Advent Devotional | 1st Thursday in Advent | Year C | December 3rd, 2015

Philippians 1:12-18

 I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.

 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,

The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about proclaiming good news amidst hardship.  His letter to the Philippians was written while he was imprisoned for his faith.  However, rather than sit in prison and feel sorry for himself, he proclaimed the joy he had in Christ and others took notice.  Through his proclamation in hardship, complete strangers came to have confidence in the Lord.

A few weeks ago, there was a horrible coordinated terrorism attack in Paris, France.  Hundreds of people were killed in senseless acts of violence by those who would have us live our lives ruled by fear rather than the peace to which God calls us.  Just yesterday, yet another mass shooting happened in San Bernadino, CA.  (Click here for a prayer for the people of San Bernadino).

Like the apostle Paul, we find ourselves in times in which the joy found in Paul's letter can seem counterintuitive.  Why should we rejoice at a time of such pain and suffering?  As Christians, we are called to affirm that now is the most important time to proclaim God's goodness.  In doing so, we preach that evil and suffering, while being very real, are nevertheless opposite of God's intention for God's creation.  

During this Advent season, may we remember that to proclaim the joy we have in Christ does not discount the reality of evil in the world.  Rather, to do so affirms it and fights against it!  So may we continue the work that Paul began.  Let us proclaim God's goodness in the midst of a world that desperately needs it.  That is your work as a disciple of the Risen Christ!

Prayer of the Day:
God of peace,
as I begin this day, help me proclaim the peace to which we are called.
Help me stand against the fear that seeks to invade my life.
May I be a vehicle of your peace that is soon to be found
in the birth, body, and being of your son, Jesus Christ.  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.