Posted tagged ‘birth of Christ’

Longing for a Silent Night

December 15, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

I love to sing the carol, though I am uncertain as to the accuracy of the title.  Nothing about the night itself was holy; except that God chose that time to enter the world with the ultimate solution to the sin and degradation that had disrupted the peace it was created to enjoy.  He brought holy to the ordinary.  The real questionable word in the title is that first word: Silent.

First, Scripture tells us that the town of Bethlehem was filled to overflowing with people.  It was toe-to-heal traffic walking through the marketplace.  There were no vacancies to be found in any of the hotels.  Crowds of people scurrying here and there will make noise!

Add to that the reason they were there in the first place.  As we might imagine, many people were disgruntled at the necessity of travel and a government-mandated enrollment.  Rome was the political center of the world at that time, and the ‘census’ was ordered, in part, to force universal allegiance to Emperor Augustus.  People traveled long distances to fulfill this decree; a pleasure trip it was not.

Mary and Joseph found a resting place in a dwelling meant for animals.  Animals are sometimes noisy, and often smelly.  This certainly was not the ideal atmosphere for bringing a baby into the world.  Further, most of our Christmas hymns highlight the role of the angels announcing the birth of the Christ; at one point, a multitude of angels, singing loud and strong in grand celebration.

No, God probably did not enter the world on a silent night.  In fact, it makes more sense that the One bringing peace to the world would do so at a time when peace was absent.  He came to a world in need of something it could not find or produce on its own.

People who are famous in the public eye have lived under the proverbial microscope for centuries, so it is nothing new.  With the significant and rapid development of our technological world, however, I cannot remember in my lifetime when nearly every action and every statement made by influential people – including those on both sides of the political aisle – is judged, criticized, and protested in a public, widespread forum.  Our society has become more selfish, spoiled, and vocal when they are not rewarded, which leads to a divided, restless, frustrated nation.  We are in a mess, and levels of tolerance are quickly diminishing.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow voiced our perplexity in the third stanza of his poem, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day:  “And in despair I bowed my head.  ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’ ”

But the next stanza rings out with hope, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

No, our world is not silent.  It is still a dark place much of the time.  There is sadness, fear, pain, and loneliness.  Just as God’s pure love could shine brightly on that first Christmas night, so He continues to come into our darkness, bringing peace and joy for all people.  No matter who you are, or where you have been, or what you have done, God’s redeeming grace is available for you.  Jesus, our Savior, the Prince of Peace, is born.

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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.