Posted tagged ‘peace’

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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Spinning Out of Control

October 3, 2013

Spinning Out of Control

by Steven J. Callis

 

Do you remember Eric Brenn, the spinning plate guy?  He appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show way back when, and recently I came across a video clip of his act on the internet.

On the stage was a long table covered with cloth, and there were 5 rods of some type, each one approximately 4 feet in length, positioned vertically on the table.  Beside each rod were a bowl and 2 dinner plates.  Beginning with one bowl, Brenn began spinning a bowl, and then balanced it on the first rod.  He followed that by spinning one of the plates on the table top, and then the second, then another bowl, and another plate.

He continued this process, periodically returning to items already in motion to restore their momentum, until all 5 bowls and 8 plates were spinning simultaneously without crashing from the table top or rod. As if that was not enough, he had also been giving some attention to a tray of 8 drinking glasses, spoons, and eggs.

I watched him dart back and forth between these projects that he had started, spinning one object while keeping his eyes on the others that were in motion.  I thought about how our lives sometimes feel as though they are spinning almost out of control.  Voices from every direction beckon for our attention, demanding our time and energy.  It becomes nearly impossible to give our full attention and focus to any single facet because there are so many other things spinning around us.

Our society has conditioned us to stay busy.  Technology demands that we be connected 24/7/365.  If we cannot be immediately accessed by phone, email, IM, text message, twitter, Skype, or Friendster, we are made to feel guilty for not being available.  We find ways to save time so we can further clutter an already overloaded schedule.  Eric Brenn provided an appropriate demonstration of what we look like in our daily living.

There was one thing I noticed about Eric Brenn, however, that is not necessarily true in our society.  He seemed calm and in control.  He did not panic when one of the bowls almost fell off the rod.  He did not give up when a bowl fell back into his hands as he tried to place it on a rod.  He never seemed to be out of sorts during his routine.

The secret is that he knew some things about physics and gravity and balance and bowl spinning that I do not know.  He possessed some knowledge of truth that enabled him to see beyond what appeared to be sheer pandemonium that would send most of us into panic mode.

In the Bible, Matthew’s Gospel records these words of Jesus, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  We must accept responsibility for our own physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  We are stewards of our time, energy, and resources.  There are times that we must stop, wait, be still, and rest.

There are also times that the demands of life build up on us and push us beyond our natural limits.  Similar to Eric Brenn, however, I have a knowledge of truth that enables me to see beyond what appears to be a life spinning out of control; there is Someone who knows so much more about the things of life than I could ever hope to learn.   So, I rest in Him as He assures me, “Don’t panic.  Don’t worry.  I care for the lilies of the fields and the birds of the air.  How much more have I got your back.”