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An Advent Song for the Downcast by Jeff Langford

An Advent Devotion
The Canticles of Christmas
Week One: Ave Maria

Monday, December 4

Psalm 79

“Let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.” (Psalm 79:8b)

Advent can sometimes be a time of sadness rather than joy. Many people feel downcast, burdened by the loss of someone they love, health concerns, or loneliness. The season’s songs and celebrations can be a bitter reminder that – for them – it’s not the most wonderful time of the year.

Psalm 79 is a song for the downcast. It laments the destruction of Jerusalem and God’s temple. The people’s physical and spiritual security has been torn apart by heathen invaders. God’s people look foolish, and God has not bothered to retaliate. The Psalmist’s question is both a plea and an accusation: “How long, O Lord?”  

Psalm 79 expresses feelings that are common to all of us from time to time: doubt, confusion, anger. We can hear the author’s desperation as he cries out both for God’s vengeance and God’s mercy.

This Psalmist could have used a friend who would listen, hold his thoughts in confidence, and walk with him through this dark time.

I’m thankful that this kind of friend is available to us through Second Baptist’s Stephen Ministry. Sara found her calling in this unique ministry, and I continue to marvel at the compassion and dedication she brings to each caregiving relationship. I know Second Baptist’s other Stephen Ministers are the same way.

A few years ago, our church’s Stephen Ministers began offering a “Service of Hope” for people in our congregation or community who feel downcast during the Advent Season. The service doesn’t provide easy answers to people’s struggles; instead, it offers a safe place to be honest about difficult experiences and feelings.

Psalm 79 reminds me that there is hope even in the darkest of times. Stephen Ministry reminds me that hope can be found in the compassion of a friend. Advent reminds me that compassion is coming speedily to meet us.

Jeff Langford

at Monday, December 4, 2017 | 0 comments
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"Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is With You..." by Jason Edwards

Luke 1:26-42

 Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you… (Luke 1: 28)

"City sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style..."

"JASON!" My cousin exclaimed, red-faced from embarrassment, "STOP BEING OBNOXIOUS!"

She was right. We were in the middle of the mall in Texarkana, TX, I was singing Christmas carols at the top of my range with intent to embarrass, and I'm not sure it was even Christmas. I was being obnoxious.

My wife might argue that I'm still a bit obnoxious when it comes to Christmas carols. I don't sing with intent to embarrass anymore, but I do sing them around the house, often out of season. The Christmas season has always held special joy for me, and somehow, whether I'm recalling them in December or June, carols kindle that for me.

The music of the season has always held this special ability to capture the spirit of the season. We see this in the Gospel story, with canticles scattered across the Advent and Christmas stories of Luke 1 and 2. In today's text we find two sung responses that are the inspiration for the more recently composed Christmas canticle, Ave Maria. The first is found in verse 28 when the Angel Gabriel says: "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” The second comes in verse 48 when her cousin Elizabeth proclaims “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!"

If you've ever heard a Hail Mary, you may recall verse 28 beginning another way: “Hail Mary, full of grace." What a captivating way for Gabriel to describe this girl who was barely a teenager. What do you think it means?

Let's assume it doesn’t mean Mary was perfect, sinless, or immaculately conceived. Let's assume it means something about how she carries herself, how she lives before God and with others. Something about her way of being in the world drew forth the word grace from the lips of the angel and favor from the heart of God. Whatever this means, let's assume this gracious way of being isn't only possible for Mary, but for us too.

What would it mean for you to live before God and with others as one who is full of grace? Perhaps the answer is one worthy of finding through experimentation this Advent. If the endeavor sounds interesting, why not start now.? If it doesn't, why not sing a few bars of your favorite Christmas carol to kindle the mood. It’s never too early.

Jason Edwards, Senior Pastor

Artwork by Elizabeth Dilts






Artwork by Henry Lewis

Posted by Jason Edwards at Sunday, December 3, 2017 | 0 comments
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"O Christmas . . . " by Sue Wright

 Sarah stood in the doorway of her Grandmother Simmons’ apartment, her eyes barely peeking over the box she carried in her arms. “Found it!” she exclaimed.

“Oh thanks,” said Grandma Simmons. “Now if you will, put it on the bed for me.”

In a few steps, Sarah had the box on her grandmother’s twin bed in the tiny studio apartment. Grandma recently moved into this senior housing complex.

    “So what’s in the box, Grandma?” Sarah guessed Christmas decorations since the box, marked #25 was covered in holiday stickers.

    “A few Christmas ornaments I couldn’t give up.”

    “But where will you hang them, Grandma? You don’t have a Christmas tree!”

    Grandma Simmons giggled. “Who needs a Christmas tree when you can have a Christmas tray?”

    Sarah rolled her eyes, smiling. Always the wordsmith, her Grandmother!

    “Wanna help?”

    Sarah nodded.

    “Great! Run back to the storage bin for me, and see if you can find one of those old TV trays in all the mess. Bring that best green tablecloth of mine, too. It should be in the box marked, ‘Just in case I ever have another party!’”

    Sarah couldn’t help but roll her eyes again as she scurried downstairs. Marching back into the apartment a few minutes later, she was struck how “Magi” she felt placing the “treasures” before her Grandmother. Wasn’t it interesting where a girl ran into her lost Christmas Spirit, even one grown elusive as Sarah’s?

    “Found everything!” Sarah announced. “What’s next?”

    “Let’s put the tray in front of the window. Then we’ll cover it with the tablecloth.”

    Job accomplished, the women returned to the box still lying on the bed and opened it. Sarah saw immediately how each item was wrapped in red tissue paper. How delightfully “Santa” of Grandma, she mused approvingly. Oops, there it was again! That abandoned Christmas spirit of hers was rearing its ugly head!

    It took nearly an hour for Grandmother Simmons to pull everything out of the box and arrange it on the tray because each bauble owned a lengthy story, including the tarnished silver bell and a worn dog collar. The truth was, all the keepsakes were in worn condition-- some damaged even-- their monetary value, worthless. Worthless as celebrating another Christmas, thought Sarah, her past year of dashed dreams leaving her hopes for Christmas cheer in ruins.

 Frowning, Sarah asked, “What happened to that one?” It was the last ornament in the box and the one her Grandmother apparently was saving for the center of the tray.

 “This bulb? It’s old as the year it was broken back in 1952. A wedding present from my best friend, and before I could get in on our first Christmas tree, your Grandfather sat on it. I was heartsick, but he was so apologetic, I couldn’t say much. Anyway, we stopped our other decorating to glue it back together best we could. It was a snowy night, and I made hot chocolate after we hung it on the tree.”

“But why save it after all this time?”

“Because it never fails to remind me how even broken things can be made whole and beautiful again?”

Sarah brushed a tear from her cheek. “Does that mean people too?”

“Especially people, Sarah. But you know that! It’s what Christmas is all about.”

Sarah’ face brightened as though she suddenly remembered something important she had forgotten. Then shiny as the Bethlehem Star, she began to sing, “O Christmas TRAY, O Christmas TRAY . . .”

“That’s the spirit!” cried her grandmother. “’It’s about time we got you put back together!”    

at Saturday, December 2, 2017 | 0 comments
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