Advent Devotional | 1st Sunday in Advent | Year C | November 29th, 2015

Luke 21:25-36

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

Photo by Alexandrum79/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Alexandrum79/iStock / Getty Images

"Be alert!" today's passage tells us.  It's an interesting thing to tell us because, at first glance, we appear to be rather good at doing just that.

"Be alert!" is the narrative we hear each and every day on the television screen and the newspaper page.  Be alert about the latest ISIS incident!  Be alert about the latest school shooting!  Be alert about Friday's shooting in Colorado Springs!  Be alert about the latest unhealthy habits!

Now, don't get me wrong, each of these things is very important to be aware of.  However, the season of Advent calls us to be alert for something bigger, something greater, something hopeful and good.

On this 1st Sunday in Advent - Year C, as we wait yet again for the coming of our Lord and Savior, things might get a little dicey, Luke 21:25-36 tells us.  What is coming is not what this world expects.  What is coming is not what we might envision as "proper" or "logical" or "smart."  The savior of the world coming as a helpless little infant?!  You've got to be kidding me!

And yet, God's foolishness is God's wisdom as we are called to "be on guard" because "our redemption is drawing near."

So, step one for the season of Advent is the same as it always has been and, hopefully, always will be:  be alert!  Look out for the small ways in your life that the newness of Christ will appear in the coming weeks as we prepare for the Christ-event that we celebrate as Christmas.  Who knows?  Maybe a moment when you are tempted to be frustrated can be turned into a moment of divine revelation.   Maybe that person you've never been very crazy about can be a vehicle for a nugget of God's truth?  Perhaps trying out something different, something that takes you out of your comfort zone, might just open up a space where God's redemption can cradle you?

-Prayer of the Day:
     God of Continuing Newness,
     send your Spirit to keep me alert this day
     that I might be aware of your presence in my life
     and your steadfast love in my heart.  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.