Advent Devotional | 1st Friday in Advent | Year C | December 4th, 2015

Luke 1:68-79

‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
   for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. 
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
   in the house of his servant David, 
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 
   that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. 
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
   and has remembered his holy covenant, 
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
   to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands 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
   by the forgiveness of their sins. 
By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us, 
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.’

This song from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke comes from the mouth of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.  These lyrics come from the lips of a man who had not spoken for some time.  When an angel had visited Zechariah while doing his duties as a priest, he did not believe the good news that he received, that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son and that this son would turn many people to God.  Because of he did not believe, he was made mute until the time of John's birth.

Having his speech temporarily taken from him, I imagine Zechariah had a lot of time to ponder and listen.  Sometimes we need one of our senses taken from us in order that the others can do their work.  One of the challenges I have always had during the season of Advent is finding time in the hectic holiday season to shut up and listen to what God is doing in my life!

Once Zechariah's speech returns to him, the first words that come from his mouth are the words of praise that we are given in Luke 1:68-79.  Often called "the Song of Zechariah," this hymn glorifies God and blesses God for the mighty acts that have been made known to God's servant.  May we, too, be silent enough that we may find the wisdom to sing about what we've heard.  A time will come for singing; but first must come the time for listening.  That is what the season of Advent is all about!

Perhaps, then, Zechariah's imposed period of silence was not a punishment but a gift!

Prayer of the Day:
God of Sound and Silence,
as I begin this day,
give me ears to listen to your presence in my life.
Like Zechariah, I am witness to how you are moving in the world.
Send your Spirit this day that I might wonder and ponder
and, when the time comes, give me words to sing and rejoice!  Amen.


Stephen Fearing

Stephen was born in 1988 in Cookeville, TN, where his parents met whilst attending Tennessee Tech. Shortly after, they moved to Dalton, Georgia where they put down roots and joined First Presbyterian Church, the faith family that taught Stephen that he was first and foremost a beloved child of God. It was this community that taught Stephen that it was OK to have questions and doubts and that nothing he could do could every possibly separate him from the love of God. In 1995, his sister, Sarah Kate, joined the family and Stephen began his journey as a life-long musician. Since then, he has found a love of music and has found this gift particularly fitting for his call to ministry. Among the instruments that he enjoys are piano, trumpet, guitar, and handbells. Stephen has always had a love of singing and congregation song. An avid member of the marching band, Stephen was the drum major of his high school's marching band. In 2006, Stephen began his tenure at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC where he majored in Religion and minored in History. While attending PC, Stephen continued to explore his love of music by participating in the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Trio, as well as playing in the PC Handbell ensemble and playing mandolin and banjo PC's very own bluegrass/rock group, Hosegrass, of which Stephen was a founding member (Hosegrass even released their own CD!). In 2010, Stephen moved from Clinton to Atlanta to attend Columbia Theological Seminary to pursue God's call on his life to be a pastor in the PC(USA). During this time, Stephen worked at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, Central Presbyterian Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. For three years, Stephen served as the Choir Director of Columbia Theological Seminary's choir and also served as the Interim Music Director at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 2014, Stephen graduated from Columbia with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology with an emphasis in liturgy, music, and worship. In July of 2014, Stephen was installed an ordained as Teaching Elder at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church in Shelter Island, NY. Later that year, Stephen married the love of his life, Tricia, and they share their home on Shelter Island with their Golden Doodle, Elsie, and their calico cat, Audrey. In addition to his work with the people who are Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, Stephen currently serves as a commission from Long Island Presbytery to the Synod of the Northeast and, beginning in January of 2016, will moderate the Synod's missions team.