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.


Advent 2016 Devotional: November 28

November 28, 2016

Strength in Christ

 

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-12-32-53-pmThe past 2 years have been one of the toughest periods in my life. I have called upon this verse so many times during many scans, biopsies, tests, chemo, radiation, surgery, and scary talks with my doctor and finally just keeping the courage to get through what this crazy life gives me.

I recall lying in bed days after chemotherapy, feeling absolutely horrible, and thinking that I couldn’t endure anymore. Then I would hear a little voice and it just kept saying you will get through this…

During this journey there have been so many blessings. My relationship with Christ has deepened immensely. I talk to him daily. My relationship with my husband and children has grown deeper and even more special to me.

I have learned to live in the moment. During my walks I look up a lot more and thank God for all the beauty that he has created. As scary as this journey has been it has also been a journey of beautiful blessings! By dealing with this as a strong Christian woman I can also be an example to my daughters of how to face adversity with God’s grace.

I think we all need to remember, when in a low state, not to lose our comfort in God, nor distrust his guidance. My goal is to bring my mind to my condition and make the very best of it. Longing for something different than God’s path will do nothing more than make me discontented and not at peace.

God’s strength comes in so many different fashions. Through the loving members of our church, all the hugs, smiles, kind words, sweet cards, and notes that we send each other and most importantly the prayers we all have for one another. I cannot think of a better place to be than 4100 South Main.

So in this Advent season while we celebrate the birth of Christ, help us remember that birth brought life and love for us all. Lord we do not pray for easy lives but to be stronger in our faith. We pray that you guide and direct us in all that we do. Thank you for all that you have given us. Help us to see the beauty in all things. Amen.

Amy Herndon is married to John Herndon and they have two beautiful daughters: Kelsy (24) and Abbey (12). …hope


Advent 2016 Devotional: November 27

November 27, 2016

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-30-22-amFIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Mary, Did You Know?

“…speaking to one another with songs, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:19

From as far back as I can remember my sisters and I prepared an annual Christmas play to perform for our parents and extended family on Christmas Eve. Music selection, skit writing, costume making, and program design consumed our free time in December, and we loved every minute. Weeks of practicing songs and skits, centered on Christ’s birth, helped make Advent meaningful to us.

When I was a freshman in high school the music minister asked me to sing a solo during Advent, a newer song called “Mary, Did You Know?” by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene. The piano accompaniment is beautiful, the melody is low and haunting at times, and the bridge is dramatic, giving me chills every time I hear it. Beyond the music, the lyrics move the listener the most.

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, will one day walk on water?

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you.

With each verse we are reminded of the incredible way God chose to send his Son for us as an innocent baby. It inspires wonder, awe, and gratitude. Experiencing December as an adult feels very different than it did growing up; the words stressful, hectic, and overwhelming come to mind. The power of music continues to stir the Spirit within me. Instead of worrying about endless to-do lists, the power of music makes Advent meaningful again by focusing my heart and mind on the One who is the Lord of all creation.

Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?

The sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM.

Merciful God, thank you for miracles and music. Deliver us from distractions and draw us close to you. Amen.

Ali Cooper sings in the Sanctuary Choir, teaches South Main’s Pre-K choir, helps lead M2M, and works with the youth as a community leader. Ali is married to Ben, and they have two boys Micah (5) and Jonah (3).


… for every longing heart. Advent 2016

November 27, 2016

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-35-38-amFrom Pastor Steve Wells

If you’ve ever waited at the airport during the holiday season for a loved one to arrive on an incoming flight, you’re familiar with the deep feelings of longing and anticipation that bring a special focus to the heart. As you wait, there’s a quickening of the mind and perhaps even a sense of impatience you feel physically in your body. All of this speaks to an approaching joy— one expected shortly.

However, if you’ve ever waited at the airport during the holiday season for a loved one to arrive on an incoming flight, you’re also familiar with the incessant hustle and bustle that is the nature of being in or around any large metropolitan airport. Fighting the traffic and the crowds can lead to irritation, even a sort of exhaustion borne of delay.

It’s difficult to find a sense of peace in the middle of waiting in a busy place. But that’s what we do each year as Christmas approaches. Advent literally means arrival; but before the arrival, there’s the waiting in a busy place.

This year as you wait, as you anticipate, as you navigate this hectic time of the year, your church presents you with this small but powerfully joyous gift. We call it the Advent Book. It’s filled with stories and wonder.

Our theme during Advent this year will change in its details from week to week. You’ll see and hear of “Hope” for every longing heart, “Peace” for every longing heart, “Joy” for every longing heart, and “Love” for every longing heart.

This season, with the help of the words in this book, I want to encourage you to embrace the experience of longing for these blessings from God. If you do, as you walk through the experience of Advent, I fully expect you’ll soon experience the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love God indeed desires for you before Christmas arrives.

Enjoy— and blessings to you and yours during this Advent Season.

Steve