing complimentary peanuts, chips, bread sticks, coloring sheets, or golf tee puzzles.  I aim to be one of those conscientious persons who use time wisely, but sometimes my body and mind simply need that down time.  There are times we just need to stop.

Of course, the Christmas season brings with it a busy schedule and a to-do-list that only Santa could fill.  Shopping, parties, school programs, church programs, community events, visiting friends, decorating the house, wrapping gifts, baking goodies – the website mentioned earlier claims that we spend 6 years of life eating!

Come December 26, many people are glad it is over, along with the hustling and bustling that takes its toll on our bodies and emotions.  In this light, it is interesting that the Christian term, Advent, literally means “coming,”  and that the four Sundays leading to Christmas day are a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas.

In this sense, the waiting becomes productive only as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.  Amid the hustle and bustle of the season, what are you doing to make room for Jesus?  More important than any gift I could give or receive is the spiritual preparation for receiving Christ in His fullness, and allowing Him to be the Pilot of my life, rather than simply one of the many travelers on the plane. Yes, Jesus is coming, and if you are ready, He will come to you in a fresh and unique way this Christmas, and the waiting will be worth it!