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.
Worship with us online at 11:00am:
wsic radio 100.7fm 105.9fm 1400am
(For more details on ways to watch during this season, visit: https://www.westernavenue.org/news/posts/ways-to-join-worship)
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.
This week's advent reading devotionals focus on Mary's Song. Missed the first devotional for this week? No worries, you can read it here.
Here's the second reading for this week:
Can you think of a time when you were so overwhelmed with joy, you could barely contain yourself? Perhaps for a child, it might be receiving that one gift you have dreamt about. Maybe your favorite sports team finally won that long-sought-after championship. Perhaps you just received the call that you are being offered your dream job. Or perhaps the doctors have told you your loved one is going to be okay, despite how things had initially looked. What would you do in such a situation? You might throw a party, or perhaps you would shout for joy at the top of your lungs. Or perhaps, you would just spontaneously sing a song.
Well, the latter is the option Mary, the mother of Jesus, opted for. She decided to sing a song. But, what was her joyous occasion? We read in Luke 1 that the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be the mother of a son who will be named Jesus. This child will be the Son of the Most High God. After hearing this news, Mary left to visit with her cousin Elizabeth who was also expecting a child. Elizabeth felt her baby leap for joy at Mary’s arrival. This prompted Elizabeth to say, “Blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:42).
Mary, overwhelmed with a sense of awe and joy as to what was taking place, broke out into a song of joy. Mary’s song is often referred to as the Magnificat, the first word of the Latin translation, which simply means “magnify.” This song is one of the most famous songs in Christianity. It has been whispered in monasteries, chanted in cathedrals, recited in small remote churches by evening candlelight, and set to music with trumpets and kettledrums by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Mary begins the song with these words:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;” Luke 1:46–48
Mary’s heart and soul were flooded with an array of emotions, leading her to rejoice because God has “looked” upon her. The word “looked” can also be translated as “to be mindful of.” Mary was blown away that God would be mindful of her, a simple and unknown girl. Mary was a young, poor, country, unmarried girl from Nazareth. Yes Nazareth, that place of which Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Yet in God’s eyes, she is seen as valuable and loved.
As you enter into advent during this season of waiting, may you be reminded that just as God was mindful of Mary, he is mindful of you as well. If ever there was a reason for celebration, it is this. Our God loves you and is mindful of you, yes you. In fact, our God so loved the world that he gave the greatest gift ever, his only son Jesus Christ. For all who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life. Friends, this is a reason to celebrate, perhaps even break out into a song of joy!
Think of the many times God has been mindful of you. What are three ways you can be mindful of others this week? Perhaps you know a family you could bless with food or clothes. Perhaps you could write cards to someone who is lonely. Call a friend to say hello and let them know you are thinking of them. Trying going out and doing some of the things you thought of.
God we praise you that you have been mindful of us. We celebrate that you sent Jesus to us. May our hearts and our mouths be filled with songs of praise for you this season and always. Amen.
Hope has come! During this first week of advent, we will take a look at Mary's song. Here's the first advent devotional for this week. Full text is below. The entire advent reading guide is available here.
November 30-December 6
 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
A.W. Tozer opened his classic book The Knowledge of the Holy with these words: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” There are many views in the world about who God is and what he is like. Some see him as a grandfather, others as a tyrant, while some even see him as a version of Santa Claus. But, what does God say about himself? What does he say about who he truly is?
As we turn to the song of Mary, the Magnificat, we see that she shares a view of God that is at odds with many of the worldly ideas of God. After talking about how God had been mindful of her, she continues her song as follows:
“for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;” (Luke 1:49–51)
Mary describes God as one who is “mighty,” painting the picture of a warrior extending an arm of strength to bring forth his purposes. And one of his aims is to exalt the humble and bring down the proud. Mary recognizes that it is God who is mighty, who is able to take the lowly and lift them up and change their status. The Mighty One has taken Mary from the place of a lowly servant to a place of blessing and honor.
But how does God do this? Well, the answer is tied to the very reason we celebrate Christmas. God the Mighty One is able to bless the lowly by himself becoming lowly. Paul writes in Philippians, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5–8).
The God of the universe humbled himself in the most incredible way. The same God who cannot be contained by the highest heaven chose to make himself small, so small to fit in a womb, Mary’s womb. This great act of humility was the gracious act of the Mighty One for Mary. This is why she can say, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”
But, the blessing Mary receives is not for her alone. As her song continues, we read these words: “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).
Mary understands that what God has done for her represents or sets into motion what God is doing for his people. Mary serves as our sign that what God has done for Mary, he will do for us. Just as he reversed Mary’s status and showed her favor and mercy, he will do the same for us.
May we all take time this Advent to reflect upon what Mary teaches us about God in her song. He is a God who desires to be known personally and by what he does for us. He is a God who loves freely and freely acts mercifully on our behalf. And, he is the God who came to this earth so that he could be among his people, coming in humility so that he could also take each of us from our humble state to a position of blessing and honor.
What are some ways you have seen God act mercifully toward you in your life? What are some things he has done for you this week? Share those with someone.
Our Lord Jesus, there are so many reasons you came to us. Today we praise you for coming to us and showing mercy to us. We have no hope of having a relationship with God without you. Thank you for acting mercifully toward me in my life. Help me to act mercifully toward others. Amen.
We all long for each Christmas to be the best one ever. For many of us, just the mention of Christmas stirs up nostalgic images of sleigh bells ringing, children singing, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. This is often a more imagined Christmas than real, more derived from television commercials and Thomas Kincaid paintings than what is actually experienced. The gap between what we hope for and what we experience leaves many restless, longing for something more. What is that “more” to which we long? This Sunday, we will turn to the book of Isaiah to see how the prophet points us to the only one who can fill that longing, the one whom Christmas is all about, the one described by Isaiah as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.
Sunday morning worship at 8:30am and 11:00am in the sanctuary.
Evening service in the sanctuary (masks required) at 6:00pm
This Sunday, November 29, marks the first Sunday of Advent.
We've developed an advent guide (click here to download the PDF) again this year with two devotional readings for you and your family each week. We will also post those readings here during the week. They will serve to focus your heart and thoughts on the coming of Christ – his coming as a baby in Bethlehem and his coming again in glory. Each reading is followed by a prompt for prayer.
We encourage you to read these with your family as a part of your family worship time, or you could gather with a group of friends to pray and focus on what Christmas truly means – celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Advent means coming. Christ has come and is coming again. During this season, we focus our hearts and minds on his coming. Let’s celebrate his coming as a baby at Christmas, as we also anticipate his coming again in glory.
There is a debate about the right time to start listening to Christmas music. Some people listen to Christmas music year-round. Some start on November 1st as soon as the jack-o-lanterns are packed away. Others say you should wait until after Thanksgiving. No matter when you start listening to Christmas music, it is undeniable that there is something special about Christmas music. When the radio stations begin to play your favorite tunes like “All I Want or Christmas Is You,” or “The Christmas Song,” something happens. When the choir and congregation at church begin to sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” or “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” you know something is coming. You can feel it. The “something coming” is Christmas, and those Christmas songs help to usher in the season. They set the mood and add to the building anticipation. The Christmas songs we love are the soundtrack to our childhoods. They are the songs that make us remember that certain special Christmas. They are the playlist of the season.
The Bible is a very musical book. There are entire books of songs (Psalms, Song of Songs). But, did you know the Gospel of Luke has several songs of the nativity? These songs are used to set the mood for the coming Messiah. They usher in the birth of the Christ child. They are the playlist of the first Christmas.
There are four songs in the first two chapters of Luke’s gospel. The first one is Mary’s song of praise after speaking with her cousin Elizabeth, found in Luke 1:46-55. The second is Zechariah’s song in Luke 1:67-79. After many months of silence because of his unbelief, Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about his son, John. The third song is the song of the angels from Luke 2:13-14 when the heavenly hosts appear to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth. And the final song is Simeon’s song, from Luke 2:25-35 when he takes the new baby Jesus in his arms and proclaims him to be the salvation of God. Over the next several weeks as a church, we will study these songs. We will read them again and again. Let them be the playlist for your Christmas this year.
1: November 30 – December 6
Mary’s Song (Luke 1:46-55)
2: December 7 - December 13
Zechariah’s Song (Luke 1:67-79)
3: December 14 - December 20
The Angel’s Song (Luke 2:8-14)
4: December 21 - December 24
Simeon’s Song (Luke 2:25-35)
Christmas Day: December 25
Many of you received an email this morning letting you know our senior pastor, Jeff Spry, and our ministry secretary, Freda Baxter, have both tested positive for COVID-19. We greatly appreciate all of your prayers and concern. Jeff continues to have flu-like symptoms and Freda seems to be on the other side of the virus with much improvement.
Because of this, our staff will be working from home through the Thanksgiving holiday. Our church office will be closed until Monday, Nov 30th. While our office is physically closed, our staff will still be accessible via phone and email. If you have an urgent matter, please call the office number (704-872-4139) and leave a voicemail. We will be checking voice messages on the hour from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday.
If you are calling about tickets for An Avenue Christmas, you may purchase them at www.wabcapps.org.
Our Wednesday night Equipping University and Sunday morning services will continue as regularly scheduled with social distancing and church members filling in for staff as needed.
Historians and theologians alike have long recognized that at the heart of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation were five declarations (or “solas”) that distinguished the movement from other expressions of the Christian faith.
These five solas are Christ alone, faith alone, God’s glory alone, God’s Word alone, and grace alone. Five hundred years later, we live in a different time with an array of different challenges to our faith. Yet these rallying cries of the Reformation continue to speak to us, addressing a wide range of contemporary issues.
We hope you can join us this Wednesday at 6:30 PM as David Moss will lead us in the last week of this session, a study which will help you understand the historical and biblical context of the five solas and their relevance to our lives today. You can join us live in the WABC sanctuary, or on Facebook Live or YouTube.
Some warning signs are easy to miss. Others are nearly impossible to miss but many still fail to see and heed them. When we do so, we put our lives in great peril. When we miss spiritual signs and warnings, the danger can be even greater.
In our study of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus, on several occasions, has given the most obvious of signs to his disciples. He has spoken directly to them about what was going to happen to him and to them if they followed him. Still they missed it every time. In this week’s passage, Jesus speaks directly to them once again and they fail once again, focusing on what was important to them instead of what was on Jesus’ agenda. We can do the same thing and we will fail badly in our own lives if we fail to see what Jesus wants us to learn about following him today.
We hope you can join us this Wednesday at 6:30 PM as David Moss will lead us in week 5 of a six-week study of the five solas, a study which will help you understand the historical and biblical context of the five solas and their relevance to our lives today. You can join us live in the WABC sanctuary, or on Facebook Live or YouTube.
We have had many important elections in our nation’s history but never one so important as this one. We have heard those words many times this year but the sentence above is a quote from the New York Times from 1864 when Abraham Lincoln defeated George McClellan. Of course, we have heard the same quote almost every four years since, including this year.
Tuesday was a big day for our nation, bringing hope and optimism to some and anxiety and worry to others and, as we await the conclusion of the matter, confusion and frustration to almost everyone. No matter how you voted in the election, times like these often shape our character and always reveal it. Our hearts are revealed as we reveal to the world where our hope lies and in whom we place our trust.
I hope you will join us this Sunday as we turn at this moment in our nation’s history to his words of comfort and hope in Psalm 47. We will do as the Psalm commands – take a moment to pause, reflect, and be reminded of the hope and security we have in the Lord Most High.
Many of you have been inquiring about our plans for It's Christmas! this year so we wanted to go ahead and let you know what we've been planning! We are very excited to share with you...
For many years, Western Avenue Baptist Church has celebrated Christmas through the musical celebration of It’s Christmas! This year we are reimagining It’s Christmas! as an outdoor festival for the entire family. We invite you to join us for this year’s celebration:
An Avenue Christmas
Friday, December 11 & Saturday, December 12
5:30pm – 9:00pm
Stroll down our “Central Avenue” for…
To allow us to properly prepare for the number attending and to safely control the number of guests to keep everyone safe, this will be a general admission ticketed event. Tickets are $5 per person (all ages) and required for every individual attending. They can be purchased online through the Western Avenue Ticket site www.wabcapps.org. Tickets can be purchased at the church office by calling and scheduling an appointment to do so. Tickets will be made available starting Monday, November 16. It is very important to print and bring your ticket/s with you to the event. As you enter An Avenue Christmas, your ticket will be turned in and you will receive a wrist band that will allow individual participation for food items, ice skating and carriage rides. Purchases from food trucks and artisan craft fair are not included in the ticket cost.
All activities will take place in the back parking lot and field of the church. As you enter the property you will be greeted and directed to parking and the entrance.
Schedule your evening to allow time to watch the most important event of the night, the live nativity musical presentations at 6:30pm or 7:30pm.
A waiver must be filled out by each person planning to ice skate. To allow more time for all of the fun taking place when you arrive, you may wish to print and fill out the waiver for each person ahead of time. You may download and print the form here.
Sign ups for ice skating time slots can be made upon arrival at the event.
We hope you will make plans to join us as we celebrate the season with An Avenue Christmas!
We hope you can join us this Wednesday at 6:30 PM as David Moss will lead us in week 4 of a six-week study of the five solas, a study which will help you understand the historical and biblical context of the five solas and their relevance to our lives today. You can join us live in the WABC sanctuary, or on Facebook Live or YouTube.
Service times/changes starting this week:
8:30am and 11:00am services indoors
11:00am service also livestreamed
6:00pm service is moving indoors and masks are required at this service
Make plans to join us as Andy Lackey will continue our study in Mark:
Most of us enjoy the experience of a family vacation. Whether we go to the beach, the mountains, to Disneyworld, or perhaps another country, we love the thrill of getting away and spending time with our family. But eventually, we must return home, return to reality, back to the challenges of the real world.
We will see this be the case for Jesus, Peter, James, and John as they come down from the mountaintop experience where Jesus was gloriously transfigured, back to the reality of a world marked by sin, faithlessness, and evil. Jesus returns to find a father in desperate need of the healing of his son, a son who was possessed by an evil spirit. In the father’s cry of “I believe, help my unbelief,” we learn in vivid detail a lesson about our need for faith, our need for prayer, and our need for Jesus.
We hope you can join us this Wednesday at 6:30 PM as David Moss will lead us in week 3 of a six-week study of the five solas, a study which will help you understand the historical and biblical context of the five solas and their relevance to our lives today. You can join us live in the WABC sanctuary, or on Facebook Live or Youtube.
Good morning! We had planned to have the 11:00am service today outdoors, but due to rain today, both the 8:30am and 11:00am services will be indoors. There will be no evening service.
BOTH the 8:30am and 11:00am services will be live-streamed on our website, YouTube channel and Facebook. The 11:00am service will be on the radio.
Make plans to join us for worship this morning!
In a few weeks, we will sing the familiar Christmas carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing. One line is so beautiful and important: “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity.” Jesus came to live on earth as a man, a very ordinary-looking man. If you saw him walking down the street, you would not know you were looking at the Son of God. He did not have a halo. He did not glow. He did not float. He was normal. However, one day, with three of his followers on a high mountain, Jesus pulled back the veil. What they saw and [were meant to] learn that day changes everything about what we are to think about Jesus today! Join us this Sunday morning as we take a peek behind the veil in our study of Mark 9.
We hope you can join us this Wednesday at 6:30 PM as David Moss will lead us in week 2 of a six-week study of the five solas, a study which will help you understand the historical and biblical context of the five solas and their relevance to our lives today. You can join us live in the WABC sanctuary, or on Facebook Live or Youtube.
Surviving the Holidays GriefShare Seminar
Pre-registration required before October 30
Holidays are supposed to be happy times filled with celebration and joy, but for those grieving a loved one's death, the holidays can really emphasize their loss.
Our GriefShare group is offering a special seminar to help those grieving a loved one's death to survive the holidays. This seminar will be Wednesday, November 4, 6:00 PM - 7:45 PM in Room 151. You'll learn coping tools for social events, how to deal with emotions, what to do about traditions and hear others share how they are dealing with the upcoming holidays.
Due to COVID-19, pre-registration is required in order to assure adequate social distancing and other safety measures. A maximum of 20 attendees may participate. Pre-register by contacting Kyle Tucker, 704-905-1719 or email email@example.com. You may also pre-register online at www.griefshare.org, select "Find a Group" and follow prompts.
We hope you can join us this Wednesday at 6:30 PM as David Moss will begin a six-week study of the five solas, a study which will help you understand the historical and biblical context of the five solas and their relevance to our lives today. You can join us live in the WABC sanctuary, or on Facebook Live or Youtube.
Some lessons are difficult to learn. We often need to hear something many times before the lesson sinks into our skull (or heart). In this way, the twelve apostles are just like us and we are like them. In our study of Mark’s Gospel, we have seen the Lord Jesus repeatedly instruct his followers on the simplest and most important truth and they continue to miss the point. They understand somewhat but even when they begin to see a little more clearly, they end up missing the primary point. Sadly, there are many in churches all across the country who do the same thing. When it comes to who Jesus is and what he came to do, there are many wrong answers and only one right answer. How do you answer those questions? Please join us this Sunday as we look at the correct answer to the two most important questions you will ever be asked.
Dear church family,
We want to make you aware of plans for upcoming Sunday services as we transition into fall. It has been 30 weeks of near-constant change since March 8. We thank you for your flexibility as we continue to figure out the best and safest ways to continue meeting together.
Here’s the plan for the next few weeks:
October 11 & 18 – We will keep our current schedule with worship inside at 8:30am and 11:00am and outside at 6:00pm.
October 25 – We will worship inside at 8:30am and then hold a large outdoor worship service at 11:00am. The 8:30am service will be livestreamed at 11:00am. There will be no evening outdoor service.
November 1 – Everything – including the time – changes! The time change and falling temperatures will make it difficult to continue meeting outdoors. On November 1, we will meet at 8:30am and 11:00am indoors, with childcare (preschool only) provided only at the 11:00am service. We will also meet at 6:00pm indoors. Masks will be required throughout this evening service (which will feature the same music and sermon as the morning service). It is still strongly encouraged that people wear masks at the morning services. We will continue to livestream the 11:00am service on our website, YouTube and Facebook.
We are still in discussions about all the details involved with starting Sunday School for all ages; more information to come on this soon. We appreciate your survey responses as we get feedback in the best way to move forward.
We thank you for your continued support and encouragement as we seek God’s direction.
**ATTN Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers!!**
Here is a much anticipated update on Fall Retreat 2020. After deliberation, surveying, praying, thinking, talking, mulling, and thinking and praying some more, we have come to a conclusion. Fall Retreat this year will look different than it has in many years. But, this does not mean we are not pursuing every possible means to making this a memorable Fall Retreat.
Here is the breakdown for Fall Retreat 2020:
October 23-25 (October 23-24 for Middle School, October 24-25 for High School)
Carrie and Russell Allen's Home (2452 S Chipley Ford Rd)
All Events will take place outside
Fill out the form below to pre-register for Fall Retreat 2020. You will not be a full registration until you have paid $20 for the weekend.
Contact Mark Collins (firstname.lastname@example.org) or text/call (704-880-8794) with any questions.
We all have opinions. Some believe everyone should know them. Our opinions sometimes get us in trouble. In our culture today, you can get in serious trouble if you do not share a certain opinion. Standing against culture can be scary and even dangerous. How is a Christian to live? How is a Christian to respond against our culture’s demand to abandon biblical thinking for its competing worldview? Peter’s first letter is a gift to believers living in a non-Christian world. This Sunday, Peter’s words will help us examine how Christians can remain faithful to God against great pressure from our society.
**Note time change to 6:00pm for evening service**
It’s finally time.
Our Church Picnic is this Saturday. Here is what you need to do.
There is no sign-up this year. You just show up and bring your own picnic. You can make it at your house or pick it up at a restaurant. We just want you to bring your meal out to the church yard and have a meal together with the church. Bring your own paper towels, napkins, cups, drinks, and utensils. Trash cans will be available, and the church will be open so you can use the restroom.
You can began to gather in the back yard where the squares are at 6:00pm. If you have been to the back of the church lately for the evening service, we will be in this field. If you have not come to the evening service, you can come around to the back parking lot. There will be a flatbed trailer in the big field in the back. Bring your own chairs or blanket. Pick a square and enjoy.
The WABC’s Got Talent Variety Show will begin around 6:45pm. We will feature music, comedy, games, and maybe a few more surprises. We had a great time doing this last year, we think this year will be as much fun, if not more.
We hope you and your family can make it out to a fun evening. We hope to see you there.
On Saturday, September 26, we invite you to join us for a physically distant picnic and variety show. “Western Avenue’s Got Talent” will once again be joining our family picnic. The picnic will be held behind the church where we hold our evening worship service. Please bring food for your family, grab a square and enjoy the evening with us. The picnic starts at 6:00pm and the talent show at 6:45pm. If you are interested in performing at the talent show, here’s a Google Form to fill out with your information: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1LH3__Ti3lbovzX1OBiWuJ9huElbJvlA63cPuTR5y6dQ/edit
We can’t wait to see all your great talents!!
We are planning a men’s golf trip to Springdale Country Club, located in the mountains west of Asheville. This trip will be a wonderful time of fun and fellowship. Andy Lackey will also be leading a time of Bible study and prayer. Space is very limited. If you are interested in attending, please contact Andy at 704-872-4139 or email@example.com
We're excited to announce Avenue Kids is back!
1st - 5th graders
6:30pm - 7:30pm
Back field of the church
Bring your own chair