Advent 2016 Devotional: December 24

December 24, 2016

God Bless Us, Everyone

Screen Shot 2016-12-10 at 7.21.51 PM.png“But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.” Psalm 49:15

One of our favorite parts of the Christmas season is A Christmas Carol. While one of us prefers George C. Scott ’s version and the other likes Jim Henson’s, the story is a beautiful one of redemption and hope even in the darkest of times.

Ebenezer Scrooge had few, if any, redeeming qualities. He was a miserable old man whose foretold death “brought so much glee and happiness to others.” But in his most despondent moment Scrooge cries out to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, “ These events can be changed. A life can be made right.”

Isn’t that why we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Isn’t that the crux of Christianity? Jesus came into this messed up world to redeem us, to make our lives right. It is so easy to forget this simple detail in all the pageantry of Christmas.

So when you are overwhelmed this December, remember there is hope for you, as there was for Ebenezer, as there is for all of us. And to quote Scrooge’s nephew, “I believe that Christmas has done me good and will do me good; and I say God bless it!”

Dear God, thank you for sending your Son so that our lives can be redeemed and for reminding us that no matter how bad, all is not lost. 

Trey and Emily Westerburg are members of the Newly/Nearly Married Sunday School Community. Emily is a second grade teacher at Pomeroy Elementary and Trey is a news and sports anchor for SB Nation radio. They love spending time with their dogs, Eddie and Kenzie, singing with the South Main Choir, and acting in South Main Summer Musicals.


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 23

December 23, 2016

Rushing to Slow Down

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-7-07-37-pm“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

Surely, life will slow down soon, right? Seems I’ve always been looking forward to things slowing down. And it will be when:

• I’m out of school and get a job, or when the wedding planning and wedding are over, or when we get settled in a house

• After the baby sleeps through the night, or when the kids aren’t playing sports or feeding show animals daily

• When work slows down, or when kids are off to college, or retirement comes Those events are almost expected. What about the unexpected ones that add to life’s rush?

• Learning what business cycles, bankruptcies, and layoffs mean to you and your family’s emotional state, as well as your family budget and retirement plans

• Having your world turned upside down when the doctor says, “I’m sorry, but your child is not going to develop like other children do”

• Finding out that living happily ever after isn’t always happily ever after

• Hearing that diagnosis …. the one that previously always happened to someone else’s family

• Having to say goodbye to a dying parent, spouse, or child

Life is busy, and sometimes I feel like a pinball. But I keep rushing ahead, because it all depends on me, right?

Yet as busy as 364 days can be, there is one night that I gladly rush to – Christmas Eve. It doesn’t matter how many things are going on, or how many family hospital visits or chemotherapy treatments or business deals and trips have occurred, I know that Christmas Eve will bring peace to my life. Peace as I once again find the baby Jesus lying in a manger. Peace as I feel the loving embrace of my South Main family and we sing familiar carols, hear timeless scripture verses, light candles, and go out into the Houston night. Peace as I share the love of a family often gathered together around the Christmas season. Peace on Earth, good will to all people. Come Lord Jesus, and until then, come Christmas Eve.

Dear Lord, help me to slow down, to find peace and share it with others. Amen 

Wade Cline and his wife, Lainie, are grateful for the huge role that South Main has played in their family’s lives: Kenneth (25), Andrew (19), and Abby (17). Wade serves as chair of deacons.

Advent 2016 Devotional: December 22

December 22, 2016

Trusting in God

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-6-54-42-pm“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

It was the last night of Youth Camp. We had just said goodbye to our awesome Youth Minister, Kevin, and were emotionally and physically exhausted from the day’s activities. We had a dance party and I being the introvert I am, didn’t particularly enjoy the party… too loud… too many people. I went outside the main room, and laid down on a bench. Without realizing, I drifted off to sleep. When I woke up, it was dark. It was quiet, too quiet. No chitter-chatter of partying teenagers. Just silence. I ran outside and the cold Colorado air greeted me. I shivered, shuddering in my light jacket; apparently my Captain America costume had woefully unprepared me for cold weather. It was dark, the sun was down and all the nearby shops had closed.

I began to panic, fear rising up, then I stopped. I prayed. I needed reassurance. I focused and thought “I need guidance; show me a way.” Seconds later a couple turned the corner, and I ran up to them. They drove me to the hotel and were a godsend when I needed it most. The scripture says, “In all your ways submit to Him and He will make paths straight.” I believe what happened happened because I trusted in God and believed that God would lead me back to the group.

I knew that giving in and asking for guidance was a way for Him to give me the guidance I needed. In the end, trusting in God will reveal the right path for you to take. He will guide you like a shepherd, keeping you safe and watching over you. If you submit all to God, forfeit your own understandings, then He shall provide you the right path.

Dear God, when all is dark and we feel weak and helpless, remind us of your love and your power. In the days leading us through Advent, help us to trust in your strength and believe in your care for each of us. In your Heavenly name we pray, Amen.  

Ty Gribble is a 7th grader at Lanier Middle School where he is on the Debate Team and in the Theatre Department. He has been in South Main choirs, handbells, and South Main Summer Musicals. He has been at South Main all his life and loves this church.

Advent 2016 Devotional: December 21

December 21, 2016

 Looking Forward While Looking Back

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-6-54-31-pmThe Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night never left the people. Exodus 13:21

We look back and remember those steps that have taken us this far. We are told to move forward and walk bravely into the unknown. Words of encouragement, direction, and help illuminate our path with the light of His promise that He will always be with us. Those we love, who love us, who have been part of our growing up, who have been vigilant caretakers of our hearts and minds give us courage in our own adventures as we follow Christ.

In Numbers 33, Moses recorded the travels and campsites of the Israelites while they were in the wilderness. After 40 years of living and moving in that place and building altars of remembrance before they moved on, there had to be times they saw an altar from former days and thought about lessons learned and what’s ahead individually and as a people.

Standing on the front steps of the sanctuary after the Christmas Eve Service is a light-filled reminder to believe and take hope and promise into a world that needs Jesus. Singing, listening to scripture, seeing friends and families, hugging and being hugged moves us from the year we have had into the assurance that the Savior of the world is, indeed, our future, our promise, our hope.

Lord, thank you for the gifts of remembrance and promise. We need both to know that You have been, are, and will be with us because You loved us first. Amen.

Toni Richerson has been a member of South Main since 1974. She loves teaching Bible study classes, interacting with students of all ages, and being with her church family.

Advent 2016 Devotional: December 20

December 20, 2016

Advent Words

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-6-41-53-pmAnd God said, “Let there be light…;” And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures…” Genesis 1:3, 20

In the summer of 2012, I retired from serving South Main as Minister of Music. Brenda and I knew it would be a totally new chapter if not a new book in our lives. So many things to be worked out. After 25 years on one job and 50 years of doing the same work in various places, new routines and new means of dealing with finances and other matters demanded much attention. Early on I had decided one of my goals would be to have a “thank you” tour of churches I’d served in my first 25 years of ministry. The other goal was two-fold: 1) to study the history of Christian thought to help me understand how the church had grown and behaved after the book of Acts and 2) to visit various Christian churches from a variety of branches to personally experience today’s church. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity these afforded.

One of our visits, October 21, 2012, took Brenda and me to St. John’s United Methodist in downtown Houston where Juanita Rasmus, who with her husband Rudy serves as pastor, was preaching that day. Her text, from Genesis 1, creatively illustrated a variety of ways by which ones actions and words create “trash or treasure.” She concluded by saying, “God spoke His world into creation.” Her “stinger” followed, “Your words are creating your world.”

So what difference do our words make? The results can be surprising. They really do create “trash or treasure.” So when we consider Mary’s response to the angel when she spoke these words, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said,” she spoke words which would create the foundation for the Christ event to follow and literally changed all of history. Thanks be to God. What are your words creating?

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14. Amen.

Thomas and Brenda are the parents of three grown children and proud grandparents of seven grandchildren and three stepgrandchildren. They are active members of the Power and Light Sunday School class.

Advent 2016 Devotional: December 19

December 19, 2016

The Darkness and the Light

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-6-41-13-pm“A Voice is heard in Ramah…” Matthew 2:18

Quietness pierced the night sky, blackness illuminated by countless pinpricks of light. The new moon was barely visible above the horizon and a sudden breeze curled around the lentil startling awake the cattle and oxen. Mother and father awaken, pulse quickening for reasons yet unknown. In a moment their lives are transformed. Their children have been taken away – slaughtered. There is no reason; there is only violence and death to the least and the defenseless innocents.

In a matter of minutes quiet returns. The night is heavy; the wails of grief rising into the vast darkness and void. There is no voice calling back to them.

It will be days before they hear the rumor of an “infant king.” Their quiet village is suddenly part of a larger-than-life drama for which they never auditioned. They really don’t care about an infant king even if he was the Messiah. Their little boys were dead and no king, emperor, or lord could ever bring them back. Merry Christmas.

Well, this probably doesn’t seem like much of an Advent reading. But hang with me. I have wonderful memories of Sharna and me with our children and her family; laughing, opening presents, eating good food, driving through ice storms, singing Christmas carols in the car, and going to see Christmas lights. There are the many Christmas Eve services and even the year that our tree (artificial) was still up until just before Easter! I love the season.


There is always a voice in Ramah. There is always a Rachel crying for her children who are no more. There is always a grief and loss for which there is no reason. There is always the violent death of the innocents. There is always a loss that no infant king can undo. Each of us has, or will have, a loss that stays with us.

Amazingly, that is why Christmas – Advent – is so powerful. Advent is the pinprick of light breaking through the darkness; it is the outline of an unfolding Hope that wraps around and swallows the darkness; it is the full moon and it is the morning sun. Advent carries us through our seasons of darkness to Easter’s glorious light. Morning Has Broken! Christmas Joy to All!

Wherever you may be in the journey, in joy or in sorrow, let the Light of Christmas guide your path this season and throughout the coming year. Amen.

Michael Shirl and Sharna have been members since 1982.

Advent 2016 Devotional: December 18

December 18, 2016

On Dancing Days

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-2-27-55-pmLet them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! Psalm 149:3

“Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” is my favorite hymn. Not my favorite hymn of Advent, but my singular favorite of all. So much so, I am willing to admit, that I listen to it every morning on my way to work. No matter the temperature or date on the calendar, I queue John Rutter’s version, performed by the Winchester Cathedral Choir.

Why? In a word: Epistrophe. In a measure: this particular hymn, which is sung from the perspective of Jesus just before his incarnation, uses the repetition of Jesus referring to the World as “My love” as he invites them into “his dance.”

From the Second Verse:

Then was I born of a virgin pure,

Of her I took fleshly substance

Thus was I knit to man’s nature

To call my true love to my dance.

Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love, This have I done for my true love.

The hymn cycles through the major events of Jesus’ life: his incarnation, birth, ministry, crucifixion, descent into hell, and resurrection. Each verse returns to remind the audience that this grand intervention is done on an account of “My dance.” What a wonderful metaphor, to think of Christ ’s miraculous work as a dance. Each step in the movements precise, measured, intentional, but not so mathematic as to lose the beauty, and more importantly, the romance of God’s participation in our lives.

This song uses Epistrophe. This song is about Romance.

This worldly experience was never meant to be a solo performance. We are not dancers on a stage, each of us isolated, shuffling about without any designed purpose. There is no greater romantic intent than God’s active movement in the world – a dance, requiring you, the bride and Christ, the bridegroom.

I try to remember that every morning, around 6:30 AM. That ’s when I remember the dance of Christ’s past, present, and future advent in my life. Just know, that if you ever wake up and listen at the same time, we’ll be dancing together. And what a wonderful thought that is – to dance together.

Christ among us. Amen.

The Humble family are South Main members. Seth is a published author and essayist.

Advent 2016 Devotional: December 17

December 17, 2016

Bits of Ribbon

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-2-20-30-pmAnd she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

I love Christmas and the whole Advent season. I love the songs that come on the radio, Christmas cookies, Christmas parties, presents, decorating a tree, and so much more. One of my absolute favorite traditions of the Advent season is reading The Santa Claus Lady, by Buzzy Gardner.

The book tells the true story of the Santa Claus Lady, a nice and generous old lady who delivers small presents and trinkets to less fortunate children whose families struggle to make ends meet. The “small packages wrapped in pieces of bright paper and tied with bits of ribbon” are carried in a brown paper shopping bag.

The Santa Claus Lady displays the “true spirit of Christmas,” and in the busy Advent season, helps me to slow down and remember what Advent is really all about – God and giving. To always remember it is better to give than to receive. God gave each and every one of us a gift through the birth of his son Jesus. Just as the Santa Claus Lady brings her trinkets in a simple paper shopping bag, Jesus was born in a humble way. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of your son Jesus. Help us in the busy season of Advent to slow down and remember what this season is truly about, not to get caught up but to recognize that the small and simple things are what makes a difference, just as the little baby Jesus continues to make a difference in our lives. In your Son’s precious and holy name, we pray. Amen.

Hannah Windle is a Sophomore at Episcopal High School and plays softball and basketball. She has attended South Main her whole life and is the daughter of Bill and Sally Ann Windle and the older sister of Rebecca.

Advent 2016 Devotional: December 16

December 16, 2016

Something to Behold

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-2-15-20-pmFear not, for Behold, I bring you good tidings of great Joy, which shall be to all people. Luke 2:10

Our daughters, Margaret and Katie, obviously down to their last moments of available Christmas shopping, grabbed a novelty gift off the shelf of a Hallmark store many years ago, but Nancy and I continue to enjoy it, laughing every year as we set it up on the big table in our living room.

Mickey Mouse leads the band on his saxophone, Minnie is on the piano, while Donald Duck strums the guitar and Goofy plays a big bass fiddle. Together they play jazzy renditions of Christmas songs and carols, all the while bobbing and moving like a quartet you might see in New Orleans.

Last year, Margaret, Brad, and baby William stopped by to check on our Christmas decorating progress and William, just a little over a year old, was drawn to the little band like a magnet, running to it as fast as his wobbly little legs would carry him.

William watched with full attention as I tapped Donald’s button and a rousing version of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” began. Soon, the other characters magically joined in, and that little boy began to dance and laugh uncontrollably, unable to contain the natural joy of his heart.

As I watched my young grandson, full of wonder myself, my mind flashed to a Sunday School lesson I heard my father teach at least 20 years earlier in Atlanta. He observed how we rarely used the word “Behold” anymore.

He lamented how unfortunate this was because beholding is so much more than just seeing. He said beholding was being able to see a seed and what it is destined to become— a tree—all at the same time.

As I watched William’s utter joy and recalled my father’s words, I heard the angels say: “Behold, I bring you tidings of great Joy!”

In that short celestial declaration, we are told that with this little seed, a baby born in Bethlehem, God was securing for us a destiny of unimaginable joy.

Behold. How can our hearts be restrained?

Gracious God, thank you for allowing us glimpses of your kingdom through unexpected moments in precious children, funny gifts at Christmas, and teachers who devote lifetimes to studying your word. Help us to free ourselves from our own minds and simply, Behold. Amen.

John McCoy and his wife Nancy have been members of South Main since 1987. They are enjoying “growing up” with their grandsons, William (3) and Jack (8 months).

Advent 2016 Devotional: December 15

December 15, 2016

A Faith Journey

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-2-00-50-pm“Wait for the LORD; be strong and courageous. Wait for the LORD” Psalm 27:14

“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

We had been married for ten years when we decided we could no longer remain in the town where we began our careers as educators. We had a two-year-old and a four-year-old, a house, lots of friends, and a church we loved. No matter – things were not good in the school where I taught. Knowing that we were financially bound to our first little house, we put it on the market. In three weeks it was sold – a true answer to prayers for guidance. In the midst of this leap of faith, we then put most of our belongings in storage and headed out of town for, well, we really didn’t know. Neither of us had a job to look forward to and we had to depend on our parents for part of the summer months. I am sure some called us foolish for moving without employment – especially with those two small children – but we trusted God that it would surely work out and it certainly did. We spent the summer researching districts around the state, submitting applications, and traveling to interviews. Just in the nick of time we were offered jobs in Houston and the next step of the faith journey was on!

Mary was a true model of faith. She accepted the angel’s word and was obedient in trusting Joseph, her husband. Mary remained faithful while living a fully human life, that of an ordinary woman.

Joseph, an honorable, faithful, and humble man cared for Mary and also trusted God’s plan for their lives: a leap of faith from the outset.

Lord, teach us to always have faith in the journey. Help us to remember that you are always with us, looking at the path ahead, and guiding our every step.

Stephen and Linda Bedford have been active members of South Main for nearly twenty-nine years and have enjoyed singing in the Sanctuary Choir and ensembles. They are both retired educators with a combined sixty-eight years of teaching in Texas schools.