January 2, 2021

Presbyterians Today, PC(USA)
Advent Christmas Devotionals 2020
"Let Us Light Candles"
The 12 Days of Christmas
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” 

Hebrews 11:1–12
Snow angel
I’ve always loved this passage in Hebrews which is often referred to as the “great roll call” of faith. We are told of men and women who, by faith and nothing but faith, trusted God completely, even when God didn’t give them all the information up front as to what to expect or equip them with a detailed roadmap showing every twist, turn and pothole. It was simply, “by faith” that led them forward into a life they never would have experienced if they had chosen not to take that proverbial leap.

It was by faith that I said “yes” to God’s call to pastor struggling rural churches — churches that few pastors would get excited about. I didn’t intend on a life of being a country pastor. I still smile remembering when the head of a pastor nominating committee of a rural church reached out to me after reading my profile on the national church search site. She wanted to know if I was interested in talking with the committee, even though I didn’t mark “yes” to being open to rural ministry on my profile. I didn’t realize I did that. We spoke. I was called. And the rest is history.

What would have happened, though, if I had kept the rural door closed? I would never have experienced the most amazing moments of grace. I never would have seen the love of a community pulling together to raise money for a family in need. I never would have discovered how beautifully God does provide our daily bread if I never had a church that always struggled for money, yet always had enough. I never would have met my husband who, after years of unsuccessful dating in Manhattan, was waiting for me in Small Town USA. I never would have met my snow angel, Alice, who taught me to see hope in tomorrow even when there seems to be none.

It was one of those January Sundays where the wind whipped through the valleys and hills. It had snowed the night before, and so I expected church attendance to be even lower than usual. It was a small church of silver-haired seniors, and I was sure they would not want to venture out on slick roads. I was wrong. They came.

I opened our time of worship commending them and then joked that they were now expected to join me after worship to make snow angels in front of the church. There was laughter, and I thought my invite was forgotten by the time coffee hour rolled around. Imagine my surprise when I felt a tug at my clergy robe. Alice, one of the oldest of the older members, was standing there with her winter jacket on. When she told me to “get going,” I had to ask, “Get going where?” “I’m ready to make snow angels with you,” said Alice. I was shocked. So were others. But soon, by faith, they, too, got into their coats, and we made our way out into the frigid air.

Alice was the first to plunk down into the snow, flapping her arms to make angel wings. Helping hands were reaching out, pulling one another back up off of the ground. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was still life in this church. There was still hope. There was an angel named Alice who “by faith” did one of the most exceptional things I will ever see in ministry. She took a crazy pastor’s invite and showed that pastor that all things are indeed possible — possible by faith.

God, forgive me when I hesitate to step out in faith. Forgive me when I doubt your limitless love and your perfect guidance. Help me this day to see that all things are possible with you. May my steps this year be steps of great faith in you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Go deeper
What are the things in your life that you think aren’t possible? What have you been hesitant to do? If you are feeling stuck, close your eyes and imagine standing on a path. Now move your foot one step forward and whisper, “By faith, I will …”
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009
770-751-0033 www.alpharettapres.com