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Yearning for God’s Presence

Advent 2011


Advent, which is the first season of a new church year, starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and ends on Christmas Eve. This season is marked by anticipation and hope for the coming of Jesus Christ as the world’s true King. The Old Testament readings during Advent recall the people of Israel’s hope for the appearance of the Messiah; many of the New Testament readings focus on the promised second coming of Christ. Thus, we’re reminded that today we live in a “middle time,” after Jesus Christ’s birth, ministry, death, and resurrection, but before his return to restore all things.

O come, o come, Emmanuel....

First Week of Advent

Sunday, November 27-Saturday, December 3

Sunday Worship Service

“Yearning for God’s Presence” Isaiah 64:1-9 & Mark 13:24-37 11:00 a.m.

Hanging of the Green Service Sunday, November 27 5:00 p.m.

Alternative Gift Fair Sunday, November 27 to follow Hanging of the Green service in Kelley Hall

Meditation One Sunday, November 27 We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain... -Hebrew 6:19 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. -Romans 8:24-25

The Anchor Cross is the Cross of Hope. As an anchor holds the ship in place, so hope holds the believer to Christ. The Anchor Cross is often found in cemeteries and on burial monuments dating to the earliest days of Christianity. Where is your hope found this Advent season? Whether in the face of a child, the work of Christian Women’s Job Corps, or the excitement of a new chapter at University Baptist Church, let us find our hope in the One who holds us and sustains us.

Meditation Two Monday, November 28 I've been a Baptist since the cradle. Like many of you in my age group, my home church never provided instruction about a liturgical church calendar. Advent (Latin adventus, meaning "coming" or "arrival") was never mentioned. There were pageants with costumes and child actors portraying the story of the Wise Men, the star over Bethlehem, and the birth of Jesus in a manger. We knew that Christmas Day was important, but the four weeks leading up to the commemoration of the coming of the Messiah received virtually no attention. Special seasonal music was limited to the Sunday before and after Christmas Day. There was no “Hanging of the Green" and no instruction that the Advent Season, the first season in the liturgical calendar, begins on the Sunday nearest November 30. Following Baptist tradition, communion in my home church was limited to once per quarter with no special communion service on Christmas Eve. During my youth in the 1950s, then, Advent was not in my worship vocabulary. Here we are, in the year 2011, celebrating the Advent Season at University Baptist Church. For some of us, our celebration of Advent represents a major change in Baptist life. Kurt Lewin, (1951) a social scientist, has described the change process as a dynamic balance of forces working in opposing directions creating an equilibrium or, in simpler terms, establishing the status quo which hinders the need for change. In other words, we are reluctant to abandon a comfortable position! We can extend this line of thinking to our worship experiences. Do we continue worshiping the same way as before or do we attempt change? With the recognition of Advent we are leaving the "comfort zone" of years past. We are attempting to celebrate and understand what I believe to be the core elements of the Advent Season: waiting, expecting, hoping. It follows that if we are to memorialize the waiting for the coming of the Messiah, Advent is a period for preparing us spiritually for the birth of Jesus (Christmas or, the First Coming). Advent, commemorating the waiting for the fulfillment of God's promise to send the Messiah, began in the Middle Ages. Among modern Protestant denominations, the church year begins with the season of Advent and initiates a liturgical journey across the months of a church year. This organizational charting of the seasons of the church year is useful for studying Scripture, for making sense out of a continuing, common, universal worship. We wait with anticipation and self-awareness in our quest for understanding the true meaning of Christmas. We are expecting the fulfillment of Old Testament prophets that proclaimed the coming of a Messiah. With expectation comes excitement. Christmas Day is a joyous occasion, and while we are often guilty of over-commercialization (stressing Santa Claus and gifts) we may lose sight of the true meaning and significance of the birth of Christ. With the aid of Advent activities, Christians are reminded to reexamine the holiday period and to prepare for the expected birth of Jesus.

We should stress hope in the Advent celebrations: Hope for mankind. Hope for ourselves as we strive to leave "our comfort zone" and explore different Scripture-based ideas that may enhance our Christian journey of faith. I believe Advent is both a starting point and a reminder that we must abandon our comfortable, middle ground attitudes concerning worship. There are congregations in the Baptist faith who occasionally express concerns about adding Advent to the worship experience. "This is not Baptist," may be their clarion call to maintain the status quo. In my view, University Baptist Church has broken away from such narrow thinking by emphasizing the spirit of Advent to help prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas Day, the enduring hope for the world. Jim Hall

Meditation Three Tuesday, November 29 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. -Isaiah 9:2 him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. -John 1:4-9 The hanging of the green and the lighting of the “hope” Advent candle mark the beginning of the Christmas festivities and all that the season brings. This is a time for celebration, but also for the hope and the desire for new beginnings. It is so appropriate that we observe Advent at the end of the year, because this is a time for reflection of all of the events of the past year. Many of us are also working diligently to wrap up projects and tasks at our jobs and other obligations. As we end our year, we sometimes say that we see “the light at the end of the tunnel.” That light is the hope that all things will soon pass and that all worries will pass away. Advent was not part of my Christmas tradition as a child, and instead of my anticipation growing by the lighting of each Advent candle, my eagerness for Christmas grew as trees, houses, and yards increasingly twinkled with white and colored lights. I have always loved Christmas lights. From the tasteful to the cheerfully tacky, nothing quite says that the Christmas season has arrived like little bright lights dotting everything from trees to massive plastic snow globes. As far back as I can remember, I would insist that my mother would drive us through different communities known for their extravagant displays of lights and decorations. As these bright bulbs multiplied daily, my excitement did also. In Isaiah 9, we are filled with hope, and are promised a child that will provide light for God’s children. All of us who live in the land of darkness, those of us who are weary of this world’s burdens, and those of us who need a second chance (or a third or fourth) are given a light to lead us through these difficulties. This light represents mankind’s only hope: a Savior who comes to us as a mere child. This light elucidates the dark tunnel of turmoil and despair so that we may reach the end of it, and that we may have a new life with our Father. As we countdown the days until Christmas with lighting Advent candles and admiring all that is draped with strings of lights, be reminded of the hope of Christmas - Jesus Christ. Pray that we share Him, the light of hope, with others to enlighten their tunnels. Bethany Rigney

Meditation Four Wednesday, November 30 Early in my missionary career, I was asked to translate a speech that one of our Honduran workers was to make during our National Conference. I was honored to be chosen knowing there were others who could do a better job. And I was also nervous about it. While I loved translating from Spanish to English, with only one year of missionary service under my belt I knew I might not catch everything he was saying. But the honor was too great to let it pass by simply for fear of looking foolish in front a crowd! The translation started well, and soon he and I got into a back-and-forth routine; I was feeling good about it all. And then it happened – he used a word that given the context didn’t make sense to me. I understood the word he was saying but I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say. I turned to him in a quiet voice and asked him what he meant. Instead of re-wording it quietly back to me, he simply repeated the same sentence except in a louder voice as if I had not heard the words the first time. Silence. He looked at me; the audience looked at me; and I was looking at me too! As the burning traveled up my neck to my face, I turned to the audience and said, “Does anyone have any idea what he’s saying?” The Spanish word that tripped me up was “esperar.” From my first-year Spanish knowledge, I could only remember that “esperar” meant “to wait.” And what he was trying to say had no context in which to use the word “wait.” I quickly learned that “esperar” also means “to hope.” Now it all made sense. In Spanish, to hope and to wait are expressed in the exact same way; they are intimately related. This time of year we spend a lot of time waiting at church. Advent is the season of waiting. But it is much more than waiting – it’s about hope. Hoping for a bright star to bring peace to a troubled situation in our lives. Hoping for the birth of something new in our lives. Hoping to be able to shout, “Glory to God!” for a dream that is finally coming true. Hoping that God will cradle us in His warm, safe arms. To hope is to wait. However, the converse is not true. There are many who spend their lives waiting without hope. As Christians, God does not exempt us from the task of waiting. We will have to wait on things for which we do not wish to wait. Sometimes for a long time. But we do not wait without hope. Our waiting is made bearable by hope. As we wait for Jesus’ birth, let us remember that we are a people of hope. Jesus is hope. Hunter Godsey

Meditation Five Thursday, December 1 A Season of Yearning... We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour 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. Now hope that is not seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. -Romans 8:22-25 This is a season of waiting, hoping, and yearning. The Sanctuary Choir has prepared a beautiful and powerful anthem for Advent that expresses it so well. It is called "The Yearning" (Music by Craig Courtney and Words by Susan Bentall Boersma). There is a yearning in hearts weighed down by ancient grief and centuries of sorrow. There is a yearning in hearts that in the darkness hide and in the shades of death abide, A yearning for tomorrow. There is a yearning for the promised One, the First-born of creation. There is a yearning for the Lord who visited His own, And by his death for sin atoned, to bring us salvation Emmanuel, Emmanuel, within our hearts, the yearning. Emmanuel, Emmanuel, within our hearts, the yearning. There is a yearning that fills the hearts of those who wait the day of his appearing. There is a yearning when all our sorrows are erased And we shall see the One who placed within our hearts the yearning. Emmanuel, Emmanuel, within our hearts, the yearning Emmanuel, Emmanuel, within our hearts, the yearning. And while we wait and hope and yearn-whether we are at one moment waiting for the celebration of the Gift of the Christ Child, born long time ago; or waiting for the coming again of our risen Lord; or waiting to see what God is going to do in this wonderful Body of Believers called University Baptist Church; or waiting for some specific direction from God for our lives as individuals-there is work to do! The hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner-they are all here now, yearning for a loving touch, needing not a hand-out but a hand-up. The lonely who need a friend especially during this season, the young who need an older friend and younger friend-they are all here now, yearning.... And our Lord, for whom we are yearning, says, "Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me." Amen. Dick Allison

Meditation Six Friday, December 2 Advent. Adventus. Coming. As a child, I never contemplated the Advent Season. But when Northeast Texas heat finally broke into the winds of winter, I knew something was coming. After the last service closest to Christmas, our family left Dallas in the black morning hours. My sister and I loaded into the back seat, blankets swaddling us, a picnic basket or ice chest separating us – the 1975 Ford Granada equivalent of the Berlin Wall. Crayon bags, MadLibs, crossword puzzles, books, and snacks filled the floorboard. We were coming home. To Birmingham, Alabama. To Snookie’s and Granddaddy’s house. To the place of our births. The beginning always seemed exciting. Each year I vowed to stay awake. I found the brightest star and wondered if the Magi had followed it. As I watched, the drone of the Firestones whispered up through rubber and steel, through my pillow. Lines of power poles rose and fell, rose and fell, a counter melody to the mud-flaps of the eighteen wheelers my dad played leap frog with. Inevitably, I fell asleep. The morning sun and lack of maintenance on the Louisiana interstate woke me. I mumbled, “Are we there yet?” Dad glanced at me in the rear view mirror without answering. Surely Mary mused sleepily from atop the donkey to Joseph about their exact whereabouts along the eighty mile route between Nazareth and Bethlehem. The monotonous twelve-hour journey went on forever. With each passing mile, the Granada shrunk. Cramped and uncomfortable, itching from cracker crumbs and sticky from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I wondered whether the Magi endured such discomfort on their camels. I wondered if they had sisters who wouldn’t stay on their side of second dromedary hump. By the time Jackson came, I Spy deteriorated into Slug Bug, my sister and I hitting each other harder than necessary. Bathroom stops multiplied. Parental threats to “turn this car around right now and go back to Dallas if you kids can’t get along” squelched the anticipation of coming home. The difficulty of travel pushed the journey’s focus from our minds. I wondered if Gaspar pestered Melchior or Balthasar by flicking their camels’ backsides with a crop. I wondered if Mary and Joseph were irritated with one another after riding so many miles. Did they contemplate turning back as they crested another hill or rounded another bend? Crossing into Alabama jarred us back into focus. Each mile ticked by a touch faster. Anticipation grew. My sister and I would “straighten up and fly right.” Tensions miraculously dissipated as my parents pointed out landmarks of family lore. We were coming. Soon we would commune with our family: aunts, uncles, and cousins, with Granddaddy and Snookie presiding over the whole affair. Soon we would read the Christmas story before opening presents. Soon we would sit down to dinner with all of Snookie’s fixin’s. Soon our afternoons

would fill with tennis and touch football. Soon we would usher in the New Year with SEC football and fireworks. This was coming. Soon. I wonder how long it took for the Magi to notice the star at rest over Bethlehem. I wonder if they looked at each other thinking, “Soon.” I wonder if Mary and Joseph felt a wave of relief when the innkeeper ushered them into the stable. Surely as Mary felt labor pains, she looked at her husband and whispered, “Soon.” Advent is not only about the coming of the Christ child; Advent also anticipates His coming again. Focusing on Advent aids our Earthly Journey which, like coming home at Christmas, often fills us with anxieties and impatience, highlighting disappointments and failures amidst moments of joy and peace. Through the noise, we hear Paul’s whisper to the Corinthians, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Advent whispers to us, “Soon. The journey may be long, but the celebration is soon. Get ready. Be ready. Jesus is coming.” Eric Leatherwood

Kate Leatherwood

Meditation Seven Saturday, December 3 While updating Christmas music in my iTunes library recently, I discovered I have a total of seven versions of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Seven! The same song expressed in seven different styles. I’ve always held a good chunk of Christmas music in my music library, but I had no idea about these duplicates. What’s funny is that I don’t remember singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” as a child. Our little church sang the classics of “Silent Night” and even “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” but never “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” With each year though, I find myself gravitating more towards this carol that calls, pleads even, for Christ’s presence in our lives. In our mourning, our loneliness, our brokenness, God comes to us time and time again. Perhaps I’ve been stockpiling this song because it is expressing a desire of my heart of which I was unaware. Even now I find myself singing, asking for Christ’s presence in the months to come. Come again this Advent season, Emmanuel, because I need you. We need you. O come, O come, Emmanuel And ransom captive Israel That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. This past year my family lost our patriarch and a great lover of Christmas, my grandfather. Papaw was a quiet force of love who took immense delight in his whole family being together. Holidays are the only time aunts, uncles, cousins (sometimes on down to the 2nd or 3rd) all gather together in the warmth of Mamaw and Papaw’s house on the hill. Often at these big family gatherings he’d joyfully say aloud to my grandmother, “Lou, can you believe we started all this?!” This year our family celebration will be a bit different. Papaw won’t be seated at the head of the table. Someone else will have to hand out the presents. We’ll need to take turns keeping the fire going. So we’ll sing a bit louder. O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here Disperse the gloomy clouds of night And death's dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. My family isn’t the only one who will have an empty chair at the dinner table. But no matter what this year has brought to us, we all need this season that brings Christ’s hope, peace, joy, and love. So come, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Sit with us. Be with us. Now and always. And we’ll rejoice, rejoice in the reality and promise that Emmanuel has come and shall come. Ashley Gill

Second Week of Advent

Sunday, December 4-Saturday, December 10

Sunday Worship Service “Yearning for a Savior” Mark 1:1-8 11:00 a.m.

Children’s Christmas Program Sunday, December 4 5:00 p.m.

Wednesday Evening Wednesday, December 7 Lonnie & Fran Turner, CBF Global Missions Field Personnel in Zambia 6:00 p.m.

Meditation Eight Sunday, December 4 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. -Mark 1:9-10 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” -Matthew 3:16-17

The Dove is symbolic of peace as well as referenced in Christ’s baptism. The holiday season can often become the busiest time of year. What is the “most wonderful time of the year” quickly fills with Christmas parties, pageants, gift buying, baking, hosting, family visits.... As we near Christmas we’re begging for peace and quiet. Take time during this season to slow down, enjoy, and embody the peace that Christ brings. Pray for those involved in our Prison Ministry as peace is offered and freedom in Christ enjoyed even behind bars.

Meditation Nine Monday, December 5 The word “advent” comes to us from the Latin “adventus” for arrival, or “advene” meaning to come to. It was first used in English in the 10th or 11th centuries to refer to the season immediately preceding the festival of the Nativity. Later, beginning in the 15th century, it came to mean the Incarnation, the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In still later usage, the word advent has been used in reference to any important or epoch-making event. How easy it is for us to skip right over the season of Advent! Christmas decorations begin to appear in some stores around Labor Day or earlier. By Halloween, angels and reindeer are sitting side by side with witches, ghosts, and goblins. A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, the unmistakable jingle and jangle of holiday ads on TV tell us that Christmas is here. Before the Turkey Day leftovers have been consumed, the tree is up, the wreath is on the door, and we have plunged head-long into the busiest, most hectic time of the year. Do you remember the important milestones in your life—special birthdays and graduations, that big vacation, a wedding, or the birth of a child? The months, weeks, and days leading up to the big event are exciting, filled with anticipation and eagerness. We plan and wait for the day to arrive, and the planning and waiting focus our attention on the important thing yet to come. That anticipation, that wonderful sense of expectation, makes the thing that is waited for even sweeter. During this season of advent, can we find a way to slow down and savor this time of waiting? As we light the candles on the advent wreath, and as we mark the days on our calendars, may we think of the epoch-making event to come, and give thanks for the gift of life that we celebrate in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low, And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. -Isaiah 40:3-5 Sherry Laughlin

Meditation Ten Tuesday, December 6 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. -1 Corinthians 11:23-26 I am often centered, you might say, one with life, when I am picking blueberries. It might be that I became aware that this fruit seemed made for me in particular. I like that they taste good and they are healthy for you to start.  They are loaded with vitamin C, bioflavonoids, minerals, and they tell you when they are ready to be picked (color code built in). They require so little of my attention because of their resistance to most all fruit diseases and insects (no need for spraying) and are drought resistant up to a point (irrigation failure about three years ago, but always rain at the right time since then).  They have this special natural wax covering on their skin which allows you to place them in the freezer unwashed and then thaw out in winter for a taste of fresh picked.  One bush can produce enough berries for a family of five. Could have planted a few less, I guess. The centering, though, is in the picking. The small berries take time to gather enough to fill a gallon bucket.  So what to do while picking (and eating)? You let your mind go free.  You remember your family being together (three generations) through the planting, grass cutting, the fertilizing, the pruning, the irrigating, the picking, the hiring, the grading, the packing, the crating, the selling, the sharing, the cooking, the eating. You remember the work, the harvest, the joy. I don't remember much of the profit (it was set up as non profit by someone, I forget who). Back to the eating: Eating Life, Eucharist. There is community in each bite, I feel one with the land, with the weather, with the plant and hands that nurtured it, the generations that formed me. I see my dad on our Massey-Ferguson 175 (restored together some 30 years ago) with his straw hat and long sleeves and relaxed expression of contentment. Sometimes I just need to do a little blueberry picking to remember. "This is My body, which is for you, do this in remembrance of Me."  This is God's body.  This- the soil, the air, the rain, the sun, and the blueberries.  Eat.  Imbibe.  Remember. • We are all one in him our Creator, our benefactor, our Redeemer and Savior. • Remember the Source of Life of this fragile planet and our fragile selves.  Thanks be to God for all things he has done. • Remember the rhythms of life-death-life that courses through every ecosystem and human generation.  Seasons of growth and dormancy and rebirth, fullness and fasting, the liturgical calendar - all invite to live in the cycle of death, resurrection / return.  “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Jim Bishop

Meditation Eleven Wednesday, December 7 As Harold S. Kushner wrote so eloquently in When Bad Things Happen to Good People, we are all hurt by life. The human condition includes rejection, bereavement, injury, and just plain bad luck. The unfortunate occurrences make us lose confidence, and in spite of knowing better on the intellectual level, in our pain and confusion, we as victims, begin to feel as if we have done something to deserve the hurt. Consequently we turn inward and compound the problem with depression. Recently, a friend enduring intense emotional suffering and upheaval asked, “How can I handle this? How can I live?” The answer; redemptively—because the alternative is not acceptable. The shackles of bitterness, anger, guilt, jealousy, and self-imposed loneliness are removed by the grace of the Christ Child. “ all who [are] looking for the redemption...” we need turn only to the manger and be freed, not from the human condition, but from its power to make us prisoners. In Love and Will, Rollo May defines “intentionally” as “the structure which gives meaning to experience. It is not to be identified with intentions, but is the dimension which underlies them: it is man’s capacity to have intentions. It is our imaginative participation in the coming days’ possibilities...out of which comes the awareness of our capacity to form, to mold, to change ourselves and the day in relation to each other.” (Love and Will, page 221) The divine child in the manger who grew into the divine Christ on the Cross provides us with the power to change ourselves, to make the fragments whole again, to bring victory from defeat, freedom from pain. We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But, by God’s grace, we are permitted to will our reactions. “Because He lives, we can face tomorrow.” “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) Iris Easterling Reprinted with permission from UBC Advent Devotions for 1992

Meditation Twelve Thursday, December 8 Christmas Thought As the numbered days of December pass most of us reflect on the past; the near and far distant. It is easy to shrug off emotional memory as nostalgia for a perspective only childhood can supply, taking for granted the importance of that early affirmation. Our childhoods and the early years of our own children often fill our thoughts as we near these annual marking posts. Those fortunate enough to have been raised in loving secure homes will have very different responses to the signs of an approaching Christmas season than those who were not so fortunate. Our unearned fortune or blessing can unintentionally gloss over our thoughts about what Christmas truly marks. There are those around us who have painful thoughts of bitter times where the edges of others’ joys remind them of the void of love and affirmation that they could only have longed for. A happy home for them might be no more than a Christmas Wish with as little hope as the delivery of that present by a bearded Elf from the North Pole. There are many around us who feel loss and loneliness at Christmas in an almost crippling intensity when thoughts are left unguarded. So what of Christmas then? What are we to make of it? What are we to let it make of us? We enjoy gifts from those who love or care for us, friends and family, but the real gift is just that, the affirmation of love overshadowed in the celebration of God’s gift to us. So, what can I do to bring Christmas into the heart of others in this hard and cynical world? Believe in Elves? Hardly. Be a shepherd, be a wise man, be an innkeeper (who finds a place for Mary and Joseph when there are no rooms)…make a way in this world to show the kindness of God, the bravery of God, the invitation of God in that inconvenient place for those who are alone inside and outside. If we love God, we must share that love, or we make God a liar. Be the love of God “with skin on it.” We share this invitation from the Incarnation Himself! David Walker

Meditation Thirteen Friday, December 9 And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for behold I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people." -Luke 2: 9-10 (KVJ) As a veteran deliverer of children's sermons, I've come to expect the unexpected. W.C. Fields was right when he shied away from performing with animals and children...they'll upstage you, or in the sermon mode, your message every time. From giggles to sometimes painful honesty, you never can predict what children will say or do. I've also learned that they are wise beyond their years and often astound you with their own interpretations. When my oldest daughter, Stacey, was in kindergarten, the class was memorizing the Christmas story from Luke for the annual Christmas program. We worked each night on the verses. I can still hear her saying "Luke, Chapter 2, beginning with verse four..." No matter how much we worked Stacey repeatedly said the shepherds were "sort of afraid" instead of "sore afraid." As the years have passed, just as the shepherds of long ago, I've found myself "sort of afraid." Our world confronts us at every turn with uncertainty, dilemma, stress, and pain. There certainly is much of which to be afraid. And yet, as we see the Advent candles burning brightly, their light seeps into the dark corners where we hide our fears. Looking toward Christmas, we anticipate the light of the Christ candle. We discover that our greatest fears can be transformed into angel wings through that inexpressible gift of grace born years ago. Help us, Lord, to face our fears-for through your grace, that which we fear may be our way to freedom. God bless us everyone.

Donna Matthews

Meditation Fourteen Saturday, December 10 I Don’t Think So God is at work in the world as He always has been and always will be. But God’s message never comes in the form we would like or expect. God seldom uses messengers that the world considers suitable. It is hard for us to understand how radical God’s actions were when He sent Jesus to earth. So I have changed Luke’s narrative as if it happened in our day. As a man was praying in his church, God said to him, “The Messiah has been sent. Go and see.” The man got up from his prayers and traveled across town to where God told him the Messiah had been born. By the railroad tracks, he found an auto mechanic shop. “How can this be the place?” questioned the man, but he parked his car and walked into the garage. He found a family living there. The father, a grease monkey, was standing beside his teenaged wife. She was seated on the concrete floor beside a make shift tool box, where a tiny baby was lying under his father’s old leather jacket. The man knew the Bible, but he could not recall a single reference to the Messiah being born in such an outrageous manner. The Scriptures would have described it so if it were so. So he left the garage, whispering, “I don’t think so.” Next to the freeway was a Waffle House where the staff was ending their shift. They were startled when a man suddenly appeared in the café. They were afraid, fearing a robbery. The man assured them that he had good news! He declared, “This night in your town God’s Son has been born! Through Him all people of all races will know joy. As a sign the baby is truly God’s son, the baby will be lying in a toolbox covered by an old jacket.” Suddenly music filled the café. Then the man and the voices disappeared, and the workers were alone again. They finally agreed to find the baby. So they drove over to the garage and found Mary, Joseph and the babe lying in a toolbox. They bowed down before the Messiah and praised God for sending His Son to save the world. The workers rejoiced and told everyone who would listen what had happened. All were amazed by their story, but how could it be true? God would not reveal the Messiah’s arrival to such poor unimportant people as these workers. One was even an immigrant. It was not the way their God did things so the people dismissed the messengers and the message. “No,” they said. “We don’t think so.” Elaine Wood

Third Week of Advent

Sunday, December 11-Saturday, December 17

Sunday Worship Service

Sanctuary Choir presents “The Messiah� 11:00 a.m.

Wednesday Evening Wednesday, December 14 Dr. Bennie Crockett William Carey Library Celebrates the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible 6:00 p.m.

Meditation Fifteen Sunday, December 11 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Corinthians 15:57 Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. -1 John 4:4

The Cross Triumphant shows a cross over the world symbolizing the triumph of our Savior over the sin of the world. The divisions suggest continents which are united into one by the circular extension of the cross. Thus, the world united in Christ, who has dominion over all. This Chrismon is also known as the Cross of Victory. It is easy to see joy in the faces of the many students who find their way to Hattiesburg from all over the world. What joy there is in knowing that beyond our differing cultures, languages, and ethnicities that Christ makes us one. As you celebrate the joy of Christ this week, pray for our Ministry with Internationals as well as our partnership with Baptist Medical and Dental Mission International that offers newfound joy through free medical and dental care in Honduras.

Meditation Sixteen Monday, December 12 Advent

Christmas comes once a year which is not at all enough for most small children. The buildup for it is filled with excitement and expectations and longings by most of the children in our faith community.  Such is not the case for many children. I remember one Christmas as a small boy when we went to my grandmother’s home.  My cousin, who lived there with his parents, and I were friends.  When we arrived, I asked him what he got for Christmas.  He replied that he got two shirts, some socks and a new pair of pants. I asked him, “What else?”  He replied, “Room and board and love the whole year.” I was embarrassed and shaken at how much the things of Christmas had blinded me to the true meaning of the season. I think we find it difficult to move from our Santa Claus and gift giving to the actuality of the first Christmas. It was a smelly stable in a cave behind an Inn. Mary and Joseph were not rich or even middle class by our present standards. Yet, our Father chose parents for Jesus that were from the lower classes of that day, in a place not conducive to joy and safety.  Yet, it happened; and the shepherds found him and marveled at the babe in the cattle trough.   Later, wise men seeking more than they knew found the baby and his parents in a house.  They gave rich gifts which perhaps were used for living expenses as the family had to flee Herod and go into Egypt. So, even in his infancy, Jesus reached out to another culture. The Egyptians have a story that when he arrived there, he could walk and talk and many believed in him. So, Advent for me now, is a time for reflection on what is the real meaning of joy and values. It is a time to bring our gifts that will enable His story to be told again in Egypt and other lands. It is a time to ask ourselves seriously, are our selves and our family able to focus on the poor but rich beginning of our faith? Can we dare to change our lives and practices to make room for a humble babe in a smelly stable and find ourselves able to share with those today who live in smelly places across the world?   One disturbing exercise we might do is to add up how much we spend on gifts to others as compared to how much we joyfully give to spread the Gospel. I read one time that Baptists spend more on dog food than on international missions. Something worth my thinking about, and you?   Graham Hales

Meditation Seventeen Tuesday, December 13 My lifetime second favorite book, Little Women, begins with Jo March’s lament, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” As much as I admire Jo, I beg to differ. Instead, I’d make a serious contention that Christmas can come as long as there is music. This first came to my attention when my father commented one Christmas Eve that he had not heard enough Christmas music. I was taken aback. This was a man who played no musical instrument and who sang off-key about a quarter beat behind everybody else. Before the day of iPods and iTunes – or even stereos - Daddy got whatever was playing on the radio; and an unusually busy December had left little time for listening. This musicloving Baptist preacher got up Christmas morning and turned on the radio, telling us he hoped to get his fill of carols. As he turned it off that night to go to bed, he breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s okay,” he said, “I’m satisfied.” I have noticed that Daddy is not alone in needing the music of Christmas to have a good one. In our first Christmas across an ocean in France, we faced a budget that looked a lot like Jo March’s. We made a deal that our Christmas present to each other would be tickets to hear the Paris Opera perform The Messiah. Every year as I recall special Christmases past, I still feel the crisp cold as we rode the Metro downtown. I see the gazillion tiny white lights outlining the Eiffel Tower, the Etoile, and all the buildings downtown. And I hear, “For unto us a child is born...unto us a Son is given....” It was a memorable Christmas indeed. My second grade teacher colleague and I took our classes to sing carols at the Fort Polk Officers Club one Christmas season. In the beginning, there were the smiles duly merited by cute kids and laughter over some of the fun songs of Christmas. But the group quieted to reverence as the children sang their final song, “What can I give Him poor as I am?...What can I give Him? Give Him my heart.” In churches, civic meetings, schools, and even piped in at the mall, music reminds us of the old story that makes it Christmas. As I think about that beloved story again this Christmas, it seems to me that God knew the importance of song all along. He did send the angel chorus to make the first announcement. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Thanks be to God who hears our joyous noel even if we sing off-key and half a beat behind everybody else. Virginia Butler

Meditation Eighteen Wednesday, December 14 When . . . When we were children, we were enslaved under the elemental principles of the world. But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son being born of a woman and being born under the Law to redeem those under the Law that we might receive adoption as sons. -Galatians 4:3-5 For many years at UBC, we have hung sanctuary banners featuring Paul's famous text that includes the phrase "in the fullness of time, God sent His Son."  Although in the same context Paul wrote that the Son of God was born of a woman, Paul's more comprehensive purpose was to assert that the Son's birth occurred under the Jewish Law and to show why that was important for early Gentile Christians. While the vast majority of Christians have been unrelated to the Jewish community, we share a necessary kinship. The Lord was born to Jewish parents, was circumcised as a child of Abraham's covenant, studied, learned, and taught the Jewish Law, Prophets, and Psalms as an itinerant Jewish rabbi, and was executed as a dangerous Jewish peasant against Roman sovereignty. When God chose imperial Rome's backwater, eastern province of Judea as the time, the culture, and the Jewish faith for the incarnation of His Son, few, if any, thought God was at work in such a way. Though we speak in exclusive terms of "Jews" and "Christians," the fact is that there would be no Christians apart from God's intentional work through the Jews and the Mosaic Law. We would not exist without God's grace through the Jewish people who gave the Son of God to us. In retrospect, Paul's text has enriched our understanding, and continually offers an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.  These Christian seasons emphasize the preparation for the Messiah, the birth of the Messiah, and the revelation of that universal Messiah, God's anointed one who is sent to repair the brokenness of creation. Paul argued that the Galatian Christians—likely Gentiles—were "children," analogous to slaves who have little authority (4:1) in a house. Yet, the slaves along with the free, the Jew, the Greek, the male, and the female (3:28) may become sons of God as the result of the Son of God's birth under the Law (4:5).   In like manner to the Galatian Gentiles, we Gentiles have the same privilege of adoption (4:5) into God's family by means of His Son born under the Jewish Law. For Paul, there is no Christian experience for Gentiles apart from their adoption into God's universal family of Jews and Gentiles under the Lordship of the Son of God born under the Law.   The simple word "when" describes Christianity's essence as a religion grounded in the reality of history.  "When we were children . . . when the fullness of time came"—such claims put Paul's Gentile hearers in the long history of God's work through the Jewish people. We, too, during this season of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, join all fellow-believers submitted to the Son of God, born of a woman, born under the Law. Bennie Crockett

Meditation Nineteen Thursday, December 15 Remembering Advent There was something different about Sunday evenings the last few weeks before Christmas when I was in elementary and middle school. It was not the same as anticipating the approach of Christmas – a decorated tree, wrapped gifts to be counted and stacked, smells of pine, cedar and cloves. It was not the same as looking forward to seeing out-of-town relatives and eating special desserts. There was something very quiet about Sunday evenings late in the year. In those days, our family attended church activities and services on Sunday evening as well as Sunday morning and Wednesday. I wish I could say my memory of Training Union lessons is sharp and clear; at the time, however, I was more focused on how many Walt Disney programs I didn’t watch. But not during the season of Advent. Our family held an Advent service each Sunday evening after we came home from church. Our Advent wreath was one my mother made, and we used it for years. There were four of us (Roy, Martha, Linda and Mark), and with four Sunday evenings before Christmas each of us took a turn in charge of service preparation – order of service, what hymns to sing, what Scripture to read, prayer. There was something different about our family. I didn’t know anyone else whose family observed Advent. There was something different about those Sunday evenings. I sensed it but didn’t have a word for it then. Now I do. Those Sunday evenings when we gathered around our Advent wreath leading each other in worship – those times were holy. Linda Ginn

Meditation Twenty Friday, December 16 Let the Light Shine Outward As a new member of UBC, I have gradually become more appreciative of the liturgical format used in our services. I must admit, however, that I sometimes struggle to keep my mind engaged in the spirit and content of the scripted readings and responses. Nonetheless, I have found the opening liturgy and the lighting of the Christ Candle to be quite helpful in establishing a context for worship and in setting the stage for a meaningful worship experience. As we approach the Advent season, the symbolic lighting of candles provides a vivid picture of the change that Christ's birth brought about on a dark world. The metaphor of light is powerful due to the image of illumination that it produces within a void of darkness. As highlighted in Matthew 4:16, "the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.� At this time of the year, it is not difficult to embrace Jesus as the "light of the World" and to feel the joy and emotions associated with our celebration of Christ's birth. However, it is possible to enjoy the beautiful music, go through the motions of worship, and still miss the message of hope, sacrifice, and redemption that is central to the Christmas story. The real challenge is for us to carry the Advent message into the world beyond the worship center. We do this not so much by what we say as what we do and how we treat others in day-to-day relationships. In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us "You are the light of the world..."(v.14) and “...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven"(v.16). The building of positive relationships with others is important if the light of Christ is to be projected into the world where we live and work. With increased use of the Internet, there is a danger that the social media are increasingly replacing face-to-face interactions with other people. While communication avenues such as texting and Facebook have a place in today's world, they lack the personal impact afforded by relationships that involve direct, humanto-human contacts. One of the better examples of an outreach ministry in our midst is the Christian Women's Job Corp. Within a compassionate, caring atmosphere, volunteers work closely with needy and discouraged women, assisting them to acquire new skills and begin a process of getting their lives on track toward some degree of self sufficiency. In the end, it is our willingness to respond to people in all walks of life within genuine, caring relationships that light up the world and bring glory to the Father. John Alcorn

Meditation Twenty-One Saturday, December 17 A savior is born Donkeys carried Mary to Bethlehem Very excited Everybody came Now we shall celebrate the birth of Jesus This is the day that Jesus was born Nick Doherty, Graham Hightower, Beau Hinton, & Jake Nurkin 1st & 2nd Grade Sunday School Class

Fourth Week of Advent

Sunday, December 18-Saturday, December 24

Sunday Worship Service “Yearning for Vocation” Luke 1:46b-55 11:00 a.m.

Christmas Caroling Sunday, December 18 5:30 p.m.

Christmas Eve Service Saturday, December 24 5:00 p.m.

Meditation Twenty-Two Sunday, December 18 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. -Galatians 3:23

The Christogram contains a Cross, Chi Rho, and M. The “M,” a monogram for Mary, our Lord’s mother, suggests his humanity. Shells traditionally symbolize Holy Baptism, our spiritual rebirth in Christ when, by faith, we become children of God. Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine; Love was born at Christmas, Star and angel gave the sign God’s love became flesh and blood in Jesus Christ. This Advent season we can make our own love tangible-through gifts under the tree, in warm hugs, even in a box of food from Breadbasket. How will you show love this season and beyond?

Meditation Twenty-Three Monday, December 19 Twas the day before Christmas, The hospital was humming With doctors and nurses Going and coming. My three sons were at home Wondering where was their mom And excitedly waiting For Christmas to come. The snow started falling. A few flakes at first; But piles built up quickly It couldn't be worse. I had hoped to be home To celebrate with the rest, But God plans other thingsHis are always the best. My most wonderful Christmas gift Wasn't under the tree My fourth little boy arrived, Smiling at me. And I thought of Mary Smiling down at her Boy And felt what she felt An unspeakable joy. My best Christmas gifts Are never under a tree But are the Baby of Bethlehem And my own baby, Tommy.

Nancy Ratliff

Meditation Twenty-Four Tuesday, December 20 Let your love cover me Like a pair of angel wings; You are my family, You are my Family. The chorus of Pierce Pettis’s song “Family” reminds me of the essentials of family life: succor, comfort, support, and protection. This is not surprising, given the nature of the opening verses: the first about a broken heart and the second about the death of a loved one. Not routine aspects of family life, maybe; but neither are they extraordinary. However, the final verse offers something of a twist: The boy who played with the moon and stars Waves a snatch of hay in a common barn. In this lonely house of Adam’s fall Lies a child, just a child, that’s all . . . Crying . . . Let your love cover me. . .. These lines limn a mystery: the divine and immortal Christ Child transformed into a human infant - like the rest of us - crying out “in this lonely world” for what? Consolation? Affiliation? What an idea: that God himself would be so vulnerable, so needy! Who could be blamed for experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance? This notion of a Divine Infant seems inconsistent, at odds with the Most High God Almighty, the Ruler of All Creation. Perhaps we forget that the very idea of the Trinity suggests that the character of our Creator confounds natural comprehension. I am reminded that our God is of manifold attributes: Present in the cataclysm of creation, but often identified as a “still, small voice;” one who is always just, but equally forgiving, both chastening and merciful; the Eternal Father, who was not merely once a Babe, but in a real sense, is ever so. It is this reminder of the Infant that we celebrate every year about this time. In this Advent Season, we pause to acknowledge the exposed, vulnerable nature of the One whom we adore, the One who said, “I was hungry, and you fed me; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me.” We recall that He also said, “As you do unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do it unto me.” We remember. And perhaps we hear echoes of a child . . . crying.

Paul Laughlin

Meditation Twenty-Five Wednesday, December 21 Things Kept and Pondered But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

-Luke 2: 19 (KJV)

Kept is the past tense of the word keep. One of Webster's definitions of keep is "to preserve or maintain as to guard or defend." What were the "things" Mary wanted to preserve or maintain? Along with all the shepherds told her, I feel sure she was remembering another angel's special message to her and her response. And now what had been told to her had come about, and she wanted to preserve in her heart and mind all that had happened and all that the shepherds had said. Ponder carries with it the idea of "to weigh in the mind; to meditate; to deliberate." Mary weighed in her mind all that had happened. One can imagine that she thought of all the circumstances that had led up to this special birth and she pondered what each might indicate in the days ahead for this baby boy. Could Mary have known that this one would one day walk on water, still storms, heal the sick, cause the lame to walk and finally face death on a cross? Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene have written: Mary did you know That your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation? Mary did you know That your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations? Did you know That your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb? The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great, I Am. These days of Advent could just be the time when we ponder anew the significance of this marvelous event we call Christmas and sing with the angels, "Glory to God in the highest!� Jane Allison

Meditation Twenty-Six Thursday, December 22 Being in the presence of deep love is disarming. Being accepted simply because you are on the planet is the best life has to offer. It is what God offers...and it is expressed toward us in Advent and drawn from a clear spring that runs through us in Advent. Living in a society that is a meritocracy where approval and acceptance are commonly achievement-based doesn’t prepare us for unconditional acceptance. In the discomfort and downright fear of exclusion, a brush with the astonishing miracle of God’s stunning care for us redefines what real life is. It can be like coming alive. That first Christmas morning may have been harsh for Mary and Joseph in its furnishings, but not in the warmth of accepting love. Joseph had taken Mary into his secret heart. He had accepted the very Magnificat of Mary even if he had not heard her say those words to God. His soul was open to the child that he would hold in his arms and guide with his mind. He was experiencing the powerful inclusion of God for him as he took on a purpose he could not have imagined. And he must have felt the force of Mary’s love for him. What strength Mary must have seen in Joseph, the man who set aside society’s standards, the sideways looks, the whispering disapproval of self-righteous hometown gossip. She had felt the commitment to her in the face of what neither understood. They held each other in a relationship that was beyond what any of us could understand. And that newborn baby, that tiny bundle of life that would wrap the unacceptable, the outcasts, the lonely, the whole hurting world in the caress of love and give it hope.... Well, the stable was a place for home. So Advent, rightly celebrated in any place, should create a sense of home...a full-hearted, belonging time. No conditions qualify or prepare anyone for experiencing the love expressed through God’s gift of continuing, caring presence. It is the grand adventure of Advent. Lee Walker

Meditation Twenty-Seven Friday, December 23 Ms. Drusilla and the Donkey Christmas Eve...even as I write those words I am taken back to my childhood to one of the sweetest memories I hold—one of those memories so real that I can still see, taste, and sense its realities these many years later. For most of my childhood and early adolescent years, I joined my father and my older sister for visits to several of our church members who lived in nursing homes or were unable to leave their homes to celebrate Christmas at the church. I loved the time I shared with my father and sister. Riding across the town, in-and-out of dwellings as we spread Christmas cheer, often picking up little treats along the way. For many years, my sister and I even sang a song or two, probably more “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph” than “Silent Night,” but it really didn’t matter. As the Christmas Eve afternoon progressed, we began to anticipate the final stop before going to the church to prepare for Christmas Eve worship. The home was that of Ms. Drusilla King. We started visiting her home because Ms. Drusilla’s mother was homebound. I was still quite young when her mother passed on to her eternal dwelling, but Ms. Drusilla insisted that we continue to make our stop at her home, even if she would shortly join us at the Christmas Eve worship service. Our visits had become a central part of her Christmas celebration and, the truth is, my sister and I couldn’t imagine Christmas without a visit to her home. We loved walking into her home. It was a small house packed full of love and fried apple pies (we always took a plate home on Christmas Eve). I particularly remember the year Ms. Drusilla caught me gazing at her Christmas tree and invited me to pick an ornament, any ornament on the tree was mine for the taking. The donkey made of cloth that I picked that Christmas Eve still hangs on my tree today...the most cherished of my Christmas ornaments. As I look back on Christmas Eve, I sense that the season came alive to me on those visits. We were living into a vital part of the Christmas story, the offering and receiving of hospitality. I’m not sure why I picked the donkey, but I can now imagine Mary riding atop it as Joseph knocked on the doors of distant family members, seeking shelter for Mary and her soon to be born baby. While there was no room for the holy family in the Inn, the gift of hospitality was extended by someone who had an empty manger might have seemed like a simple gesture to the manger owners, but what a gift to God, to the world. Ms. Drusilla joined her mother in eternity this past October, entering into what must be God’s greatest gift of hospitality. Though she is gone from our earthly company, I hang my donkey on the tree and remember...remember the fun I had with my father and sister, remember the warmth of Christmas love shared, remember the joy of offering and receiving the Christmas Eve gift of hospitality. Rusty Edwards

Meditation Twenty-Eight Saturday, December 24-Christmas Eve “It’s amazing! It’s amazing!” my two and half year old granddaughter cried as she ran back and forth in front of my mother’s house. A blaze of Christmas lights was coming from the house and from all the yard ornaments depicting various Christmas images. This was her first close-up look at the color, the joy, the wonder of Christmas lights. The excitement and joy in her voice thrilled us all. Her amazement has become a family Christmas memory that gets repeated at gatherings. Riding around looking at Christmas lights was a favorite tradition in my family, although we could drive a lot farther when gas was only $.35 a gallon. I can remember as a child, not too much older than Maya, driving past homes that looked like gingerbread houses covered with candy-colored lights—and all the oohs and ahhs that we kids made. Even today, with our more modest decorations, the excitement of Christmas begins to build inside me as soon as those lights begin appearing after Thanksgiving. Christmas comes into our part of the world in the darkest season. As we head towards the Winter Solstice, daylight grows scarcer as the nights lengthen. Even in Mississippi, the air turns much colder. It could be a time to stay indoors, wrapped in our insular worlds, waiting for the sun to come back and bring its life-giving force back into our lives. Instead, Christmas trees, covered with lights, adorn our cities and our homes. Icicle-shaped lights hang from the eaves of our roofs. Lighted, inflatable Snow Globes and Santas brighten our streets. Ignoring the cold and the dark, we go out to brightly lit stores to shop and buy gifts to wrap in shiny colors. The Christmas season brings all the houselights on as we bask in the warmth of parties and family gatherings in this dark time of the year. Each week, we light a candle on our Advent wreath, pausing to reflect on the coming celebration of the birth of Immanuel, God with us. The final candle lit on one of longest nights in the year celebrates the coming of the Light of the World-meant to chase away the darkness of despair, loneliness, and in our own natures. Advent reminds us that God replaces the darkness in our lives with the light of hope, love, joy, and peace, and His unending Presence. It allows us to slow down and open our hearts more and more to the promise of God’s work in our lives. It reminds us to sing our message of “Joy to the World” to people who need His light to find their way out of the dark. Joyce Holley

Meditation Twenty-Nine Sunday, December 25-Christmas Day In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,    and on earth peace among those whom he favours!” -Luke 2:8-14

Claire Thornton

Rosanne Crockett - Coordinator Virginia Butler - Editor Joyce Holley - Editor Nancy Ratliff - Editor Ashley Gill - Layout Russell Lott, Connie Benedict, Cindy Storey - Printing Contributors

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. All rights reserved.


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UBC Advent Devotional  
UBC Advent Devotional  

University Baptist Church's Advent devotional guide for 2011