December 14, 2020

Presbyterians Today, PC(USA)
Advent Christmas Devotionals 2020
"Let Us Light Candles"
"Bind up the testimony, seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.  See, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. Now if people say to you, “Consult the ghosts and the familiar spirits that chirp and mutter; should not a people consult their gods, the dead on behalf of the living, for teaching and for instruction?” surely, those who speak like this will have no dawn! They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry; when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will curse their king and their gods. They will turn their faces upward, or they will look to the earth, but will see only distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into thick darkness."

Isaiah 8:16–22

"But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 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 9:1–2 
A brave little state
Prior to the November election, I noticed signs appearing on the side of my rural roads that read: “This brave little state says ‘no’ to hate.” I live in Vermont and “brave little state” is the nickname President Calvin Coolidge, a Vermonter himself, gave the state after it showed bravery and resolve to work together in the aftermath of a flood that hit one of the counties in the early 1920s. Now in 2020, an advocacy group has created a campaign around the nickname, raising awareness of the racial justice work that needs to be done in a mostly white state. It’s important work because Bernie Sanders and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream aside, Vermont isn’t as liberal as my friends think it is.

I realized that a year ago when the children of a neighboring school voted to fly a Black Lives Matter flag on the flagpole. The news story unleashed a torrent of hate messages that flooded the station’s social media feed. As I scrolled through the comments that slammed the school’s education board for allowing this, and the many more comments about how “all” lives matter, the scales from my eyes began to fall. I was shocked and realized that I had been living in a bubble. It was time to shed light on what was really happening. The prophet Isaiah talks about people walking in darkness, but eventually they will have a light shine upon them. Redemption will be theirs. This light, though, is not a given. We need to do our part in order to have it shine upon us. We need to stop living in bubbles. We need to recognize the ways we perpetuate hate — no matter what hate it might be. We need to open our hearts, repent and invite that light in. It is not going to be easy because sometimes we get used to being in the dark and a sudden stream of light can be jarring. But we need to be brave little states that say “no” to hate. For how can we enter into the season of Christmas, where love came down from heaven, and still harbor hate?

God, remove the scales from my eyes that keep me from seeing the hate that is in me. Break open my heart so that this Christmas I will sing with a new conviction, “Truly he taught us to love one another.” Amen.

Go deeper
What is your community doing to say “no” to hate? Is there a group to get involved in? If not, is there a need for such a group, and could it be something that God is asking you to start?
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009