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Finding Trust in the Silent Night by Caitlin Brenton DeSalvo

Monday, December 3
Psalm 25:1-10

“. . . in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me . . . guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God, my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25: 2, 5)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve attended the Christmas Eve service at Second Baptist. And for as long as I can remember, it has been a highlight of the year and the Advent Season. The peace, calming, and serenity of the service, the words spoken, the hymns sung and their organ accompaniment, the phenomenal fellowship—all play an immense role in the evening’s memorable nature.

There is one part of the service that stands out to me at the moment and stays with me throughout the year. One part of the service that I know I shall remember as long as I live; the lighting of the candles and singing of “Silent Night.” Josephus Franciscus Mohr’s lyrics get me every time: “Silent Night, Holy Night, Son of God, Love’s pure light; Radiant beams from thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace.” The message of his words always leaves me feeling an immense calm and peacefulness. In fact, this is one of our son’s most requested evening lullabies.
When the dimly lit sanctuary is filled with hundreds of candles, my heart is full of hope. Filled with hope for all that will be in the New Year. As the lights continue to dim and the a cappella chorus crescendos, you can’t help but be filled with a hopeful peace. Just like a freshly fallen snow, peace and hope abound.

As we reflect upon the year that’s passed and fill our hearts with hope for the year ahead, may we do it with God at the forefront. As we look ahead to the Advent Season, may Psalm 25:5 be our prayer: “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”
Caitlin Brenton DeSalvo

at Monday, December 3, 2018

Preparing for Advent by Jason Edwards

Sunday, December 2
Isaiah 40: 1-8

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD ; make straight in the desert a highway for our God…”  (Isaiah 40:3) 

The words of Isaiah 40 come to Israel in the midst of one of the most difficult seasons in her history. Prophetically, they point toward the future with confidence rooted in their past. Exodus had been their defining story. Deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Guided by God as they wandered through 40 years of wilderness, wondering the whole time if God was ever actually going to guide them out. Successive generations likely saw the Exodus as an exuberant triumph through their promised land rearview mirrors. Their forerunners, however, surely lived with wanting and waning faith as they continued onward in their winding wilderness path. I imagine Isaiah’s audience, those now in Exile, resonated more authentically with Egyptian enslavement and unsettling displacement than with the privilege of power and security.  They were nearer in history to their conquering days, but whatever confidence they’d had that everything was going to be ok, had presumably been crushed along with their holy temple. 

But now, a word of comfort. Harkening back to the seemingly straitened (circuitous) path of the wilderness, God is calling them through the prophet to prepare for a new day. Low things will be made high, and high things will be made low. Everything they’ve understood is about to be flipped upside down. God’s deliverance is, once again, on the way. So, with a word of comfort that echoes both the past and the future (Mark 1: 1-3), the prophet proclaims the time has come for them to prepare. 

Prepare the way. Prepare their world. Prepare themselves. 

Prepare for what God plans to do for them, and with them, next.  

Preparation is the essence of the Advent season. Advent has a double point. It’s meant to prepare us for the celebration of Christ’s first coming, while simultaneously preparing us to receive Christ’s second coming. This sometimes-missed double meaning in Advent is captured well in Isaac Watts’ popular hymn, “Joy to the World.” Our emotional memory and seasonal practice tell us it’s a Christmas carol, but a close review of its text and the author’s intent tells us Watts’ hymn is much more a celebration of Christ’s second coming than His first. It then becomes the perfect Advent carol – with its emotional embedding compelling celebratory singing for all Christ has done in the past, while its actual meaning prepares us to receive Christ anew in the future. In this way Watts urges us, like the prophet Isaiah, to look to the future with a comfort rooted in God’s good past provision. 

You may be living in a season of wonder. You can remember difficult days, but these are not them. If that’s you, that’s wonderful. May these Advent days be filled with moments where you can offer praise to God for this season of joy. Others, however, may be in a different place. This may be a season shaped by struggle. You may identify more authentically with the wanting and waning faith of Israelites in Egypt or Exile.  I’m so sorry. My prayer for you is that this Advent will serve, somehow, as a season of comfort and new possibility. 

And for all of us - those celebrating, those struggling, and those who know well an intermingling of the two: May we all ready ourselves for fresh manifestations of God’s presence and grace. 

Let every heart prepare Him room….

With joy,
Jason Edwards

Posted by Jason Edwards at Sunday, December 2, 2018

One Gift by Sue Wright


Advent is here again, and along with it, another Advent Devotional Guide from Second Baptist. Like last year, devotionals will begin on the first Sunday of Advent and conclude the first Sunday after Christmas. Jason Edwards, our pastor, has selected phrases from the carol, “Joy to the World,” to move our worship through the month of December. What better way to “Prepare Every Heart” for the “Wonders of God’s Love,” than exploring JOY! What better way for “Earth to Receive Her King,” than to “Repeat the Sounding Joy” in a mutual daily study!  

My thanks to the twenty-nine writers from our congregation who have brought their stories and insights to these pages. Thank you, fellow editor, Janet Hill, for choosing from the lectionary, the scriptures on which we will dwell these next few weeks and to Nicole Swanson for our booklet’s design. The three of us extend an extra note of appreciation to all the proofreaders who have made our booklet the finished product it is.

Once more, I’ve offered a bit of fiction to get the Season started. Here’s hoping you find in “One Gift,” both a sigh and a giggle!         
Sue Wright


By Sue Wright

Nina tore the toy catalog from her sister’s hands. Then returned it apologetically. “Sorry, Patty,” she said, “But Christmas isn’t for poor people!”

“Who says?” asked the girl.

“Mama! I heard her and Daddy talking about it in the kitchen after dinner.”

“Does that mean Christmas isn’t for us?”

“I’m afraid so. According to them, we’re very poor.”

“But I thought Christmas was for everybody!”

“Not the getting-presents-part of Christmas! That takes money and Daddy says we’re flat broke.”

“But Santa isn’t broke, is he?”

Not sure how to answer, Nina looked away. She wasn’t about to spill the beans on Santa to her younger sister.

“Well,” sighed Patty, “I HOPE he isn’t broke. Santa has a zillion children counting on him, including me. I wonder if it would help if kids sent him shorter wish lists this year. Instead of asking for ten things, ask for five?”

“Or one!”

“Just one?”


“A doll?”


“A bike?”

“A used one, maybe.”

“Humph! Christmas isn’t going to be much fun!”

“Maybe you think it was fun for Mary and Joseph that first Christmas!”

Patty giggled. “It’s always sounded fun to me. I’d love to sleep in a stable with a bunch of animals and have angels and shepherds pop in to say hello and sing a joyful song.” 

 “Party!” exclaimed Nina, sarcastically. “I bet their stay in Bethlehem was a total disaster.”

“No, it wasn’t! Mary and Joseph got exactly what they wanted from their trip! A beautiful baby boy!”

“True . . .”

“Nina, do you suppose the Christ Child ever got anything for Christmas? After all, it was his birthday. A new pair of sandals or a toy saw?” The girl grinned at her own joke.

“Hard to say, Patty, but I don’t think he needed much, being God’s son and all. The most Jesus ever asked, was for people to ‘Love One Another.’”

“Did he get his wish?”

“Not yet, but he keeps on asking.”

Patty stared at the ceiling, deep in thought as she mulled what her sister had said.  Suddenly, her eyes grew bright as the Christmas star on the top of the tiny artificial tree sitting bereft a single wrapped gift in their living room. “Then” began the girl, “If Christmas should be mostly about love and not so much about getting presents, I’m going to write Santa and ask him to take me off his list completely and give my Mattel Disney Frozen Royal Sister Doll (2 Pack), page 32, for 65 dollars, to somebody else.” 

“What a great idea, little sister. But be sure to show Mom and Dad the letter before you put it in the mail!”

“How come?”

“Just because . . .”  

at Saturday, December 1, 2018