Friday, November 25, 2016

THE WAITING OF ADVENT by Rebecca Edwards

The season of Advent.
The word “Advent” means an arrival of a notable person or event.  In the Christian tradition, Advent is a season.  An intentional time of waiting, Advent is quiet and dark.  We are getting ready for the Mystery of Christmas.  While the rest of the world seems to celebrate, those observing Advent are waiting for the reason we celebrate.

In our family, we have several Advent traditions.  First, Our church celebrates the first Sunday of Advent with a Hanging of the Green service, where we sing hymns and decorate the church.   The Chrismon (Christ-Monogram) Tree is the focus of our decor, with splashes of blue, purple, and white hanging from tables and walls.

At home, we gradually get our own Advent/ Christmas decor out and around the house.  Our church also helps with this in hosting the annual Advent Dinner Fellowship, which involves a potluck supper and creating a family Advent wreath.   The wreath represents the eternal Love God has for His people.  We light a candle for each of the four Sundays in Advent, one for Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace.  Then, on Christmas Day, The Christ Candle (the big candle in the middle is lit, the life of Christ that has come into the world, pure and spotless.

We live near Baylor University, and every year, during the first week of Advent, we attend the Advent service in the beautiful Armstrong-Browning Library.  It is a lovely night that visually and musically sets our hearts ready for the season.

At home, our family begins Advent devotionals with The Jesse Tree, a journey through the people of Scripture that culminate in the birth of Jesus Christ, based on Isaiah 11:1:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

In 2010, I found a wonderful resource online from Ann Voskamp. It was a printable Jesse Tree devotional, complete with ornaments and daily Scripture. (Click here for the devotional.) Other resources are available, too, and it is fun for the children to hang an ornament on the tree each day as we approach Christmas.

As the season goes by, with Christmas events around town, we hold the waiting still.  While school “holiday” parties happen, we remember the “Holy Day” for which we are preparing.

However your family chooses to celebrate this Advent season, what is important to remember is this waiting prepares us for the journey of this Christian life. This waiting in the “not yet” is the daily practice of a Christian.

A note from Charles Kirkpatrick: Rebecca Edwards is a Native-born West Texan transplanted in Waco.  A wife, mother, volunteer, and substitute teacher, her passions include her Christian Faith, her family, her children, and her community.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

MY THANKSGIVING TOP TEN LIST

Thanksgiving 2016
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4 (NIV)

It's just around the corner—the day we celebrate as Thanksgiving.  Isn't it interesting that we designate ONE DAY out of the year to give thanks to our God who so richly blesses us 365 days a year?  We should say, "Thank you" every day of the year!

It would be impossible to list everything I have to be thankful for, so I will just list what I will call My Thanksgiving Top Ten List.

10. My house – there are many people in this world today who have no place to live.  Many of them sleep on park benches and under bridges.

9. Food - we always have plenty to eat at our house.  Many people don’t.  Every day as I drive home from work, I see people standing beside the road holding a sign that says, “Will work for food.”

8. Clothes – I never have to worry about whether there will be clothes in my closet for me to put on each day.  Many people only have the clothes that they are wearing.

7. Health – I am thankful that I am blessed with good health.  Many people have a serious illness which keeps them from enjoying a full and happy life.

6. My country – I am thankful that I live in a country where I enjoy great freedom.  In many countries you don’t have much freedom.  In some countries you can be put in prison, or even put to death, for telling others about Jesus.

5. Teachers – I am thankful for the teachers that I have had in school and in church who have taught me the things I needed to know to live a happy and successful life.

4. Friends – I am thankful for my many friends.  In times of trouble, I have always had friends who were there to help me.

3. Family – I am thankful for my family.  God has given me a wonderful wife and son and many other family members whom I love very much.

2. Parents – I am thankful that God blessed me with wonderful parents who loved me, cared for me, and taught me about Jesus and his love.

1. Jesus – Jesus is number one on my list of things for which I am thankful.  No one ever loved me like Jesus.  He loved me so much that he was willing to die on a cross so that I can have everlasting life.  Thank you, Jesus.

Well, that is my Thanksgiving Top Ten list. I have been so richly blessed! The Bible says,  “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same." It is my prayer that I will begin to share generously of the bounty with which I have been blessed.


Saturday, July 02, 2016

Freedom Isn't Free

On holidays, I fly an American flag on the lawn in front of my house.  I do this is a reminder to all who pass by of the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans. July 4th is, no doubt, the most important holiday to us as Americans. It marks the birth of our nation which was founded on the principal of "Liberty and justice for all." In our country we enjoy a lot of freedom. Our constitution guarantees us the right of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." We are blessed to live in a nation where we enjoy that freedom.

This might come as a surprise to some, but freedom isn't free!  Someone had to pay a price for us to have the freedom that we enjoy. That price was paid by men and women who have served in the armed forces—the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard. Many of you who are reading this have helped to pay the price for our freedoms. Many of you have had loved ones who paid the ultimate price—they gave their life fighting for our freedom.

You and I have a lot of freedom, but the greatest freedom that we have is the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus. The Bible teaches that the penalty for sin is death, but you and I have been set free from this penalty. We have been set free because Jesus paid the penalty. The Bible tells us that Jesus died to set us free from the penalty of sin. Instead of death, we have been given eternal life. This freedom wasn't free, Jesus paid the price.

This week as we celebrate Independence Day,  I hope we will all remember to stop and thank God for those who have paid the price for our freedom. But even more important, let us remember to thank God for Jesus, who has set us free from the penalty for sin, because he was willing to pay the price.

Dear Father, we  thank you for the freedom that we enjoy in our country. We are thankful for those who paid the price for that freedom, but even more important, we thank you for the freedom we have because Jesus was willing to pay the penalty for our sin. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.