November 30, 2020
One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?” He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” They discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Luke 20:1–8

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
Isaiah 30:15
Our "inner authority"
I began lighting candles year-round — not just during Advent and Christmas — when I moved into my 18th-century home. It didn’t seem appropriate to me to fill the primitive rooms — complete with small windows and low ceilings — with LED lights. While trying to stay true to the house’s history, there was another reason I began living more by candlelight. I noticed a calming peace washed over me whenever I lit a candle, especially when I was faced with a pressing writing deadline or grappling with a church conflict. The candle gave me permission to be still. It invited me to stop filling my world with words for answers or rebuttals and to listen to God’s whispers.
Those who have studied Howard Thurman’s writings describe him as having a “quiet faith,” and they have noted that throughout his life he sought a deep commitment to silence. It was in this silence that Thurman discovered what he called the “inner authority” — that place in our hearts where we find the strength and purpose to live the lives we are called to live and, by doing so, possibly be able to make a difference in the world.
The priests and scribes were always asking Jesus who gave him the authority to turn the world upside down and to challenge the status quo. We know Jesus’ authority came from above, but what we tend to forget is that Jesus spent quiet time alone with God to renew his strength and to gain clarity.
These days, we are so quick to react with rebuttals and rhetoric. What would happen if we quieted down long enough to tap into that “inner authority” Thurman speaks of? How would God speak to us? What would we be led to do? The prophet Isaiah reminds us that “in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” This Advent, may we find our strength. May we find our inner authority.

God of great guidance, quiet my heart today so that I can be fully present to you and tap into an “inner authority” which will renew my strength to better serve and glorify you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Go deeper
Turn off your email notifications, cell phones and TVs, and give yourself at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted quiet time to reflect on Thurman’s idea of the power of “inner authority.”
Presbyterians Today
Advent Christmas Devotional 2020: "Let Us Light Candles"
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009