by Rev. Mark Caldwell, FUMC Ft. Lauderdale, FL
First, read Psalm 46:10
Just below the high altar at St. Peter’s basilica in the Vatican is a private tour that traverses first-century footpaths and burial sites of Christians and pagans alike. This limited space tour is called the Scavi tour and it takes participants on a journey under St. Peter’s to the traditional site of Peter’s burial. The guided tour is intimate, quiet and most certainly memorable. Anyone who has traveled to Rome knows that the city is large, complex and fascinating. A trip underneath the great basilica is a welcome respite from the noise and energy of the city because it offers a place of quiet and stillness.
The Christmas season is a lot like the city of Rome. It is busy, noisy and filled with exciting things to see. So where is the place of rest? Where do you find that place to immerse yourself in the season while maintaining focus on its central message? Perhaps we can look past the baby Jesus and remember the suffering Jesus and the risen Christ. This sobering shift can bring focus back to Christ and remind us of the somber reality that accompanied the birth of our Lord. It wasn't to scare shepherds and summon Magi. It was to notify humanity of a great hope and good news for all people in all nations in all ages.
How did we ever turn a simply birth into a raging commercial frenzy? When did the prospect of a “silent night” turn into a month of crazy events? We may never know, but we can center ourselves on the simplicity of the event by bringing stillness into our season. And with this, we will have the accompaniment of a deeper essence to the nature of the Christ child.
The fourth verse of Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel’s hymn, “Be Still My Soul” may be a needed focus for stillness and a welcome change to our Christmas repertoire as she penned these words:
Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
The weeks leading up to Christmas are usually anything but still. With class parties, gift swaps and other holiday madness, our lives seem to be in fast forward at this time of year.
Yet, Psalm 46:10 is a clear reminder that stillness is a part of our faith and helps us to sense God’s presence in our lives. In honor of this verse, today’s activity is to simply do nothing.
No holiday shopping.
No to-do lists.
Just spend time together in the stillness. Read this special Psalm with your kids and remind them that the best thing to do to prepare for Jesus’ birth is sometimes to do nothing at all.
At bedtime, reflect upon your day of stillness and how it made you feel. Did the stillness bring you comfort or rest? Did you feel God’s presence in the stillness? How can stillness help us to reconnect to God and to one another?