December 18, 2020

Presbyterians Today, PC(USA)
Advent Christmas Devotionals 2020
"Let Us Light Candles"
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak. 

Ephesians 6:10–20
The courage to allow others to speak
I woke up Sunday morning rattled by a dream I had. It wasn’t the usual “I forgot my sermon notes” or “no one is in the sanctuary” dream that pastors sometimes have. In this dream, I was really excited to share the Good News and I couldn’t because I had no voice. Nothing came out of my mouth when I spoke. It was frustrating and scary. I woke up vowing that no matter, I would always find a way for God’s Word to be proclaimed. With the dream still on my mind I got to church. Today was the launch of a new service — a twist on the traditional “Lessons and Carols.” This was “Lessons, Carols and Witnessing to the Light.” I had arranged for a child to read the Scripture passage and then for a new church member — we had several people join the congregation that year — to share what that passage meant to them in their walk of faith. I just thought this new service would be a refreshing way of presenting the familiar nativity passages. What I didn’t expect was how powerful it would be to hear Scripture read by children and then hear the stories from people from all different walks of life. By the end of the service, there wasn’t a dry eye in the sanctuary. Not only were the adults touched, but the children were in quiet awe, having listened to so many people share about the power of God working in their lives. Later that day, I thought back to my dream. This time it didn’t rattle me. Rather it gave me an “aha” moment. For what I witnessed was the beauty of God’s Word being shared among the generations and shared so honestly. And, the space for those stories to be heard was made when I, as pastor, kept quiet. Sunday worship wasn’t about me nor my ability to eloquently proclaim the Good News. The new Advent service of “Lessons and Carols and Witnessing to the Light” gave the space for voices not heard to be heard. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul asks for prayers so that he may speak boldly. That Sunday, though, I learned that prayers for others to speak boldly and to share their stories of faith need to be said. We need more people finding the courage to speak. We need even more people to find the courage to be silent for a moment and listen.

God, who spoke Creation into existence, give me the courage to speak when I need to speak and listen when I need to listen. Help me to hear the stories of others and in my listening come to understand more of who you are. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Go deeper
When was the last time you had a family story night? Winter is the perfect time to gather around a virtual fireplace and have a night of witnessing to the light of Christ.
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009