Advent 2016 Devotional: December 14

December 14, 2016

Resting in the Light 

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-10-57-29-amYet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:8 (NIV)

Season. That word encompasses a number of meanings: the changing leaves of fall, the new growth of spring, the quiet falling of snow. In South Texas, it might mean summer and “not summer.” A season can be a stage of life, a period of preparation, or a time of change.

The days of anticipation leading up to Christmas have always been my favorite season. I have wonderful memories of cutting a tree with my dad, singing Christmas music, watching tree lights blink pictures onto the ceiling, the thrill of creating wish lists (when else can you ask for things like magic wands or dolls that come to life and believe that it’s just possible you might get them?). I have felt comfort, excitement, contentment, fulfillment.

I also remember Advent seasons that came on the heels or in the midst of strife, discord, or illness. I have felt discouragement, worry, uncertainty. The weeks before Christmas are not always about carols, cookies, and companionship. Coping may be all we can muster.

Sometimes peace, hope, love, and joy are abundant and sometimes they are elusive. Often, they are both. How then, are we to reach into this season? How can we best lean into this holy time and receive the gifts God has for us, no matter the circumstances of our lives, and when we have no idea what the next season might bring?

We can place our hope in the Word that does not change. Immanuel, God with us, whose light is already shining. Jesus is the same, today, tomorrow, and forever, we hear in Hebrews 13:8. That shining light is something we can rest in, no matter what the future might bring.

Advent is an opportunity each year to renew our love for one another, our joy in the light of Jesus, and our hope which rests in faith that He has come, is coming, and will come again.

Lord, send reminders daily that your immutable light shines in the world and help us illuminate to others the peace that comes through living in you.

Kristy Wade is mother to Christian and John, sanctuary choir member, Truett Seminary student, and light aficionado.


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 13

December 13, 2016

Advent: A Season of Longing and Hope

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-10-45-14-am“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelite. Micah 5:2-3

Christmas, when I was a child, was a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus and get presents. I had very little knowledge of the word “Advent ” other than the countdown calendars my aunt sent us every year. Fast forward 15 years or so and I find myself marrying into a Catholic family with all of their Advent and Christmas traditions. I discovered the “12 Days of Christmas” was more than just a catchy song about getting way too many gifts. A few years later we moved Houston and I found my way to South Main Baptist Church, where the liturgical calendar is not only discussed, but celebrated. Here is where I learned about the true meaning of the season of Advent.

Advent is the season when we remember Israel’s longing for the coming of the Savior. God promised them time and time again that he would send them a Rescuer. For generations the people waited and hoped for this person to come. Their hope carried them through this time of longing until the time of Joy came to pass through the birth of the promised child.

In a time where Christmas decorations are seen in stores in September, mixed in with Halloween decorations, the Advent season seems to have gotten lost. We move straight from eating turkey while watching football, and maybe saying a few thanks, to singing “Joy to the World.” This year, let us take a few weeks to remember that our Joy only comes because our longing for a Savior was so great.

Lord, let us remember our time of longing for you, so we can truly celebrate the Joy we have in your gifts of Mercy and Grace through your son, Jesus.

Kathryn Oliver has been at South Main since 2007. She is an active member of the choir and South Main brass. She and Scott are parents to Hailey (11), William (7), and Lauren (5).


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 12

December 12, 2016

JOY, JOY, JOY!!!

Behold, I bring you good tidings of great JOY, which shall be to all people. Luke 2:10

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-10-37-48-amA granddaughter, Katherine, JOY.

A party to celebrate her marriage.

A JOY Bible verse for the occasion.

My search for a JOY verse stopped at the angel’s message to the shepherds. That’s when I realized that I had paid little attention to the words following “good tidings.” For sure, Jesus’ birth was great news. But so was the JOY that it would bring. That it was meant for everyone was part of the good news.

I have often tried to imagine exactly how the shepherds felt on that holy night. Luke does tell us that after the shepherds heard the angel’s message, they went immediately to find what the glad tidings were about. Not only did they see for themselves baby Jesus, God’s Son, and worship Him, but as they returned to their flock with JOY in their hearts, they shared the good news that the Saviour had been born.

Thinking about the angel’s words, it occurred to me the good tidings are even better for you and me today. We know not only about his birth, but about all his wonderful deeds and teachings while on earth, and then his death and resurrection. With such glad tidings, we need to follow the shepherds’ example and share the good news with everyone with whom we have contact, so that they may experience the JOY it brings.

Lovingly heavenly Father, we thank you for the glad tidings that you sent Jesus, your only Son, into our world and that He died for our sins. Help us to keep these good tidings uppermost in our minds and hearts as we celebrate your son’s birth. And help us share the glad news so that everyone can know the JOY that hearing and believing it brings. Amen.

Dorothy Griffin has been a member of South Main since 1949. She enjoys working with young children in Sunday School.


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 11

December 11, 2016

Christmas Eve Truce

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-44-24-amBut he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:48-50

As a child the evening of Christmas Eve was different. The one night of the year that I never had to think about my family getting together. We just did. It was happy. It was automatic. We would dress up in our best clothes and arrive at my Grandmother’s country house early in the evening. My grandmother would be busy in her small kitchen and many would join in to help her finish preparing the ‘big’ Christmas Eve meal of Turkey, Dressing, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Salad, Green Beans, Hot Rolls, and Cold Carrots. There was an instant family familiarity as it appeared that each member of the family would fall into their traditional role: mine telling jokes at dinner. As a child, it was the only meal I remember that was begun with a prayer. The eyes of this child did not see any underlying peculiar hidden realities of the situation: the family tensions, anger, jealousies, and dysfunctional dynamics at play. On Christmas Eve night, our family would try to put them aside: a night of family peace.

The years rolled forward. The child’s understanding became an adult’s. Many family stories underlying the ‘real’ dynamics of the times are revealed and do not matter anymore to anyone. Family members have died or became mentally incapacitated and/or all live over a thousand miles apart. And yet, decades later, I still hold those nights of peace as some of my most cherished memories. When I picture family members that have passed way, my first thoughts of them are from these memories. They were smiling, jovial, relaxed, and happy.

So as you go into this day, this season, I wish peace to you and your families. I pray for family truces, understanding, patience, forgiveness, and reconciliations. Peace go with you.

Prince of Peace help us to be patient with our families and people we love. Help us to create safe spaces for listening, acceptance, and reconciliation.  

JD and Kay Walther have been members of South Main since 1986. JD works for the Emergency Aid Coalition.


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 10

December 10, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 10.37.22 PM.pngRest for Our Souls

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

Are we not all exhausted? Weary from carrying our own load? Do we not overwhelm ourselves with “have-tos” during the Christmas season? Christmas cards, holiday decorations, baking, travel, and shopping for those perfect gifts?

“O Holy Night” moves me with its imagery:

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining ‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

In the summer of 2015 I was drowning in a job I loved, burned out, heavy with family medical issues, and wondering about my purpose. It took me two weeks to realize I had lost vision in the center of my right eye as I blamed blurriness on eye allergies and fatigue. I broke down crying in front of the ophthalmologist when she suggested yoga and more self-care to get the fluid to stop leaking and collecting on my retina. Ha, seriously? When?? Being an over-thinker, I had spent years composing the advantages and disadvantages of my career. Had this decision finally been made for me through this physical manifestation? The doctor helped me reduce my work schedule, so I was temporarily paid and had Thursdays open when a BSF leader called me two weeks later. I had signed up the year before, but backed out due to work. That gift of free time allowed me to invest in studying scripture, specifically Revelation. Christmas was different for our family last year – more purposeful and spiritually renewing.

Did God provide that rest for me? A chance to stop and check the direction I was headed? I needed to reset. A fresh and new desire was born in my heart. The season of Advent can refocus our minds once again on the Word and on Jesus, finding true rest for our souls there.

Thank you God for the perfect gift of Jesus. Please help us find rest, knowing that you are in control and sent Jesus to bring us free grace, restoration, and the hope of eternal life with you. Amen. Rest for Our Souls

Heather and Brook Ballard married at South Main in 2002. They’re thankful for Sophie (5), Peyton (5), Dylan (12), and stepsister Kelley (22).


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 9

December 9, 2016

Christmas: Peace on Earth

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-12-55-56-pmGlory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all people. Luke 2:14

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

This Christmas season, the message of peace means much more to me than it has ever meant, because the image I have of Christmas is that of sharing the joy of the season and its message of love and peace with my Mom and family. However, this year with the passing of my Mom, I have been wondering how Christmas will look. Mom taught us that Christmas, or nka Mu Nyu (the feast of God’s Son), was a time for celebration and sharing. We celebrated the love of God and shared our love, gifts, food, and drinks with others as we are also reminded here at South Main Baptist Church that “you are never more like Jesus than when you share.” Although I struggle with how to celebrate Christmas 2016 because of the pain of losing my mother, I know the pain of such loss, the feelings of emptiness must not dim the meaning and many messages of Christmas.

I look forward to the celebrations at SMBC and with the members of the W imbum Cultural and Development Association-Houston to which I belong. During the Christmas season, the W imbum women cook their best meal and the men bring drinks for the celebration. We pray together, eat, recite bible verses; our children do a play of the Christmas story. We sing carols and Santa gives special gifts to the children.

This Christmas we must all turn our eyes to the one who comes and brings the peace we need. We should receive the encouragement from Jesus who says: “Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”.

Gracious God, thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ. Grant us inner peace that can only come from you. Teach us who have received this gift of love and peace to share with everyone.

Odelia Bongba and her husband, Elias, are members of the Fellowship Class. Dino, their son, also attends South Main. Odelia sings in the Sanctuary Choir.


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 8

December 8, 2016

Prepare Ye the Way

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-12-48-33-pmThe beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-3

Several weeks ago I was still wearing shorts when I noticed the big, red bows starting to pop up around a local, outdoor shopping center. In the past, I’d have shaken my head, sighed, and internally lamented over the blatant commercialization of Christmas. However, seeing those decorations sparkling in the ninetysomething degree heat this year caused me to pause and reconsider. Prepare ye the way for the Lord, prepare ye the way for the Kingdom. It’s part of the chorus from a beloved song by Caedmon’s Call, and I’m grateful it was brought to my memory in that moment.

Our mindset is so important, isn’t it? It determines so much about how our life looks and feels. Recalibrating mine has been a reoccurring lesson throughout this past year, with opportunities presenting themselves in various ways like seeing those big, red bows in October and being faced with a choice about how to receive them.

Indeed, prepare the way! Make straight paths for Him to come and reside in your heart! Ready your mind for the coming celebration and cast off thoughts that bear no fruit! There is no need for it to be chilly outside or for the calendar to be flipped to December; the Good News needs no such boundary. I can choose to embrace the Holy Spirit’s reminders of God’s plan for redeeming and healing the world any day, anytime, in any temperature. And given the frenetic pace of modern life, I need all the time I can get so this beautiful Advent season doesn’t pass me by without impacting my soul and, subsequently, how I live it out.

Make ready our hearts, God, to receive and celebrate the coming of the Good News, your Son, once again! Amen.

Erin DuBroc is married to Matt and is the proud mother of Everett (7) and Bryce (3). She enjoys serving in M2M, the Discipleship Committee, and in the Young Couples Sunday School Community. She found South Main via Google search in 2012 and has been thanking God ever since.


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 7

December 7, 2016

The Long Impatient Wait

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-12-22-16-amWe know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Romans 8:22-24a

The other day, our son remarked, “It’s weird how surprised I am by time passing when it’s the most predictable thing in the universe.” That sense of surprise only grows as you get older. Advent teaches us to slow down and meditate on that surprise, during a season that passes too slowly for children and too fast for adults.

It’s funny how some aspects of time go by faster than others. Children can’t wait to grow up; but their parents are left breathless by the speed at which they see their children grow up. Children experience a long and impatient wait for the fun of Christmas morning, while parents sometimes experience the Advent season as a frenzied time of shopping and social obligations.

Scripture recognizes that time passes slowly even when we are looking forward to God’s blessings. In Luke 2 we learn about Simeon and Anna, who had waited for such a long time to see the deliverance of Israel and the salvation of the world. They had waited for so many years, but their patience was rewarded with a newborn boy, brought from a rural town to be presented at the Temple. To their credit, they recognized Him immediately and celebrated the blessing they had so long awaited. God’s promises were delivered— not quickly, but right on time. Romans 8:22-24 recognizes that we too are groaning, impatiently waiting for the final redemption of our bodies that Anna and Simeon saw that day. Their faith in God’s promise inspires us this Advent season as we learn to be patient for Christmas Day, and for the completion of all of God’s promises for our lives. Paul reminds us that “in hope we were saved,” and that is the hope that carries us through the patient season of Advent.

Lord, help us to learn from this time when we patiently wait for all the blessings that Christmas brings. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Chris and Shannon Dove found a welcoming home at South Main in 2013. They have two sons, Jonah (13) and Sam (10).


Advent 2016 Devotional: December 6

December 6, 2016

Carry-ons & Commitment

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-10-56-01-amIt was December 10th, 2014, and I’d been traveling for work for the better part of two weeks. Corporate meetings had taken their toll, and I was rather disheveled by the time I made it to Hobby Airport that night. I called Adam once I got to my car. He said he’d gotten me a surprise, so I was expecting something small but thoughtful. As I arrived home, with a suspicious smile on his face, Adam said he had my gift but wasn’t clear as to where or what it was. As I made my way into the living room, I noticed his eyes going toward the tree. Under it, a single gift, in a small ring box! Wrinkled clothes, messy hair, and with hardly any makeup left, right there on an ordinary Wednesday evening, we were engaged to be married in front of the Christmas tree!

It was the most perfect engagement in an imperfect moment. It wasn’t on a mountain top, nor was it captured by a hidden photographer. It was real, it was authentic, and it was Christmas. I worry that often times we get lost in the hustle and bustle and our own expectations and lose the ability to be present and appreciate God’s plan for us unfolding right before our eyes. While life certainly doesn’t go as planned, and inevitably neither will all of your holiday plans, remember that God is at work in our lives even on sleepy Wednesday evenings, and there’s grace and magic to be found in every moment.

Christ ’s life and Adam’s love will go down as my most cherished gifts that I hardly deserve, but I am constantly reminded, especially at Christmas, to be a joyful receiver and always be open to God’s magic in the most ordinary of days.

Dear Heavenly Father, keep us focused on you and your gifts of friends and family this advent season. Help us to be graceful when schedules and agendas don’t go as planned. Amen.

Kaci and Adam Albright were married in the sanctuary in June of 2015. She is an usher and a member of the Coordinating Committee. She and Adam also serve with the children’s ministry.


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.