1 Minute Speech on Why Is Christmas the Story of Hope!

Christmas BPPS
Hope of a better tomorrow;
a brand new beginning in life today;
and a clean break from the failures of the past
is what Christmas is all about.

Its message is life-changing.
This message came to us not as a printed text or spoken word difficult to understand; instead it came as a child born in a manger in Bethlehem! Yes, a child, a Saviour, was born to tell us that God cared enough to dirty his feet in earthly soil.

He came to seek and to save all who feel lost in this big world.
He came to rescue people from the evil of all filthy gutters they had fallen into.
His name is Jesus.

He came as someone who could be seen and touched
and with whom people could enjoy intimate friendship.
He ate with others; talked with them and cried with them in their sorrows.

In him, people experienced God near.
In him, the great distance between sinful man and a holy God was bridged.
In him, sinners found a friend!

But then there was the shadow of death in his birth. The truth was that he came to die for all–to shed his precious blood on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. He came to die so that the power of death over mankind would be broken by his resurrection from the dead.

This is the great hope Jesus gifted this world that all those who believe in him might live for ever!

Yes friends, it is the faint glimpse of this hope that is reflected in the tradition of unwrapping of gifts at Christmas: A sense of wonder at what the future holds; expecting something as nice as the gift one would get. But often expectations are not met. Many are disappointed.

In a sense this is good. For nothing can match the indescribable gift of God’s Son Jesus and the hope he brought to this world!

Jesus Christ of Nazareth!
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“I Am Not Good Enough!”

There is something about speaking on stage that terrifies people. What can it be? In simple words, it is the thought, “I am not good enough.”

Surprisingly, that is not an isolated thought either. We have the classic example of Prophet Moses, a mighty leader. This man is familiar to modern audiences through the masterful portrayal of the character by Charlton Heston in the classic movie “The Ten Commandments” (directed by Cecil B. De Mille, 1956). Now Moses was called by God from being a shepherd to be a leader who would deliver the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. But the thought of speaking before the mighty Pharaoh of Egypt terrified him and he tried to evade the responsibility.

He voiced his inability in these words: “O, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:4 NIV Bible). God did not accept his excuse; but encouraged him saying, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say,” and sent him on his way. This incident happened nearly 3500 years ago. It shows that in times past too people who were great leaders too had their moments of self-doubt and stage fright.

So where lies the root of this problem? Causes are many and varied; but the need of the hour is to have a totally new perspective on lack of self-worth. The truth is that you need not give up because you having feelings of inadequacy. Attempt to speak in spite of it. If you wait till you overcome negative thoughts and feelings you’ll ever be waiting.

Even successful speakers and leaders suffer from feelings of uselessness and inadequacy occasionally. These are the pains associated with being gifted with plenty of talent. The antidote is courage. Courage is not absence of fear; but sticking to one’s purpose in spite of fear. The example of Moses is an encouragement because even God did not attempt to solve his problem but empowered him to do well in spite of his feelings of inadequacy.

So when you say, “I am not good enough,” the truth is you are not. Yet the greater truth is that you can speak well and succeed in spite of your feelings of inadequacy. Some great speeches are delivered when the speaker is trembling in weakness. In those moments he is far more identified with the audience than any time else because then he stands not above the audience but with them sharing the same fears and struggles that the common man is passing through. This bonding lends great credibility to the speaker and the audience accepts the sincerity of the speaker with arms wide open.

To conclude, the feeling of “I am not good enough,” can have its roots in one’s past mistakes or failures or even painful incidents. But more often feelings of inadequacy shows the restlessness of the spirit to charge ahead and win. It is the price one has to pay for being talented.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth!

The Power of Story in Communication

Stories have got great power in communication. Primarily we need to understand that a well-told story is a complete piece of communication. It has a definite beginning. Are we not familiar with the well-loved phrase, “Once upon a time”? And stories do have a definite end. Again, we remember how we loved those fairy tales which ended, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Most stories arouse our curiosity. It gives our imagination a good exercise. Thus we become active participants in the action when we listen to a story. This power to engage the listener is so vital to communication. That is why a story succeeds in capturing attention where other speech techniques probably fail.

Therefore it is important for a speaker to try to communicate using stories. Yet many hesitate to open up before a group especially when it comes to sharing a personal story. The reason is not far to find. Sharing a personal story makes a speaker feel vulnerable. Many speakers confuse this as weakness. It is not. The truth points the other way. When a speaker shares a story from his life, the audience sees beyond a speaker’s credentials. They see a human being on stage with flesh and blood like all the others; with no other claim to greatness than the fact that he or she too is a participant in life’s rise and fall.

Rarely does a story fail to illuminate if told well. But the mastery of story-telling is a little bit difficult to attain. Yet the truth is that we were all master story-tellers as children. Somehow we lost that capability in the process of growing up. Is it because we lose the innocence of childhood as we grow up? Is it that we lose our sense of wonder? Or is it that we forget somehow the art of asking insistent questions to know more? Perhaps all of these. But the sad result is the lost art of story-telling. Becoming like a little child on stage is the key to holding audiences spellbound while communicating, especially through stories.

It is also important to understand that great stories do revolve around themes that lie close to life: Fight between good and evil; competing for love; principles of honour, loyalty and sacrifice; war and hate; heroes and villains; journeys and dead-ends; explorations and conquest; myths and legends; light and darkness; crime and punishment, law and justice, death and beyond; pain and suffering; joy and fear; success and failure; birth and new beginnings. This list is by no means exhaustive. Yet anything from personal life that touches one of these chords will not fail to captivate the audience if told well.

Yet another great theme is the theme of change!

The theme of change is what makes the story of the younger son (prodigal son) a timeless classic. Told by Jesus (recorded in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 15), it talks about the transformation that happens in the life of a son who was wasting his life in riotous living in a far country when he comes to think of the unconditional love and acceptance offered by his father at home. The moment of realization of this truth makes him begin his journey home. Of course, it is a parable of God’s love towards a sinner who genuinely and sincerely wants to come back to the welcome of God’s home.

Good stories will always fascinate and provoke thought. It will touch our emotions. Beyond that stories help us to understand our lives too as a story whose script is being written even as life goes on!
Jesus Christ of Nazareth!

On Teamwork as Seen on the Seashore

A couple of days ago I got a first-hand glimpse of teamwork. My wife and I decided to take a walk at Shangumugham beach in the morning. It was around 8 O’clock. At that time of the day we almost had the entire beach to ourselves.

We walked the shore for a long distance in the wet sand often glancing behind to see our footprints being left in the sand. At one point my wife asked me, “See if there are footprints of the Unseen One along with ours!” But then ahead of us we had already seen a group of fishermen hauling in the nets after a hard night’s toil. We went to watch.

Scene I
There were two sets of fishermen standing in line. They were holding on to two ends of the fishing net. With great effort they were hauling the net in. Two men were out in the sea guiding the net even as they kept swimming. Though the tide seemed low, the waves were crashing in. And soon it started raining. But my wife and I stood watching the fishing process with great fascination. It was the first time we were seeing it live. We found that our umbrellas were no protection against the slanting rain. And it was cold.

Hauling the net.
Fishermen hauling the net in.

Yet the men toiled on; unmindful of the weather. I admired their sense of unity and purpose and how focused they were on their work. Dark and cloudy skies, crashing waves, heavy rains and biting cold—circumstances that look not promising to an average onlooker did not seem to even bother them the least. And finally they brought in their catch. Small and big fishes were there. They struggled to hold on to their freedom and life one last time. But the game was over. They were soon transferred to the waiting baskets of fisherwomen.

Two thoughts crossed my mind. One, how much we fail to appreciate these group of men who risk their lives each day at sea to earn their bread! With what unfeeling hearts we often bargain with these women who bring these fishes to our doorstep!

Catch of fish.
Catch of fish.

The second thought was about Anchovies (netholi in Malayalam) that were caught in the nets along with other fish. I wondered what these small fishes thought about their lives in this big ocean. Sometimes our smallness in this big world bothers us a little bit; doesn’t it?

Scene II

As the umbrellas offered little protection from the rain, we tried to find shelter underneath the roof a small house nearby. From there we watched a group of fishermen trying to wash their nets. It was a fascinating sight. All of them together carried the bundled up net down to the sea. They were singing and chanting “oh, hoi” encouraging each other and creating a jubilant mood. Perhaps their hearts were content and thankful because of the catch of fish they got and for the safe return of those who had gone out to the sea. Well, in that heavy rain, drenched to the core, they cast the bundled net into the sea. As the waves washed it, they straightened out that net into one long stretch.

As we watched, what happened next fascinated us very much. One fisherman lifted up the straightened out net at one end and drew it towards himself from the sea. After the net had come up two or three feet, another man stepped forward and took hold of the net ahead of the first man.

Washing the net
Fishermen washing the net after the catch.

Then the process repeated. Young and old stepped forward in almost rhythmically timed fashion, one at a time, until the entire net was carried by them in a single file. The wonder was that there was no one to instruct. It all happened with great precision. It was one example of brilliant teamwork.

What I thought was that they knew and understood their roles well. Without jealousy, without any thoughts that one was better than the other, with a great sense of purpose and unity, they toiled.

We left the shore with the thought that the morning was well-spent. It was a joy to learn some life lessons first-hand. I also thought once again about that bit of sidelight information that I had read many times before: Jesus called some of His first disciples “as they were casting a net into the lake” or some others who were “in a boat, preparing their nets.” Did something of the teamwork of those “unschooled, ordinary men” attract Jesus’ attention to them that made Him make them part of His team? I wonder.

Like the sea our lives are a big canvas. Nothing great can be painted there without such teamwork as these fishermen exhibit. Unflagging enthusiasm, unlimited patience, endurance and hope, the joy of celebration; all mark the lives of these men. They rise together as a team. This is their glory even as they wait for each new dawn.
Shangumugham beach is located in Thiruvananthapuram and is very near Kovalam beach, Kerala, India.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth!

The RainThe Rainbow

Speak the Truth in Love

Changing times do not change timeless truths. As I thought about our speech in daily conversations, this line from St. Paul caught my attention. He wrote,

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

This is how he began his short and poetic sketch of true love.

Gongs remind us of our school days when it was used as a bell and cymbals remind us of the school band where at the rear along with the big drum you could see and hear the clash/crash of cymbals. They made big noise. Just like that, our speeches if not spiced with love are just loud noises at best. It does not matter If I can speak in the tongue of angels who speak words of praise to God. But what matters is whether I can speak in love.

It is difficult to meet this standard. Sometimes in our eagerness to speak the truth we wound our loved ones. Because we fail to speak it in love. Again I am reminded of St. Paul who wrote, “Speak the truth in love.”

Criticizing and finding fault without taking into consideration the other person’s limitations, frustrations and difficulties they face in the context of their lives are ways in which we often do not speak the truth in love.

I read somewhere that if we hear the sound of a glass fall to the ground with a loud noise at home, immediately we rush to the spot and ask, “Who did this?” That is speaking without love, without understanding. Instead if we can ask, “What happened?” it would lessen the impact of our words and create an atmosphere of love where an honest expression of truth can happen.

Perhaps nothing colours a message of truth more negatively than the tone in which it is delivered. We often manipulate, terrify and trick people by our tone of voice. But let us resolve otherwise, to try to speak the truth in love.

Let us consider every moment that the person we are talking to is a person with needs, fears, longings and dreams just like any one of us.

It is our ability to see the other person in such a sympathetic light that enables us to talk well, when meanings are painted against a backdrop of love.
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What Slow-Moving Phases of Life Teach Us

Movement is a sign of life. It also signifies progress. Sometimes progress is slow and painful.

It is during such times that one has to learn not to lose heart. It is during such times we need to take time to focus once again on our priorities and goals. Without doubt such times test the strength of our spirits to endure patiently the lack of activity that once characterized the sunny seasons of life.

Here are a few lessons that slow-moving phases of life taught me:

#1 It is too early to quit, always.
Bitter disappointments are part of ambitious attempts. But that is no reason to quit even if you feel like doing so. Success in life is about holding on to your purpose even when all progress comes to a standstill. Success is about attempting one more time, however big your failure was in the last attempt.

Again, success is about being brave enough to walk into the playing arena when all voices cry out for your blood, when all have labelled you a loser and when there is not one to believe in your ability to perform once again the way you did when you had captured their hearts as one man. Therefore keep at your task. Try once again. Attempt one more time. Never quit.

#2 Waiting prepares us for handling greater responsibilities.
No man is ready to step into greatness without having waited for his opportunity. It is during times of waiting that one prepares oneself by sharpening one’s skills. It is not a time to idle away. Instead it is a great learning experience.

One learns how success itself has become monotonous because there is no fresh challenge. You suddenly realize that familiar territory has so much kept you from exploring more challenging possibilities in life. So you become willing to learn new lessons, to change outdated methodologies, and to challenge your reluctance to move ahead.

#3 Success is not permanent.
We are all people held prisoners by our past glories, victories, crowns and trophies. We mistakenly associate success with all the trophies displayed in the showcase or the bundle of certificates we so proudly display before others. This is at best, foolishness. Life’s success is measured differently. It is not what you did in the past that matters most, but what you can do today.

The biggest mistake therefore can be to dwell on the glory of your past achievements. That attitude makes you a relic of the past. The temptation to rest on your laurels is too much to handle in the slow-moving phases of life. We rely too much on what we have already achieved. The reality is that it is nothing. What matters most is what is your contribution today. Life has to move on.

In conclusion, let me say that there are many lessons that slow-moving phases of life teach us. Blessed is the man who is willing to learn from them and create greater mileage out of it in the run ahead.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth!

7 Sayings of Jesus on the Cross

jpeg purple cross

Few other words have touched the heart and influenced thought for generations than Jesus’ 7 sayings on the cross. Here we take a look at them from a speaker’s perspective.

The Setting:
The scene that day was dramatic as well as cosmic. He was nailed to the cross and lifted high; hanging between earth and sky from 9 a.m. in the morning till the time of the evening sacrifice at 3 p.m. There was a crown of thorns on his head and a written inscription above him which read, “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.” While he lay on the cross, those who passed by hurled insults at him. Unusually, there came darkness over all the land. Two criminals were also crucified with him, one on the right and another on his left. At the foot of the cross, Roman soldiers cast lots for his clothing.

A Speaker’s Perspective:
No man ever spoke so gracious words from such a stage. Here was the Saviour of the world, helpless, naked and bleeding. Such a setting and backdrop gives the utterances of Jesus from the cross a unique place in human history. For the audience was not just the crowds that had gathered, but both heaven and hell were eager witnesses to this event so pregnant with meaning.
Every Drop of Blood

Saying #1

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

A Speaker’s Perspective:
An introduction that goes right into the heart of the subject is much appreciated. Here Jesus is clearly showing the purpose of His suffering. He was shedding His blood for the forgiveness of man’s sins. Also to be noted is the confidence with which these words are spoken; the confidence that His words would be heard by His Father in heaven.

Saying #2

Then he [one crucified criminal] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

A Speaker’s Perspective:
Communicating hope is perhaps the highest calling of any speaker. Here the man is expressing his need to find salvation. Jesus is able to meet that need, assuring him of a place with Him in paradise. Thus that man died in hope. In today’s world characterized by all kinds of fears and tensions and anxieties, if the speaker can communicate hope to the audience of a better and bright tomorrow; then he has done the world a great service.

Saying #3

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, . . . When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

A Speaker’s Perspective:

A speaker should exhibit care towards his audience. As it is said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Jesus, even in His moments of great agony, was ever mindful of the need of His mother to find rest and joy in some home the rest of her days on earth. So also a speaker should be able to sense the unspoken needs of the crowd he is addressing and come up with a solution that shows he cares.

Saying #4

About the ninth hour [i.e. 3 p.m.] Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”-which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

A Speaker’s Perspective:
A speaker has to identify himself with the audience. Here Jesus identifies with suffering humanity who constantly ask this question, “O God, why have you forsaken us?” Those who suffer unjustly find solace in this cry of Jesus knowing that He too passed through the dark night of the soul. When an audience knows that a speaker has experienced what they are going through, he gains greater credibility with them. For example, a speaker who himself had failed in examinations at school, if he addresses a group of students who failed in a recent exam, will come across to the audience as inspiring when he shares his later success stories.

Saying #5

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

A Speaker’s Perspective:
Many speakers find it difficult to open up before audiences. They are afraid to share a story from their life. This is because they fear that if they are shown as weak, then audiences would not regard them in a favourable light. But Jesus was different. The tremendous loss of blood following the physical abuses that were heaped on Him made His tongue stick to the roof of His mouth. So as a human being He made His weakness known. The lesson for a speaker is that he should never fail to highlight the common human aspect of his life and make it known to his audience. It is then that audiences warm up to a speaker.

Saying #6

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”

A Speaker’s Perspective:

Many are those who begin well, but end dismally. This is true not only of speech, but also of life as well. A speaker should determine to finish strong, both in his speech and in his life as well. Jesus, knowing that He had fully paid for the sins of the world, said, “It is finished.” It was a cry of triumph. So also, a strong conclusion is a must for a great speech. Weak conclusions leave a weak impression in the minds of the audience. It frustrates them with a sense of incompleteness. But here we see Jesus finishing on a strong note.

Saying #7

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

A Speaker’s Perspective:
A graceful exit is as much a thing of beauty as a great performance. Many speakers do injustice to their audience by heaving a sigh of relief at the end of their speech as if it was a great burden for them. That leaves a bad taste in the mouth. In this last saying, Jesus is quoting a prayer which says “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” It was prayer that every Jewish mother taught her child to say the last thing before he or she slept at night. Here, Jesus dies like a child falling asleep in his father’s arms. It was indeed a graceful exit.

Audience Perspective:
Ultimately the success of any communication depends on what the audience perceives about it. A centurion of the Roman army who was in charge of the crucifixion was moved by Jesus’ death. “And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, `Surely this man was the Son of God!’ ”

Jesus’ Perspective about His crucifixion:
He had said this about it sometime before His crucifixion:

“But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

Truly, the words He spoke on the cross too add to this attractive power.

Note: The quotes used in this blog post are taken from the four Gospel accounts about Jesus Christ taken from the New International Version of the Bible: Inscription, John 19:19. The seven sayings, Luke 23:34, Luke 23:42, 43, John 19:25-27, Matthew 27:46, John 19:28, John 19:30, Luke 23:46. Centurion, Mark 15:39. Jesus’ Perspective, John 12:32.
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