Advent Week Three
Sunday, December 12 – Joan Lehning
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and
welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison
and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)
When I saw this passage on the list of suggested verses for the Advent Guide, I rushed to fill in my name. Admittedly, I was picking the low hanging fruit – a “no brainer” I thought. But I can’t help it! There’s so much truth in this story and its powerful conclusion. And if there’s one thing I know – one thing I believe – it’s those very words: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Right after we were married, Tim and I went on a rather long trip that took us, at one point, to Kolkata (Calcutta) India. Sitting in the lobby of the Fairlawn Hotel, we had a conversation with a young American woman who was a pediatrician. She told us she had been volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata for some time, and, as one would expect, had been tending to the orphans and sick children brought there for care. What was most interesting to us, however, was a story she shared about her first few days in Kolkata. Upon her arrival at the mission, she was asked first to simply help with bathing the sick and dying – mostly elderly people – who had been found on the streets of Kolkata. When the young physician questioned whether this was the best use of her training as a pediatrician, she learned the philosophy behind the requirement – she must first learn to simply see Christ in every person and serve each as though they were Christ himself.
During our time in Kolkata, Tim and I had the great privilege of visiting the Missionaries of Charity orphanage and attending mass in a small room where worshipers sat barefoot on the floor and Mother Teresa herself participated in serving communion. That visit has been one of the highlights of my life, and I so often recall our conversation with the American physician and try (though often fail) to let the Missionaries of Charity philosophy guide my encounters with all people at home and abroad.
Joan Lehning has been a member of NFBC since her family moved to Nashville in 1971. For the last seven years she has been teaching Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Environmental Science, and Health at Gateway Academy, Nashville. Joan and her husband, Tim, have three young-adult children – Hank, Maggie (soon to graduate from Belmont), and David (Trevecca).
Monday, December 13 – Lisa Wooley (Rooftop)
All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:3-5, CSB)
John invites the reader to experience the Word coming into the world with a hymn-like celebration. Jesus is life and light, shining in the darkness, revealing to us the glory of the Father. During this season of Advent, I would invite you to take a moment and experience the dawn of a new day, beginning in darkness.
Toward the Light
Too often our answer to the darkness
is not running toward Bethlehem
but running away.
We ought to know by now that we can’t see
where we’re going in the dark.
Running away is rampant. . .
separation is stylish: separation from mates, from friends, from self.
Run and tranquilize,
don’t talk about it, avoid.
Run away and join the army
of those who have already run away.
When are we going to learn that Christmas Peace
comes only when we turn and face the darkness?
Only then will we be able to see
the Light of the World.
From: Kneeling in Bethlehem, 1987, Ann Weems, “Used by Permission of Westminster John Knox Press.”
Have you experienced darkness of this world in the past year? Be touched and renewed as light enters the world. Connect to the dawn! Take a moment to be filled with longing, adventure, discovery, and joy.
Allow yourself the gift of Advent, actively waiting, preparing for the birth of Christ. Ponder the ways Christ brings light to your life. Anticipate Christ’s return. Celebrate the gift of light that shines in the darkness, which the darkness will never overcome.
Lisa Wooley is the Executive Director of Rooftop Nashville, a local nonprofit with offices at Nashville First Baptist. Lisa is a certified Christian Educator with the Presbyterian Church USA and is a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church. She has worked on church staffs, in a private school teaching Old and New Testament, and on the staff of several nonprofits assisting with transitions. Lisa and her husband, Mike, have two children Chris (22) and Rachael (20). They are having fun being empty nesters! You will most often find Lisa in her office during the work week, but as a self-described church geek, you may also see her a popping in at different church events.
The mission of Rooftop Nashville is to “Keep Nashville Housed: Building stability through a compassionate & collaborative rent/mortgage assistance program.” When a resident of Davidson County has experienced a financial hardship and is unable to pay the full balance of their rent or mortgage, they may face eviction, foreclosure, or possible homelessness. Rooftop provides short-term financial assistance to get a resident over this hurdle to create housing stability. If an applicant does not meet the criteria for assistance, Rooftop caseworkers provide a direct referral to a resource that is better able to address the situation.
Rooftop has been active since 2020 & 2021 in supporting programs assisting residents impacted by the tornado, flood, and pandemic. In collaboration with congregations, nonprofits, and government entities, Rooftop continues to work toward a “One Nashville” approach to financial assistance. The board and staff are grateful to NFBC for support, encouragement, and partnership as we work to fulfill our mission to help our neighbors in need.
Tuesday, December 14 – Fred Turner
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness
to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. (John 1:6-8, NRSV)
John the Baptist was the last of the prophets. (Read his description in Matthew 3.) He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” While preaching salvation through repentance of sin and baptism as a symbol of redemption, he was also preparing Israel for the long-awaited Messiah—the true light sent to enlighten the world. Jesus came to John for baptism at the beginning of his ministry. John testified: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. … And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29-34)
In the early 1990’s Muriel Blackwell, a member of FBC, was asked to teach Preschool and Children’s ministries at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada. Texas Baptist Men had constructed the first buildings on the 100-acre property. Around 1995, FBC Nashville sent a team of about a dozen volunteers to help complete a new building and update an older building. For 23 years, until the pandemic has prevented it, volunteers have gone from the church for a week or two each year, cleaning, painting, gardening, and more, to prepare the campus for the Fall semester.
Much of the world needs the light that John witnessed about. Canadian Seminary students come not only from Canada but from around the world. Many graduate to serve in “hard places,” as bi-vocational ministers where there is no evangelical witness. About 3% of Canadians are evangelical. The vast majority are unchurched and do not have a Christian witness where they live. In this vast spiritual wilderness, the seminary is working at training leaders to proclaim Christ. Nashville First Baptist continues to support this work.
There is a spiritual wilderness outside our doors. The crosses on our building are a silent witness. We have church members living and witnessing in our downtown neighborhood. Humphrey’s Street opened a coffee shop in hopes of attracting unbelievers. We have some cooperative ministries to other language groups. As a church we do many things. Are they the right things? Is it enough? Is this all God would have us do?
Fred and Glenda Turner moved to Nashville in 1969 when Fred began work in Church Architecture at the Baptist Sunday School Board. He received the Career of Excellence Award before retiring in 1993. After visiting a few other churches, we joined Nashville First in April. Fred taught Preschool Sunday School and VBS for many years. He bowled on the FBC team for about 20 years, sang in the choir, and is a Life Deacon. Fred and Glenda have been married for 65 years. Their five children include three sons and two adopted daughters, the surviving children of his youngest brother from a collision in July 1969.
(Photo: Fred Turner and Sam Talley on mission in Canada)
Wednesday, December 15 – Chris & Valerie Michel
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever
follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)
Light. Something that we often take for granted but that held great significance for Jesus’ audience as He spoke. For them, a candle was treasured for the small amount of illumination it could bring. Jesus started by telling them that He is the light of the world, but then He went on to say that for those who follow Him, He is the light of life.
Just as the sun is the physical light that reveals what we see on earth, Jesus is the spiritual light that reveals what is in our hearts and the sin that ultimately keeps us from Him. Without Him, an individual is in the dark, clueless, and unable to see.
The thought of truly being able to see reminds me of when I was about 15 years old and got eyeglasses for the first time. I did not realize how bad my eyes were until that moment when I put on my new glasses. All of a sudden, I could see clearly all kinds of things that I could barely make out before and sometimes not at all from a distance. One main thing I remember seeing was the letters and numbers on license plates, but there were so many other things I had not noticed, both good and bad.
Sin is the darkness that keeps us from seeing. However, Jesus is the light that illuminates and shows us the sin we need to get rid of. He lights the way for us to see our need for a Savior and a personal relationship with Him. With Jesus as our light, we are able to see and, by seeing, we can know Him. We can find fulfillment in having a relationship with Him when He is our Guide.
Christopher and Valerie Michel have two daughters, Charlotte (15) and Ellie (10). Chris works in business intelligence for the State of TN; Valerie is the assistant librarian at Donelson Christian Academy where their girls are in the 9th and 5th grades. At First Baptist, Chris has served on the Finance Committee, taught RAs and Mission Friends, and currently teaches Preschool 3s and 4s in Sunday School with Charlotte. Valerie has served as WMU Director, as GA Director, and on the Missions Committee; she sings in the Sanctuary Choir.
Thursday, December 16 – Ruth Raughton
Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have
the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness,
you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light,
that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:35-36, NRSV)
When we moved to our current home, we found ourselves in the country with no houses around us. As I took our beagle out at night, he often followed his nose further and further from the house. I would find myself in unfamiliar territory and often stumbled over roots and rocks. I quickly learned to take a flashlight when I walked the dog.
Have you ever taken a walk or been in the woods at night when the darkness was deep and frightening? Shadows and dangers lurk, but you can’t see them. With a flashlight, things are not as ominous because you can see the path. It is a much more pleasant walk.
In these verses we find Jesus a few days before He went to the cross. He is responding to the question of unbelieving Jews in verse 34, “Who is this Son of Man?” While many believed the Messiah would be a conqueror who would never die, Jesus tells them his death is imminent. He pleads with them to believe while they still have the Light with them, because once He is gone, it will be even harder to believe. Jesus is the Light and they were choosing to walk in darkness.
The best time to walk or to work is while we have light, so we must make the most of our time before it turns dark. Christ urges us, “Believe in the light that you may become sons of light.” If we believe the Gospel, we must submit to its truths, because it is a light to our eyes and a lamp to our feet. Just as taking a walk with a flashlight shows us the path and illuminates dangers, so God’s Word illuminates lies versus truth and keeps us on the right path.
In an appeal full of love and grace, Jesus gives two commands in these verses: “Walk in the light” and “believe in the light.” While most people say, “Seeing is believing,” in this case, “Believing is seeing.” We must believe before we can see and walk in the light of Jesus Christ. As “Sons of light” we read His word and communicate with Him daily through prayer. This prepares us to be a light to others, illuminating their path until they believe and walk in His light.
Ruth is a retired elementary music teacher who now enjoys time with her children and grandchildren. She teaches first and second graders in Sunday School and enjoys sewing, paper and fabric crafting, and Bible art journaling. She is the wife of our Pastor of Christian Education and Discipleship, Alan Raughton. They have been married for 41 years and have two children.
Friday, December 17 – David Miller
“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46, NASB)
On the evening of September 9, 1965, Hurricane Betsy, Category 4, was heading straight for New Orleans, LA, where I lived, born and raised. I remember as a 10-year-old the things my family had to do to prepare for the storm. We boarded up all the windows, brought the front porch furniture in and made sure the car had gas. We had food and water provisions, especially extra batteries and oil for the flashlight and oil lamp.
We lost power not long after experiencing Betsy’s 100 MPH winds. I had never experienced total darkness before. Our house, so familiar, but now impossible to navigate. We lit the oil lamp that provided light for one room. What I remember most during the night was walking with my father through the house holding the flashlight checking on the windows. I felt secure walking with my father because of his assurance of being safe, even with flying debris and pounding wind.
In John 12:48 Jesus uses an incredible metaphor contrasting light and darkness. In Hebrew thinking, light symbolized goodness, knowledge and truth. Darkness meant stumbling, fallen, lost or blind. Jesus referred to himself as “the Light of the world” in John 8:12. It is the last public statement prior to His crucifixion.
Jesus didn’t point us to the light or say that He has the light, but He has become as light. “In Him was life and that life was the light of us all” (John 1:4).
Jesus was fully aware of the spiritual warfare taking place. We could no longer have an intimate, loving, and worshipful relationship with God, broken by the act of outrageous rebellion in Eden. We were not to live or function on our own wisdom.
Jesus had to come to earth to be the Light! To believe in Jesus is to believe He is Light and all life comes from Him. Those who by grace believe in Jesus are promised the Light of Life and no longer live in separation and darkness. We now can walk by faith with our Heavenly Father because we are assured of our salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. We are called to become light-bearers of the truth to our world.
David Miller joined Nashville First in 1980. Tricia actually joined in 1979 and they were married in Clarksville in 1981 at her home church. They have two adult children, Patrick (Ashley) with three awesome grandchildren, and Stuart. David is an architect with the local firm of ESa. He recently served on the Master Plan Implementation Committee for the new building on Broadway.
Saturday, December 4
The Shepherds and the Angels (and Us)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
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!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20)
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)
During this Christmas season, you may wish to listen to some of these pieces from YouTube. “CG” refers to a hymn number in our Celebrating Grace hymnal:
- I Have Seen the Light – (with lyrics)
- We Are Singing, for the Lord Is Our Light (CG 155) (Junior Choir)(South African song. Can substitute: praying, marching)
- Christ Is the World’s Light (CG 154) (solo with lyrics)
- Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (Duke Chapel) (GC 81)
- Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (solo with lyrics) (GC 81)