Advent Devotional | 2nd Sunday in Advent | Year C | December 6th, 2015

Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight. 
Every valley shall be filled,
   and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
   and the rough ways made smooth; 
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

Traditionally, the second Sunday in Advent is when we light the candle for "peace."  I've always found it strangely ironic that the Sunday that we focus on peace is the Sunday that the Revised Common Lectionary has us listening to a voice of one crying out in the wilderness.  This doesn't sound very peace to me!

Peace is something that I truly believe most of us want.  We want peace in our lives.  We want peace in the Middle East.  We want peace in our marriages, in our families, in our communities.  The Church is called to be a peaceful voice in the midst of a world infected with violence.

Sometimes, to get to peace, we have to listen to voices that are difficult to hear.  John is one of those voices.  Born by the Holy Spirit by his father Zechariah and his mother Elizabeth, John knew that the world needed to prepare for Jesus' arrival.  So too do we need to prepare ourselves for the peace to which Jesus calls us.  To prepare ourselves for peace, we must first repent of our sins and, in doing so, understand our deep need for it.  

John the Baptist echoes the words of the prophet Isaiah when he says that "every valley shall be filled and every mountain made low."  The people who often seek violence to get what they want tend to be the people "on the mountains," the people with the most power to lose by sharing it with others.  Do we who are on mountains have what it takes to be made low?  That is a question that those of us in power need to ask of ourselves.  Churches, although we might like to think otherwise, are in positions of power and we must ask ourselves this question before we ask it of anyone else.  

Speaking up like John the Baptist takes courage and wisdom.  I would hope that our congregations are also institutions of courage and wisdom that can help prepare the way of the Lord.  What are our congregations doing so that the work of the Lord might thrive?  What are the institutions in the community in which you live doing so that those "in the valleys" might live with the same quality of life as "those on the mountains."  

What is this voice crying out in the wilderness saying to you as we continue this Advent journey?  Food for thought as we begin the second week of preparing for the coming of the Christ-child.

Prayer for the Day:
God of Every Mountain and Every Valley,
help me this day to prepare the way for your coming.
Make the rough ways in my life smooth
as I seek to be your disciple in a world that needs your work so desperately.
Forgive me of my sins that I might, with your help, overcome them
and do the work that you are calling me to do.  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.