Have you ever watched someone die? It is a difficult thing to do but it is a sacred moment. You can tell a lot about a person by how they approach the end of life.
This week, we will look at the end of the life of Jesus. As the Son of God suffered in those six hours on the cross, we can learn great truths from his actions and his words and from the actions and words of those around him. These great truths still impact lives today!
We invite you to worship this Sunday, August 1, at 8:30am or 11:00am.
This Sunday, August 1, is Promotion Sunday. Here's a special message from our pastor about how we can think and respond to many young children who will be attending "big church" this Sunday for the first time! This also means all preschoolers, children and youth will be moving up to their next class/grade for Sunday School this Sunday!
Dear Church Family,
Sunday is a big day for many of our families at Western Avenue Baptist Church. Not because it is someone’s birthday or anniversary but because it is the first day one of their little ones gets to sit with mommy and daddy in “big church.” For the rest of us, this means Sunday will include a little more noise, a little more movement, a few more distractions – and I couldn’t be happier!
At Western Avenue, we want children to sit with their parents in “big church.” Other churches do it differently and that is fine. We certainly do not claim the way we do things is the only way to do them. However, just like others, we do the things we do for specific, intentional, theological reasons.
First, we want to be more like Jesus. Jesus was a kind, child-loving man. It is easy to picture children swarming around his feet as he entered new towns and villages. I am afraid too many of us are more like the disciples, who “rebuked” the parents for bringing the little wiggle-worms to Jesus’ teaching time (Mark 10:13). The Bible says when Jesus saw his disciples do this, he became a little angry and a lot frustrated and commanded them to allow the children to come to him and stop getting in their way. This encounter occurs in three of the four gospels – it must be important! One preacher wrote, “Our sanctuaries are not sanctuaries from children. They are sanctuaries for children.”
Second, we believe God designed families to be together. Worship is the most significant thing you can do together. I love to see families with young children sitting together. I love to see dads holding their little first-grade sons as the boy looks intently into the face of his singing father, one generation calling to the next to worship our King. I love to come by the pew to get handshakes from the grown-ups, along with sometimes timid and sometimes painful high-fives from children. I love to see and sometimes hear little voices singing along, joining in with the family of God, learning that worship – their worship – is important and matters to God. It’s good to be together – especially in that place at that time. Mom and Dad, the greatest gift you can give your child is to let them see you worshiping the Lord with reverent abandon. Your child will have about 650 opportunities to see this happen between the ages of 5 and 18. The cumulative impact of seeing their parents – out of delight, not duty - pray and sing and hear from God’s Word cannot be discounted and will not be forgotten. The struggles are temporary; the blessings can be eternal.
Third, we believe our children learn best about being a Christian worshiper by watching worship occur around them and joining in as they are able. Coming to “big church” at this age allows children to get used to the new rhythms of church life. They will hear pastors pray, perhaps adding their “amen” a beat too late. They will see the offering plate being passed from person to person and look forward to adding their quarter to the collection. They will see the people around them opening their Bibles to follow along with the sermon and ask for a Bible of their own. They will see new believers enter into the waters of baptisms and listen to the thrilling testimonies of God’s amazing grace, leading them to ask when they can be “bab-ti-tized.” They will pass the plate during the Lord’s Supper, asking why they can’t “have a snack” like everyone else (giving parents a wonderful opportunity to talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus). You may argue that the sermon is over your first-grader’s head. Of course it is! But I know they get a lot more than you think. I have several beautiful drawings from our youngest worshipers to prove it.
Parents of little ones, I know you are tired before you sit down. I know you wince inside when your first-grader makes the smallest sound, terrified to think every single person in the room is giving you the “evil eye” for being such a “bad parent.” I know you ask, “Why bother? Is it worth it?” I know it can be a struggle each week – Satan will do everything in his power to ruin your Sunday and get your mind off your Savior. As a parent of four who was not always on the platform every Sunday like I am now, I know how difficult it is and can be. But it matters. And it is worth it. When you are here, sitting with your son or daughter, the Body of Christ is more fully present. The room is filled with a more joyful noise. The purpose of our gathering is more fully met. I hope you are encouraged. We want you to be here and we want your children to be with you.
Non-parents of small children, please remember all the times you have stood during infant dedications to indicate you would do your part to help these children learn about Jesus. One of the easiest ways to do this is to overlook certain distractions and just smile at young parents and their children who will certainly do what children always do. Welcome them. Encourage them. Help them. Love them. Most likely, remember you were most likely in their shoes several years ago and would love to have your little one squirming beside you this Sunday. The way we welcome children in church affects the way they will respond to Jesus and his church later. The presence of children is a gift to any church and we thank God for his many gifts and blessings to Western Avenue.
• Start at home. You can begin to train your child to “be quiet” for a moment as you say the blessing at the table or read the Bible at bedtime. Almost every child can learn to be reverent if mom and dad are willing to make them do so. However, this is not the be-all, end-all of sitting in worship. Perfection here is not the key; it is a process (and, if we're honest, some adults are still learning!).
• Read the sermon text the night before. Talk about it with your children. Explain what is going to happen and why we do what we do. Talk about the service and the sermon on the way home afterward (which requires you to listen as well).
• Pick up one of the “Sunday Notes” pages for little worshipers. We have plenty in the foyer and you can get one each week or grab a few to keep in your Bible in case your morning is a little busier than usual. Pick up one or a few of the booklets we have to help moms and dads answer questions about baptism, communion, and worship. Future pamphlets will soon be available to talk about giving, missions, and other important topics regarding life in the church.
• Read "Parenting in Pews," a wonderful book on “guiding your children in the joy of worship.” Sunday morning is not a success if all you’ve accomplished is keeping your child quiet. The author of this book wants to show you how to help your child participate in the worship service. You may also want to read “Let the Children Worship” by Jason Helopoulos.
We are so glad you will be worshiping with us this Sunday with your little one. I look forward to seeing you then. May God bless you as we gather to do the very thing we were created to do – bring glory to our God and Savior.
We should read and study the Bible because it is God’s Word. Yet, at times, we can find reading the Bible challenging, even confusing.
For that reason, we hope you can join us this week as Dan Roseman will be teaching us some practical tips and advice for how we can make our Bible reading experience more enjoyable and fruitful.
Wednesday, June 30 - 6:30pm - in the worship center
A contract is just earthly business, but a covenant is holy.
Covenants are not meant to be broken. Covenants create family.
Join us this Wednesday, June 23, with Susan Upp, for a glimpse of the heart of the living God for His people, through biblical covenants.
How do you want to be remembered at your funeral? Jesus put a lot of thought into this question – even reinventing a centuries-old traditional mean into a special occasion meant to help his followers remember who he was and what he did. As he led his disciples through the great promise of his faithfulness displayed in this meal, we are shocked to find two incredible stories of faithless disciples.
The events surrounding the Last Supper (or is it the First Supper?!) can be a source of incredible comfort as believers continue to attempt to walk faithfully with Jesus.
Sunday, June 13, 8:30am or 11:00am. Preschool childcare provided for both services. Sunday school at 9:45am. We would love to have you worship with us!
The Bible begins with a tree and ends with a tree. There is an entire forest of stories and trees in between. Let’s take a journey down the Bible’s trail of trees and see what God is teaching us.
Wednesday, June 2, 6:30pm in the worship center
Some stories in the Bible are so familiar you know where the preacher is going before he even starts. This is probably the case with the story we will read this Sunday – the story of the widow’s offering of two small coins in Mark 12:41-44. There’s a lot more going on here than you might initially think!
Worship with us at either 8:30am or 11:00am. The 11:00am service will be live-streamed. Sunday School at 9:45am. See you Sunday!
On Monday, June 7, from 5:30pm - 9:00pm, we are having a large Church Fellowship in the back parking lot. We will have games (Spikeball, 9-square, dodgeball, ultimate frisbee, basketball, pickle ball, corn hole, etc.) Most of the parking lot will be marked off for kids (and adults) to bring their riding toys (please park in the side parking lot). Bring a lawn chair to enjoy some time with friends.
We are pleased to welcome Village Inn, Waffle Chick, and Tacos on the Road food trucks (all of these joined us at An Avenue Christmas event). Bring money so you can join in on these good eats.
As part of this evening, we would love to serve homemade ice cream. Below is a sign up for you to volunteer to bring a gallon or two of your favorite recipe, an old family recipe, or a new recipe you found on Pinterest and want to try for the first time. Sign up on: https://forms.gle/BK8vvhLef56yLH2i8
There’s an old saying: Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. There are many situations where that statement is true. It is especially true in the area of your spiritual salvation.
In Mark 12, Jesus has been under attack from the religious leaders of Israel. He has bested each one. To the last questioner, Jesus said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” This may sound like a compliment but if you are not far from the kingdom, that can only mean you are not yet in the kingdom. In the verses that follow this interaction (Mark 12:35-37), Jesus presses the issue further, asking a difficult question of his own to reveal to his doubters that he is who they are scared he is.
Join us this Sunday, May 23, at either 8:30am or 11:00am for worship!
This week as we continue our study of the ‘I Am’ statements of Jesus, we find Jesus in Bethany because his friend Lazarus has died. And it is to Lazarus’ sister Martha that Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–27).
But what does Jesus mean when he says he is the resurrection, and also that he is the life? Join us this Wednesday as we learn more about this glorious statement from the lips of our Lord Jesus.
Wednesday, May 5 at 6:30 pm in the worship center
Also live-streamed on Facebook
It is never wise to get into a battle of wits with Jesus of Nazareth. This is always good advice but it did not stop several from doing just that. Predictably, each encounter ended the same way with the challengers walking away stunned and amazed, licking their wounds until they could come up with another plan to destroy the ministry of Jesus.
Just a few days before Christ’s death, a group of spiritual leaders came to Jesus to mock his belief in the resurrection and an after-life. Before explaining to the truth about the resurrection and what the life to come will be like, he explains why they made such a simple error. The reason for their error is the same reason so many make errors on spiritual and theological and biblical matters today.
Sunday, May 2 - two services at 8:30am and 11:00am
Preschool childcare at 11:00
11:00 service will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube
There was a time before we had phones with GPS maps where we actually used a paper map. We would unfold the large map to see various routes in a complex grid that we could take to get to our destination.
However, this week we will discover in our ‘I am’ statements of Jesus that there is only one route we can take when it comes to going to our heavenly Father. Jesus makes it crystal clear that there is only one path as he says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
We hope you can join us as we look at one of Jesus’ most well-known and vital statements, a statement that has eternal ramifications for the entire world.
Wednesday, April 28 at 6:30pm in the worship center
We live in divisive times. Opinions on the pandemic and politics and everything in between have served to divide neighbors, churches, friends, and families.
How is a Christian to think about the relationship between God and government? How are Christians supposed to act in a world in which the government keeps encroaching into our private and corporate spiritual lives? How do churches relate to such matters?
Many think there are only two options: submit to the government or submit to God. In our continuing study of Mark’s gospel, Jesus reveals a third way.
We invite you to worship with us this Sunday, April 25, at either 8:30am or 11:00am. Preschool childcare is provided for the 11:00am service.
The 11:00 service will also be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube.
This past Sunday, we learned more about the 3rd of the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus where he said, “I am the door.”
And this Wednesday, we will study Jesus’ declaration that “I am the good shepherd,” the fourth of his ‘I am’ statements. We see this imagery of shepherds and sheep used throughout the Bible. But how do they relate to Jesus, or should we say how does Jesus relate this imagery to himself? And what difference does it make in your life that Jesus is THE good shepherd?
We hope you can join us this Wednesday, April 21, at 6:30 PM as we seek to answer these questions while studying this life-changing passage.
In John 8:12, we read that Jesus addressed the crowd and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
This statement is very familiar to most Christians. But what does it mean? What was Jesus trying to communicate about his identity with this declaration? The answer is that the meaning behind these words is deeper and more profound than most people realize.
This week will see that light is a source of life, truth, and joy and that unmediated light is dangerous, even deadly. How does this apply to Jesus? Come join us this Wednesday to find out more about how our Lord Jesus truly is the light of the world.
Wednesday, April 14 - 6:30pm in the worship center
Live-streamed on Facebook
Imagine someone came into your home and started rearranging the furniture. He moved your couch to the distant wall. He put your dining room table in your bedroom. He moved your television to your bathroom. He put your bed in the basement.
What question would be on your lips? “Who are you and what do you think you are doing? What right do you have to come into my house and do this?”
In this week’s study of Mark’s Gospel, the spiritual leaders are thinking the exact same thing. On the day after Jesus “cleansed” the Temple, the Great Furniture-Rearranger returns. The way Israel’s spiritual leaders confront Jesus and the way he responds is very instructive in our own relationship with Christ.
Join us for Sunday morning worship services at either 8:30am or 11:00am (childcare for 11:00am service and Sunday School only)
The 11:00am service will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube as well.
Critical Race Theory is not a value-neutral collection of insights; it is a comprehensive ideology that makes transcendent truth claims about the world and those who live in it. CRT is filled with assumptions and viewpoints about reality that put it at great odds with biblical thinking.
CRT is a worldview that, like a pair of sunglasses, changes the shade of everything you see. If you put on a pair of CRT-glasses, you will see everything – every relationship and interaction – through the lens of omnipresent racial oppression. Many of the teachings of CRT, which emerged from secular Marxist and anti-Christian postmodern sources, stand diametrically opposed to teachings found in the Bible. This is a bold statement. Can it be backed up? This Wednesday night, we will continue to examine this with part 5 of the critical race theory series.
Wednesday, March 24 at 6:30pm in the worship center
Also live-streamed on our Facebook and YouTube
Easter is the perfect time for a fresh start! Join us and get connected to our community.
Worship with us at Western Avenue Baptist Church
Sunday, April 4
3 Service Options:
8:30am, 9:45am, 11:00am
Birth-Kindergarten childcare provided for 9:45am and 11:00am
11:00am service will also be live-streamed at:
Visit www.westernavenue.org for details, call 704-872-4139 or message us!
Let's celebrate new beginnings!
Jesus’ charge to all believers is to take the message of the gospel to all corners of the world, to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). And there are opportunities to be his witnesses throughout the world, and even here in Statesville, NC.
We invite you to join us this Wednesday at 6:30 PM for a special Equipping University presentation where we will learn about various ways we can each participate in sharing the love of Christ to others locally and around the world. We hope you can join us!
Being able to see the world around us is a blessing we often take for granted. Having eyes to see a sunrise, the colors of the rainbow, and the faces of those we love is a true miracle and gift from God. Yet there are those in our world who are blind, who live in total darkness.
And as we continue our study in Mark’s Gospel, we will meet such a man, Bartimaeus, who is blind and has had to resort to becoming a beggar on the streets of Jericho in order to support himself. But what we will discover is that even though Bartimaeus is blind, he appears to have 20/20 vision when it comes to seeing the Lord Jesus for who he really is. And we will also see that the heart of our Lord is directed to those who are helpless, yet who cry out to him in humility and desperation.
We hope you can join us as we learn more about this man and what his story teaches us about the heart of Christ.
Join us Sunday, February 28, for in-person worship services at 8:30am and 11:00am. Preschool childcare is provided only at the 11:00am service.
The 11:00am service will continue to be live-streamed on:
wsic radio 100.7fm 105.9fm 1400am
Sunday School Teachers and Volunteers Meeting:
Sunday School classes will resume March 14, and we have several places we need volunteers! If you have been looking for a place to serve at WABC but are not exactly sure where to do so, now is the time to find your place. We need volunteers for: ushers, greeters, nursery workers, age-group ministries, choir, orchestra, production crew (sound/video/radio), and safety/security.
We want to invite you to a special meeting this Sunday, February 28, at 10:00am in the large assembly room in the new Children’s Ministry Building. If you are currently serving somewhere, we want you to please still come to the meeting as we outline our new start in Sunday School and expected changes moving forward.
A lot of people spend a lot of time talking about goats. Well, not goats but THE G.O.A.T., as in the “Greatest Of All Time.” Tom Brady just won his seventh Super Bowl. Is he the greatest of all time? What about Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, or Bubby Brister? Who is the GOAT in basketball: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, or Chuck Nevitt? What about in baseball? Is it Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, or . . . (I could talk about this one for hours!). It is human nature to want to be recognized, even when in the face of absolute greatness with Jesus. The twelve apostles talked about being the G.O.A.T. all the time – until Jesus pulled them aside to teach them what true greatness really is. His words in Mark 10 remain words we still need to hear today. Dare to be great – after you learn how Jesus defines greatness.
Join us Sunday, February 21, for in-person worship services at 8:30am and 11:00am. Preschool childcare is provided only at the 11:00am service.
#westernavenuebaptistchurch #statesville #gospelofmark #followjesusnow #greatestofalltime
Special EU session: Wednesday, February 24
Suicide Prevention: Support for Teens and Parents
Due to recent events in our church body and community, we will pause in our current EU series as Paul Veach, a counselor in the public school system, and Gladys Lowry and Dan Wilemon, of our Western Avenue Marriage and Family Enrichment Center, will be speaking on the very important topic of suicide prevention. Medical professionals will also offer their input. We encourage you to attend and invite friends and family.
This presentation will be in the worship center at 6:30pm and also live-streamed online on Facebook and YouTube.
#westernavenuebaptistchurch #statesvillenc #suicideprevention
Imprisoned for Christ! The Voice of the Martyrs – March 5
WABC will be hosting Imprisoned for Christ, presented by The Voice of the Martyrs. The virtual speakers will be livestreamed Friday, March 5, 2021, at 6:30 PM in the Fellowship Hall. This event will be showing in the fellowship hall for those who attend in-person; it will not be streamed on our channels.
There will be three inspiring speakers: Petr Jasek, Dan Baumann, and Andrew Brunson. Be inspired by the stories of three men who were arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned. Yet God remained faithful. In addition to their firsthand testimonies, you will enjoy an engaging panel discussion moderated by VOM Radio host Todd Nettleton, as well as inspiring worship music from Dove Award-winning artist Natalie Grant. For more information, please contact Andy Lackey at 704-872-4139 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
#westernavenuebaptistchurch #statesvillenc #imprisonedforchrist #voiceofthemartyrs
People asked Jesus all kinds of questions. “Who is my neighbor?” “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” “How can a man be born when he is old?” “Are you the king of the Jews?” Some questions are better than others. On one occasion, Jesus was asked a very direct question from a wealthy and important young man. He was later asked a similar but better worded question from his disciples. In our continuing study of Mark’s Gospel, we will see the great difference between asking the right and the wrong questions of Jesus.
Join us for in-person worship services at 8:30am and 11:00am. Preschool childcare is provided only at the 11:00am service.
Who I Am: Finding Your Identity in Christ – Presented by Andy Lackey
How one identifies themselves has become a widespread practice within our culture. We claim to identify as “this” or “that.” These attempts to define our identity are actually ways of answering the question, “Who am I?” However, for the Christian, the question should not be “Who am I,” but rather “Who does God say that I am.”
We hope you can join us this Wednesday at 6:30 PM as we will take a look at what it means to have your identity in Christ. When we truly understand what God says about who we are and how our identity is wrapped up in Christ, we can then freely love, freely serve, and freely live.
This week, our Wednesday night services will resume in person at 6:30 PM in the worship center. This class will still be streamed via Facebook and YouTube.
The first conversation about building a new addition for our children’s ministry took place on July 3, 2018. Now, on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, our children will be able to gather together in this incredible building for the first time. Why did we do this? Why did we make this incredible effort? Why did we sacrificially agree to take on this expense?
In this Sunday’s study of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 10:17-31), Jesus will help us to answer these questions and to understand the reasoning behind the effort and sacrifice needed to make this new ministry opportunity a reality for our children for years to come.
This Sunday, we resume our in-person worship services at 8:30am and 11:00am. Preschool childcare is provided only at the 11:00am service.
Discipleship in Community Part 2
Join us this Wednesday at 6:30 PM on Facebook or YouTube for the second session of Discipleship in Community. In response to the biblical emphasis upon community with our desire to be more connected as the body of Christ, we are launching more Journey Groups and more Small Groups. The purpose, format, and other details of these groups will be explained this Wednesday.
In-person services will resume Sunday, January 31, 2021. We will have worship services at 8:30 AM and 11:00 AM (with nursery in the second service). We will continue the same social-distancing practices as when we last met. The 11:00 worship service will continue to be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube and local radio station WSIC (100.7 FM).
Wednesday nights will also resume in-person on February 3 for adults, youth and children (children will meet for the first time in the new children’s ministry building). The Wednesday night EU will be livestreamed as well.
We look forward to gathering together on January 31. However, if you have any reservations about attending worship or Wednesday night activities, please do so only when you feel comfortable and know you are healthy enough to do so. If you have chronic illness or have compromising ailments that may leave you more susceptible, we will certainly understand your decision to refrain from in-person worship at this time.
When Jesus commanded us to “go and make disciples,” what exactly was he telling us to do? In this study, we will discover what it means to make disciples and how discipleship can be done more effectively in community. Join us this Wednesday, January 20, at 6:30 PM on our Facebook or YouTube page.
Last week, we changed gears and took a look at how the situation Daniel faced as he stood before the king could help us all recalibrate our hearts as we consider our stance before the current events we face.
This week, we will stay in that same gear, moving into the third chapter of Daniel. As we read how Daniel’s three friends stand firm against political and social calls to deny their faith, we will learn how you can do the same as similar calls from multiple sources whisper and shout for you to put something that seems more important at the moment ahead of what is now and forever will be ultimate in importance.
Join us online, this Sunday, January 17, at 11:00am:
A New Year often means new resolutions: Lose weight, run a 5K or marathon, get out of debt, etc. Many Christians make a resolution to read through the Bible, a great resolution, yet one which can often seem daunting.
Join us this Wednesday, January 6, at 6:30pm for Equipping University Online as we will discuss how the year 2021 can be an excellent year for you and your Bible. We will talk about the benefits of reading the Bible and discuss some practical and doable tips for making this a reality in your life. We hope you can join us this Wednesday via our Facebook or YouTube channels.
Do you remember the resolutions you made last year? Did you keep them? What would you like to see happen in 2021? Let’s declare 2021 to be “The Year I Became a Disciple of Jesus Christ.” Not just a hearer of Jesus’ words but a doer.
As we return to Mark’s Gospel after seven weeks away due to COVID and Christmas, we enter the second half of the book. In this half, Mark focuses on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We begin examining that issue this Sunday, January 3, as we study Christ’s words to his original disciples in Mark 9:30-50.
Worship with us online at 11:00am:
(For more details on ways to watch during this season, visit: https://www.westernavenue.org/.../posts/ways-to-join-worship)
Make sure you join us tomorrow as we finish up our Christmas Playlist. We will look at the last song in Luke 2, Simeon’s Song.
Worship with us online at 11:00am:
(For more details on ways to watch during this season, visit: https://www.westernavenue.org/news/posts/ways-to-join-worship)
For the past few months, we have been planning to hold our Christmas Eve service outdoors, hoping it would be as joyous an experience as our outdoor worship services this spring, summer, and fall and the beautiful “Avenue Christmas” a few days ago. In God’s providential control of the weather, it does not appear we will be able to do so. According to almost every app and website I use, the temperatures will not be a problem (until Christmas Day!!) but it will begin raining heavily around noon on Thursday and not stop until midnight (with the chance of rain between 75%-90%). Therefore, we will not be able to meet in person outside for the Christmas Eve service.
The Christmas Eve service will be recorded live and available in the early afternoon on Christmas Eve to watch whenever your family desires. You will be able to watch the service on our Facebook page (which is a public page, meaning you do not need a Facebook account to watch at www.facebook.com/wabcstv) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/wabcvideo).
We are disappointed in this but trust in the will of God as he directs our ways and the world around us. We pray the service ministers to you in a very special way. Many of the songs to be sung at this service are part of a wonderfully worshipful new Christmas album from Sovereign Grace called Heaven Has Come. You can listen to these songs and several others through the remaining days of the Christmas season online at https://sovereigngracemusic.bandcamp.com/album/heaven-has-come. You can also stream the album on Spotify and Apple and Amazon. I highly recommend it and pray it will bless you as richly as it has me this year.
This has been a difficult year for everyone and many of you have gone through excruciating events personally or within your family. Yet you have proven faithful to the Lord and to his church in so many ways. It is a source of great encouragement to me. I love you all and am so thankful to be able to serve you as your pastor. On behalf of all the pastoral staff here at Western Avenue, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and may God grant us all a very happy new year in 2021.
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20)
The story of Jesus’ birth has been read time and time again. You can probably recite parts of it, if not all of it. But, have you ever sat down with the words of scripture and tried to imagine what it must have been like for Joseph and Mary? They were anxious travelers who could not find a place to stay. Mary was sore from the trip and from carrying a baby for nine months. Her breaths were short. Her rib cage hurt. And, her whole body ached. Each movement she made would have been torture. Her body knew it was time for the baby to come. She waited as Joseph searched the city for a place to stay. Imagine how he must have racked his brain for places to stay. Maybe there were relatives or old friends who could put them up for several nights. He finally finds someone who will take them in. He runs back to tell Mary the good news. Can you imagine the look on her face when Joseph came back with the news that he found a place for the night?
The Bible does not give many details, but having a baby is not the quickest or cleanest process. What the Bible describes in a verse could have taken hours and hours. But, eventually the baby was born, and they wrapped him in cloth and laid him in a manger. Can you imagine that? Jesus, the Messiah, the God who created cows and donkeys, is now laying in the place where those cows and donkeys eat.
Imagine the type of fear the shepherds felt when their calm dark night turned into a light show. They had never seen anything like this. Not even close. But, when the angels filled the sky and proclaimed the good news of the Christ child, the shepherds listened. They could not wait until morning. They had to see this child. So, they left their sheep, ran to Bethlehem, and found the baby. Sometimes, I wonder how many stables and caves they had to check before they found the right one. But, they found him in the manger just as the angels said.
This baby born came to do all sorts of things. He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. He came as a man to be a Merciful and Great High Priest and stand on our behalf before God. He came to serve us. He came to give his life in our place. He came to proclaim the good news of his kingdom. He came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. He came to do all these things and so much more. But, none of these would matter if he did not actually come. That is what he did that night in Bethlehem. Jesus actually came. The God of the Universe humbled himself, took on flesh, and was born to a young woman and her husband. He was first visited by shepherds, and he slept his first few nights in a place meant for animals to eat out of.
And, this is only the beginning of a beautiful story of a beautiful Savior who came to us.
Father thank you for sending Jesus your Son, the true image of God.
Jesus, thank you for humbling yourself to be born in flesh so we may see God. Thank you for dwelling among us so we may know God.
Spirit, fill us with power today to worship and be glad. Renew us in the image of our creator so Jesus may be seen in us.
Our God who is three in one, we come before you to worship you on this Christmas day. As our day is filled with presents and food, may our hearts be filled with gratitude for your good works. You alone have given us a reason to live. You alone have given us a reason to praise. You alone have given us a reason to sing.
You have given us the great gift of joy through your Son. Through him you have made yourself known. Today as we celebrate with family and friends, may your name be praised today and forever! Amen.
A few weeks ago one of my sons broke his collarbone. He thought it would be a good idea to try to go down the sliding board on his feet. Needless to say, he made it down, but it was not the way down he intended. He fell over the side of the sliding board and landed on his right side. After an hour or so of crying and checking and rechecking, plus the fact that his older brother broke his collarbone about a year ago, we decided something was probably wrong on the inside. But, there was no way to know what was going on for sure without an X-Ray. So, we took him to the Emergency Room for an X-Ray that revealed there was a fracture in his collarbone.
When Simeon holds baby Jesus in his arms, he looks Mary in the eyes and says, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
There are certain things you do and do not say to new mothers. It is quite okay to tell them how beautiful their baby is or how happy you are for them. You usually want to refrain from saying things like, “Wow, there are going to be a lot of sleepless nights,” or “Do you know how much that baby is going to cost you over her lifetime?” Those are not good things to greet a new mother with.
Simeon takes it a step further. He basically tells Mary that this baby will break her heart. And he says this baby will reveal the hearts of many. Men and women will rise and fall because of this child. Some will be saved and others will be condemned because of what they believe about this child. Some will follow him into God’s salvation; others will reject him and be condemned.
Every person on earth is going to have to decide what to do with Jesus. They will have to decide who he is. Is he the salvation of God or is he a fraud? Is he the one who will restore God’s people and save them, or is he a myth? Is he God in the flesh, or is he a liar?
How about you? Who do you say Jesus is? Will this child prove to be a sanctuary or a snare for you? I wonder today what this child will reveal about your heart.
What do you think about Jesus? Have you submitted to him? Are you following him every day? If you have, praise the Lord. If you have not, you can follow him now. Submit your life to him. Repent of your sins. Turn to him. Romans 10:9-11 says, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Confess him as your Lord today. Believe that God raised him from the dead. Then you will be saved.
Jesus we trust you and follow you. You have shown us that you are the Savior. You have given us the faith to believe you were raised from the dead. Now, we ask for strength to follow you every day of our lives. Give us grace to walk with you. Give us opportunities to invite others to follow you. Amen.
December 21– December 24
 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,  he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
 for my eyes have seen your salvation
 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.  And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed  (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Most children (and some adults) spend weeks before Christmas making a Christmas list. I used to get the Sears Wishbook and look at the pages over and over. I would memorize the toys that I asked for, and I would count down the days until the toys from the pages of the magazine appeared in my living room on Christmas day.
While the weeks leading to Christmas seemed long to me, there is one man in Luke’s Gospel who has been waiting and hoping and praying and waiting some more for God’s salvation to appear for a long lifetime. He is an old man named Simeon. He steps into the temple and meets Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus.
Around Christmas time, most of us usually think about Jesus’ earthly birth with little thought put toward his heavenly mission. It is hard for us to think that this baby came into the world in order to die. Granted, he came to do a lot more than just die, but dying was a huge part of his mission. When the old man Simeon steps onto the scene in Jerusalem at the temple, he reminds everyone of this child’s special mission.
Simeon was a faithful and devout man who had been waiting for many years for the consolation of Israel. He, like many other Jews, had been waiting for the Lord’s comfort to appear after many dark years. When he meets Mary and Joseph in the temple, he takes the baby Jesus in his arms and declares:
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
People in Israel had been hoping for salvation and deliverance for many years. Simeon, filled with the Holy Spirit, declares this baby to be that very salvation. This baby is the one who will deliver the Jews from oppression. He will save them. But, that is not all. This baby is not just salvation for the Jews (God’s chosen people who descended from Abraham). He is also salvation for the Gentiles (everyone else). Some in Israel would have been opposed to God’s salvation being for the Gentiles, too. But, Simeon was delighted and excited. He was pleased that the Gentiles would now be a part of God’s people. He has waited his entire life for God’s promise of salvation, and now he is holding salvation in his hands in the form of a baby. Now, the old man says he can depart in peace. He has seen with his own eyes the salvation of God.
What is something you have waited on for a long time? How did you feel when you finally got it?
As God’s people, we wait for the day of his return. We long for the day when he will gather his people from all over the world to live with him. Is there anyone you can think of who needs to hear the good news of salvation through Jesus? Spend some time praying for them. Think of ways you can tell them the good news of Jesus this week.
Thank you God for the gift of Salvation through your son Jesus. Thank you for sending Jesus to die so that many people can be saved. Give us strength and boldness to proclaim salvation in the name of Jesus to everyone. Give us compassion to walk alongside others as we seek to follow Jesus every day. Give us endurance to hope and wait on Jesus and the glorious day of his return.
We all have Christmas gifts we remember fondly. For me, I think of my Red Ryder BB gun, a complete Pittsburgh Steelers football uniform, and a bike called “The Bandit.” Of course, we all know the greatest gift of all is the gift of Jesus Christ. But did you know Jesus also came to give gifts on the day he was born. This Sunday, as we turn to the familiar story of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2, we will look at the two gifts he gave – one to his Father and one to us.
God is full of surprises! Take a look at the week's second advent reading below. View previous devotionals and entire advent guide here.
Baby announcements and reveals have become a huge thing over the last several years. They have been posted, liked, retweeted, copied, pinned, snapped, and every other way to share and re-share these stories. All of it is to reveal a surprise. Will the new baby be a boy or a girl? Surprises like this are fun.
God loves surprises, too. Not that he ever acts outside of his character, but that he does things we often do not expect. The story of Jesus’ birth is full of surprises. For one, the new baby would be born to a virgin. What a surprise that was. Also, this king of the universe, God in flesh, Messiah Son of God would be born in a place reserved for keeping animals. Anybody else writing this story would have a king born in a palace or to wealthy family in good standing. But, God is not just anybody. Surprise! The Messiah, who is God in the flesh, will be born in a stable with animals. And, if that is not surprising enough, he will have no place to make his bed so he will be placed in the manger, a place where animals eat.
Another surprise comes when he lets the world know about this Savior. He does not tell the rich and wealthy in Bethlehem. He does not even proclaim it in Jerusalem, the home of the temple. God decides to announce the birth of his son to lowly shepherds. The shepherds were thought of as outcasts. They did not really belong anywhere. They were low in the eyes of society. Surprise! These lowlife outcasts were the first ones to visit Christ the Lord.
All of Jesus’ life was a surprise to many. It was a surprise that he lived in Nazareth (Could anything good come from Nazareth? John 1:46). It was a surprise that he would pick fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and others like them to be his disciples. It was surprising to hear him teach (he taught with great authority, not as the scribes Matthew 7:29). It was surprising that he would speak and the winds and waves would obey him. He would tell demons to go, and they would. He would touch someone, and they would be healed. He made the blind see and the lame walk.
He amassed a great following and people began to think of him as the Messiah, the Savior. And then, surprisingly, he died. He laid down his life as a ransom for many. He gave his life in our place. He took the punishment for sin that was meant for us. Then, just as surprisingly, he rose from the dead to give us life in him.
God is still a God full of surprises. He has his own way of doing things. There are certain times when I think that God should do something this way or that way. And, then he moves me out of the way and does it his way (the right way of course)! I have to stand back and be amazed at how he continues to work things out in a surprising way.
It is always surprising to see who God uses and how he uses them to accomplish his purposes. Let’s continue being in awe of our God as we wait for him to return.
How have you seen God work in your life this week in ways that you did not expect?
Thank him for all of those times and people.
Thank you God for using those who are least likely and who seem unworthy. Thank you for using people like us to tell your great story to others. Give us opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with others.
For the remainder of December 2020 and January 2021 our Sunday services will be broadcast online only. Here are the ways you can join with Western Avenue and worship online. We look forward to interacting with you online and worshipping our Savior Jesus with you.
Please remember this is not forever. As we patiently and diligently wait for the coming of Jesus, so too we patiently and diligently wait for the passing of this virus. We anticipate a joyful reunion of all the saints at Western Avenue. Until then, please review ways below to participate in the worship services during December and January.
Also, if you hear of anyone needing help tuning in and you cannot help them, please let us know.
Here are the ways to participate in live online worship:
Church Website – Watch the livestream at www.westernavenue.org. There is a green box on the homepage that says “Join us online.” Below these words are two buttons. One button says “Watch Live Sunday 11am” and the other says “Recent Sermons.” If you follow the link of the “Watch Live Sunday 11am,” you will be directed to the livestream page (On Sunday morning at 11am, the button will say “Watch Now”).
Facebook – Join with the body of Western Avenue Baptist Church through Facebook Live (you do not need a Facebook account to watch the livestream). Facebook allows you the opportunity to chat and leave comments with others who are watching with you. In order to access the livestream on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/wabcstv. Once you are on our main Facebook page, scroll down until you see the live video feed. You should see a red LIVE icon in the upper left corner of the video that is currently live. Visit the Western Avenue Facebook page a few minutes before 11:00 AM to give yourself time to view the entire service.
YouTube – You can find the livestream by visiting www.youtube.com/wabcvideo. This will take you to our church’s YouTube channel. The livestream will have a red LIVE icon in the upper left corner. If you have a smart TV, open the YouTube app and search “Western Avenue Baptist Church.” There are a few other Western Avenue Baptist Church channels, so make sure you look for the LEAF. Be sure to subscribe to the channel so it will be easier to find in the future. You can also click the bell to receive notifications (near the subscribe button).
RADIO – If you do not have good internet access to stream, another option for you is radio. Our service will be broadcast live on WSIC Radio (1400 AM, 100.7 FM, 105.9 FM) at 11:00 AM. Remember the radio broadcast will cut off at 12:00 PM. If you know of anyone in the church who does not have access to internet, please help us to inform them about this radio option. Thank you.
Tonight's Equipping University class will be online only, live-streamed at 6:30pm on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/wabcstv) and YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/wabcvideo). Jeff Durham will teach on "Seeing Jesus in the book of Job".
No Avenue Kids or Youth tonight.
Over the last several days, I spoke, texted, or emailed with several members of our medical community, many of whom are faithful members of our church family. Our doctors and nurses and technicians are working diligently to provide care for the constant influx of patients. If not there already, the stress and exhaustion levels of these vital, essential, and precious servants are nearing maximum levels that human bodies and psyches can endure. They have told me heart-breaking stories of what is happening at Iredell Memorial Hospital and Davis Hospital. As I mentioned on Sunday morning, the rooms are full – every room. The COVID wing is full and overflowing. The ICU is full and spilling into the Emergency Room and the Surgical Recovery area. Almost every medical professional said the same thing: “This is different” and “It’s much worse.” Just as cases spiked following the Thanksgiving holiday, our doctors and nurses also believe cases will spike again as families gather for Christmas and friends gather for New Year’s Eve.
The individuals with whom I have spoken are men and women who love the Lord Jesus. They love his church and they especially love THIS church. They love the community in which they live and they love you (even if they have never met you). Their opinions come from actual daily experience in our town and in our hospitals; they are not talking about Charlotte, Raleigh, New York, Los Angeles, or Washington, DC. It seems logical to me that the opinions of our Christians brothers and sisters working to serve our community in this way should be listened to and afforded much respect.
In yesterday’s deacons meeting, I shared the conversations I have had with medical professionals, four of whom are currently serving as a deacon at Western Avenue. After spending time in prayer and after much collaboration, the deacons voted unanimously to return to virtual services for a finite period of time. Even with the medical facts shared above, no one present wanted to do this. In an email to the deacons after the meeting, Brent Bowman, the chairman, wrote, “This is a decision none of us wants to make. We all want to be together, we want our church body to meet together often and see it grow spiritually and in every other good way. This action seems to go against all the things we are about.” Brent is exactly right. Yet he was also able to write, “I came home with the knowledge that we did what honors our Lord and shows care for our congregation and community.” I agree. I hope you can, too.
Because of the serious nature of what is happening right now in our immediate community, the deacons and staff have made the difficult decision to meet virtually beginning this Sunday, December 20 at 11:00 AM. Of course, this decision also applies to ministries on Wednesday nights. We are painfully aware this is the Sunday before Christmas and we certainly have a great desire to be able to corporately celebrate the birth of Christ. We originally wanted to begin virtual services on the Sunday after Christmas but felt the current situation demanded immediate action. The staff and deacons will meet in mid- to late-January to reassess the situation. Our plan is to resume corporate worship on the first Sunday in February 2021. The church office will remain open.
I realize there will be those who read this letter and will disagree, perhaps vehemently, with this decision. I understand. Throughout the last several months and especially during the last few weeks, there have been levels of disagreement in the personal opinions of the church staff and the deacon body. I even have arguments with myself in my own mind. While you may not agree with the decision made, I hope you will be mindful of the difficulty of making such a decision and the motivation for doing so.
The staff and deacons also discussed Christmas Eve. Over the years, this worship gathering has become a welcome and much-appreciated event. I always look forward to the service. We know we cannot meet indoors with all who want to come on December 24. Our plan right now is to hold our Christmas Eve service outside in the back parking lot. This is still before many people’s planned family events and we believe holding the service outdoors and in our cars will greatly decrease the chance of transmission. If you plan to attend, we want to strongly urge people to remain within their family groups (and perhaps bring your own lighter for the candles – something we were not able to do indoors). We are still working to determine the configuration for this event to allow all who want to attend to do so while also increasing the amount of space available for even more room between families. Of course, you will also be able to stay in your cars and listen to the entire service on your radios. We have no way of knowing what the weather will be like on Christmas Eve and we know some are uncomfortable in coming. For those reasons, we will also record the service a few days prior so you can watch at home at your convenience.
One last word: As we realized all our doctors and nurses are enduring, we want to work on ways to minister to our medical professionals, especially those who work in the ICU and ER. We want to thank these hard-working individuals and to encourage them to continue in their service to our community. Please be in prayer for these hard workers and perhaps think of ways you can be a blessing to them yourself.
May God bless you and keep you safe as we live to bring him glory in all we do.
Jeff Spry, Senior Pastor
Brent Bowman, Chairman of the Deacons
Our Christmas Playlist through Advent continues this week with the Angel's Song. Take a few minutes this week to imagine what it would have been like for the shepherds in the field when the angels appeared. You'll find this week's first reading below. View previous readings and the entire advent devotional here.
December 14 – December 20
 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying
 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
You spend night after night in the stillness and the dark. There is never much out of the ordinary. Someone is always on watch, listening, anticipating a wild animal or a poacher wanting to steal a sheep. The sheep are under your protection. They are your livelihood. You know them. They know you. But, as you wait the night drones on. The darkness and the stillness almost lull you to sleep.
Then, breaking through the darkness comes a great light. Brighter than anything you have ever seen or even could imagine. You cannot even grab your staff or your sling. This is no wild animal. This is an unbelievable sight. The brightness makes you avert your eyes. And suddenly you are filled with an unsettling fear. A fear like nothing you have experienced before. This is unlike anything you have ever encountered. You have chased off wild dogs. You have wrestled away lambs from lions. But, nothing has ever prepared you for the light, the bright shining light. It is more than just light. It is beauty and splendor. It is a light you had only heard of in the great stories of old - from the great prophets Moses and Isaiah. The light is difficult to look upon. Yet, it is difficult to look away from. It is unmistakable. This messenger has come from YAHWEH. Then a voice speaks:
The voice is a comfort. A gentle calm in the midst of a raging fury. These two simple words ease all the tension. Then the voice speaks again:
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
“What good news could this be,” you think to yourself. What kind of news requires a heavenly announcement? What kind of good news comes to shepherds? You don’t say a word out loud. You listen:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
You think for a moment you might be hearing things. Did the voice say a Savior who is Christ the Lord? This voice out of heaven is proclaiming the Messiah to be born? How can this be? you ask.
And with that, the whole sky lit up. The light shone brighter and the voices rang louder than before:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
You gaze around at your family and others with you. You know this could not be a dream because they saw and heard it too.
“Let’s go,” everyone begins to agree together. “Let’s see if there is a new baby in Bethlehem.”
You leave all of your belongings in the field. You gather your family, and you run. There is no time for walking because somehow you believe. You know the words you heard are true. And, because of that, this is the greatest news you have ever heard.
Imagine together what it may have been like for the shepherds on the night Jesus was born. Imagine the darkness and the light. Imagine what it smelled like. Imagine how cold it was. Try to put yourself in their shoes.
Think about the two words the angel first spoke to them, “Fear Not!” What are some things you fear? Why? The good news of Jesus lets us know we do not have to fear anything. Isaiah 41:10 says, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” The Promise of Jesus was that he would be Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Next time you are afraid, remember who Jesus is - “God with Us.” You do not have to be afraid.
Jesus, thank you for leaving your heavenly throne to become one of us, to be with us, to walk with us, to talk with us. Help us not to fear when things in our lives are scary and overwhelming. Help us to trust that you are with us and that we are yours.
Some songs we enjoy even if we do not know what the song means. We love the rhythm, some of the lyrics, yet whatever meaning lies behind the music remains unknown. However, when we understand the back story, the song can begin to take on a whole new meaning.
This Sunday, as we continue our series Christmas Playlist: The Songs of Luke, we will look at Zechariah's song. This is a song where knowing the back story of both the author and the lyrics goes a long way toward helping one understand the meaning of the song. And as we will discover, knowing the meaning of this song is the first step in making it meaningful in an individual's life.
We hope you can join us this Sunday at 8:30 or 11:00am.
The 11:00am service is also live-streamed on:
(View the full advent devotional guide here)
I have recently attended two weddings and noticed how many details have to go into all the planning of such events. There can then be a feeling of euphoria as one sees their own long-term plans coming together after many years of anticipation. As we all anticipate different events or milestones like a graduation or a wedding, there can be a sense of surreal joy. We may even ask ourselves, “Is this really happening?” For thousands of years throughout the Old Testament, God’s people had been receiving promises of salvation. We begin to see some of that fulfillment unfolding in the life of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had faithfully served God and yet were without a child. I’m sure like most couples they dreamed of starting a family and hearing little feet running through their home. When they were “advanced in years,” God revealed to them that they were going to be parents. When John was born, and Zechariah had finally become the father of a little boy, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied the following:
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
As Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was praising God for the salvation that had been promised and is now being revealed. Jesus is called the “horn of salvation,” which symbolizes strength. Jesus is strong enough to save us and strong enough to keep us in that salvation. When we experience God’s provision for our need, we too should be quick to praise God for that provision. Worship should be commonplace as we reflect on what God has promised and what is being provided.
Reflect on all the prophets and the preparations that God made for the advent of Jesus. Think of all the details that He made for Jesus to come in the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4). What provisions would you like to praise God for today? In which areas of your life have you seen God’s long-term planning evident?
I praise you God for being a detail-oriented planner for your provisions. As I become joyful to see my plans unfold, I’m sure your joy spills out into all of heaven as you see your salvation’s plan unfolding before all of creation and those in the heavenly realm. I join them today in an attitude of praise and awe over all that you have accomplished and are accomplishing in me and around me.
December 7– December 13
 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
There is something very special about hearing a loved one’s voice. I recently saw a video of a child receiving cochlear implants for the first time, and the child began to cry when she heard her mother’s voice. As people are away from family and friends for extended periods of time and finally hear each other’s voices, a sweet reunion of heart and mind takes place.
From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, God communicated to His people and even visited them in some form, see Genesis 3:8. The Lord has always desired to appear to His people and to speak to His people. Because God created us in His Image, we too desire to communicate and to receive communication from others. In any time of confusion or uncertainty, the voice of a loved one can bring great comfort. The Lord wants to be that source of comfort to His people.
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, declared that the Lord had visited His people. The Lord had appeared multiple times in Israel’s past. Little did Zechariah know that the Lord was literally going to visit his people through the soon to be born Jesus. Zechariah declared that the Lord had spoken by the mouth of his prophets, but little did he know that the soon to be born Jesus would embody the Word of God well beyond the proclamations and promises that came through the Prophets.
This visit was going to be so personal that the Life of Jesus would literally be like a “light to those who sit in darkness.” His guidance would be so personal that his life and teaching would “guide our feet into the way of peace.” Our Lord is one who sticks closer than a brother and desires to communicate His Word and His Presence to us on a daily basis. May we rejoice that the Lord has desired to communicate to humanity in the most personal manner of any “god,” in the flesh.
Think of how we long to hear from God and to know what He desires us to do. Does your desire to hear from God lead you to His Word?
Imagine what it would have been like to hear the words of Jesus in light of all the legalism of Jesus’ day. Consider how you read the Gospels. How do you read them in light of Jesus being the greatest expression of God’s Word we can have?
Thank you God for being the God of communication and for revealing Your Word to us. May you give us a longing to know Your Word intimately and to worship the Word in flesh in this season of Advent.
We know we have entered into the Christmas season when we start hearing those beloved and familiar Christmas songs on the radio and out in public. Over the next four Sundays, we will take a look each week at the very first Christmas carols – captured in Luke’s gospel from Mary, Zechariah, the angels, and Simeon. In each song, we learn more about who Jesus is and why he was born. Join us this Sunday, December 6, as we look at Mary’s Christmas song, the Magnificat. We will find out who can sing this song with her and why we must sing this song today!
Make plans to join us:
Sunday morning worship at 8:30am and 11:00am in the sanctuary.
No evening service.