Advent 2016 Devotional: December 5

December 5, 2016

Bountiful Table

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-3-33-48-pmThey feast on the abundance of Your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights. Psalm 36:8

As a child, the most exciting Christmas event other than Santa, was the trip to Grandmother’s house. Passing through her back screen door as she joyfully greeted seven exuberant children has been unmatched as an adult. The smell of dinner still floods me with warm memories. The pies and cakes that sat on her washer and dryer and other available surfaces on the back porch were the first hint of the feast to follow. The dining room tables were set with her finest china, crystal, and silver. We would hold hands around the kitchen table to say a prayer of thanks to God for his Son and for another safe and healthy year.

We would wind our way around the table, stove, and counters filling our plates with fresh vegetables, condiments, turkey, roast, and ham. Grandmother went table to table serving the best homemade yeast rolls I have ever had – anywhere! She prepared these feasts alone before finally acceding to being eighty and allowing everyone to bring a dish.

Years later as I prepared my first Christmas dinner with tired feet, and aching back, and a less than joyful state of mind, I was able to marvel at her energy and excitement relevant to so much work for her loved ones. She reveled in our love for her and our appreciation for Christmas at her house.

Christ has prepared a bountiful table for all of us. He beckons us with open arms and more love than we can imagine. He asks only that we love Him in return and willingly partake of his bounty. Special people in our lives provide wonderful examples of Christ ’s love. Christmas is a time to remember and to be thankful for a loving heavenly Father and for those who have provided so lovingly for our well-being.

Father, thank You that we have family in every sense: heavenly, earthly, human, and a Christian church family through your Son whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Amen

Debbie Downing has been a member since 1983. She and Dennis are parents to Emily Ervin and Jeff Downing. They have 5 grandchildren. Debbie is a co-director in the A1 nursery. She has worked in SMILE, Mission Friends, VBS, VIP program, 3 & 4-year-old Sunday School, and served on the Nominating Committee.

Advent 2016 Devotional: December 4

December 4, 2016

The Presence of Peace and Joy

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-8-32-58-pmSuddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14

A busy fall has just begun, another school year with too many students and not enough classrooms nor teachers and, to make matters worse, complaining parents. Suddenly I hear my oldest daughter Kayden practicing her piano, and what song is she playing? Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

I realize that with the arrival of fall, soon the Advent season will be upon us. Sometimes it takes young minds to get us back on track. We stopped for a moment, and together as a family, we prepared dinner. We sat down and talked about the things we wanted to do for Advent.

Each year our family gets into the busy part of Christmas such as shopping, cooking, and outings. Now to add to it all is soccer practice, acting class, and piano lessons. We made a decision to spend more time to take a moment, stop, and reflect about the season. Kayden will remind us when she starts playing the Christmas hymns on the piano. We will take the time to just sit and listen with the lights from the Christmas tree shining forth. And on top of the tree the lit star which led the Shepherds to the Christ child.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the peace of the season. Help us all experience the meaning of the season. Lead us to stop, listen, and reflect. In the name of the Prince of Peace, your son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Cliff Nickel has been a member of South Main since cradle roll. His great grandmother was a member of Tuam Baptist. He and his wife are members of the Chafin New Beginning Class. He is a deacon and one of the Church’s Historians. He and Karen have two daughters who are 5th generation South Mainers: Kayden (11) and Carleigh (9).


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 3

December 3, 2016

The Spirit of Advent All Year

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-11-53-01-pmMay the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

The spirit of Advent. A year’s worth of joy, peace, love, and hope wrapped into a few short weeks. During this season, we fill our hearts and lives with all of the many gifts of Advent—the joy of musical song filling the halls of the church, the peace of the Christ child laying in a manger, the love of family and friends near and far, and the hope of the Resurrection and a life everlasting. Yet, once Christmas is over, we move on with ordinary life, packing away the spirit of Advent along with our Christmas decorations until next December.

But what if we lived the joy, peace, love, and hope of Advent every day of the year? What would our lives be like if we lived each day filled with joy and peace and overflowing with hope? There is so much goodness to be found in Advent. Even for those struggling with the darkness of life, the spirit of Advent can scatter pieces of joy, peace, love, and hope over the hardest of hearts and darkest of days. Life looks different when we live in hope and joy and peace. We simply have to make the choice to live the spirit of Advent all year.

Heavenly Father, fill our hearts and minds with love, joy, peace, and hope this Advent season and may you help us live this spirit of Advent each day. Amen.

Courtney Smith is a member of the Young Couples Sunday School class. She is a member of the Adult Choir and volunteers with the children’s music program. Courtney is married to Tim, and they welcomed their son Wyatt to the world last April. 


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 2

December 2, 2016

Advent & Joseph

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-10-16-28-pmBut after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20

Most biblical imagery used during the Advent season is of Jesus and Mary; mother and son. While certainly appropriate, I sometimes wish there were more detail in the Bible about Joseph’s role in preparing for and shaping Jesus’ life as his earthly father.

In the weeks preceding Jesus’ birth, I imagine Mary and Joseph both struggled with the fears of new parenthood. I too know those fears as our son, Owen, will be two in January. Like most new dads, Joseph probably worried about being a good provider, both economically and spiritually. He was likely hyper-protective of his growing family from the threats of the world. And like all dads, his fears may have been assuaged by faith in God’s decisions. God chose Joseph and Mary for a reason.

When I think about Joseph, I most often picture him toiling away in his workshop, perhaps the best setting for Jesus to grow and learn. It is in Joseph’s home and workshop where Jesus would have been fashioned into the instrument of salvation for the world, an intimidating calling for any father. However, the lessons of a craftsman’s workshop would do well to shape Jesus’ ministry. Joseph would have demonstrated patience in shaping the wood as he worked. He would have modeled honesty and hard work in his business practices. And Joseph would have personified the plight of the working poor, many of whom would form the core of the early Christian church.

This Advent season, I am especially reflective of the relationship Jesus would have had with Joseph. I picture Jesus learning about his dad’s woodworking tools while developing into the prophet who would himself become God’s tool of salvation for all mankind.

Heavenly Father thank you for sending your Son to suffer the burden of our sins. Please strengthen each of us to better walk in Jesus’ footsteps in our daily lives. In your name we pray, Amen.

Brandon Wheeler is married to Krystol, both members of SMBC since 2014. They are proud parents of Owen (2 years), and active members of the Young Couples class.

Advent 2016 Devotional: December 1

December 1, 2016

Live at Peace  

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-12-44-47-amTwo years ago I watched a short documentary on income inequality in Lake Providence, LA. Lake Providence has the most extreme income gap of any place in the nation, and any nation in the world. The poorest 5% makes $6,800 per year, and the top 5% makes over $600,000. What makes the contrast even more striking is that the “rich” and “poor” sides are divided by a lake, a metaphorical reality that separates the two sides. One south-sider was interviewed at the end of the documentary; she dreamt if she had a million dollars she would build a huge bridge between the two sides, then “after a while they wouldn’t have a choice but to talk to each other.”

I work as an emergency room physician, and I spend much of my time treating patients in the Harris County system that most hospitals won’t; but there’s a Lake Providence between my patients and me – a lake that thwarts equality. At work, my relationship with the poor presupposes that I have something to offer them, but not the other way around.

Two verses prior to the above one, Paul implores that we “associate with people of low position.” He also encourages us to share and practice hospitality. I think that to “live at peace with everyone,” we have to live with everyone. Martin Luther King Jr. called this concept the “beloved community,” and I think it’s the same vision Paul had for early Christ followers when he wrote this passage.

This Advent, I encourage you to consider ways to connect with people that you normally wouldn’t – those from “the other side of the Lake.” It doesn’t have to necessarily be someone who is poor, but someone who is different. For instance, sharing a meal is a lovely expression of equality, and can be a way to live at peace with someone from the other side. Lord, teach me to live at peace with everyone – to see your image in all people, especially those “of low position.”

Ben Cooper is married to Ali Cooper, and has two boys, Micah (5) and Jonah (3). He works as an emergency physician at Memorial Hermann in the medical center and LBJ General Hospital, and is a community leader with the youth at SMBC.

Advent 2016 Devotional: November 30

November 30, 2016

The Sound of Silence

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… a time to be silent and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 7
screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-2-31-28-pmIn our family, in addition to Christmas, we celebrate four birthdays and an anniversary between December 10 and December 28. Our lives get overwhelmingly busy during this time of year. There are endless lists to be made, shopping to do, presents to wrap, cards to address, parties to plan, birthday cakes and Christmas cookies to bake. And, there is always the search for the “perfect gift.”

Of course, all this frenetic activity is not unique to our family; at one time or another, everyone I know has lamented the lack of time and the frantic rushing around. Often, I need to remind myself to be still, to find a time to be silent, and to let the Peace of the season wash over me. I need to stop worrying about the perfect gift and remember that that gift has already been given: “swaddled in cloths and lying in a manger.”

As a little girl, growing up in the First Baptist Church of Marshall, Texas, Advent was not a part of our church’s Christmas celebration. We anticipated Christmas but we didn’t do so with the customs that I have come to associate with Advent. It wasn’t until I married Bob, who grew up as a Presbyterian, that I learned about Advent and it became an important part of my Christmas. I have come to love this time of preparation with its music, lessons, and reflections as we anticipate the birth of our Savior.

I cherish this season of waiting, of contemplating, of daily devotions, and Advent wreaths. I’m not always successful in removing myself completely from the hubbub, but each day I try to make time to be silent and to reflect.

Heavenly Father, thank you for our perfect gift in your Son Jesus. Help us to quiet our hectic lives, to slow our activities, and to make time for worshiping Him. In His precious name we pray, Amen.

Ann Peck has been a member of South Main for a year. She and Bob are members of the Power and Light class. They are the parents of Megan and Amy and grandparents to Jessica, Nicholas, James, and Lyla.

Advent 2016 Devotional: November 29

November 29, 2016

Remain in Readiness


screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-32-44-pmFor still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end— it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3

One rule reigned supreme in the Bell household at Christmas—do not touch presents labeled with your own name prior to December 25. At age eight, anticipation got the best of me. I danced across the living room, grabbed a wrapped package, and shook the box. Unfortunately, I’d seized what was obviously a jigsaw puzzle, not a book or toy or piece of clothing that wouldn’t make noise. With the first shake, I knew I’d done something I couldn’t take back, and I’d spoiled a bit of the joy and surprise of Christmas morning. There was no guessing or wondering about that present. I knew what it was, and a little bit of excitement faded.

While I may have learned my lesson about Christmas presents, practicing patience in other areas of my life isn’t my greatest strength. So often, I catch myself thinking, “If I can just get through this day/week/month/semester, then things will be okay.” It’s the waiting and being present in those times of trouble, frustration, and exhaustion that are so hard to accept. That’s also where God seems to teach us the most about who we are and his plans for us.

Waiting means to “remain in readiness for a purpose.” Advent is a season of delayed gratification in preparation for Christ ’s birth. It is intended to create hope and expectation. It is not something to rush through with busy schedules and frazzled nerves. When I was child, it often felt as if Christmas would never arrive. As an adult, I wonder if the rough patches will pass. During Advent, God nudges me to remember that his promises will come; they will not delay. Surely I can pause for that.

God, your perfect timing is so often different from ours. Help us wait for you and the precious gifts you’ve prepared for us during Advent and throughout the year. Amen.

Angela Bell joined South Main in 2010 and is a member of the Sanctuary Choir, Agape, South Main Bronze, Missions Committee, and Discovery Team. She is an assistant professor of American history at Lone Star College-CyFair. She thinks her cat Sox and her twin nephews John and Christian are awesome.