Advent Week One
Sunday, November 28
Looking for the Light!
Throughout the Bible, God revealed His glory to us, His creatures whom He loves – through incomparable miracles, through His Word, and through our senses: through cloud, fire, sound, and light. This Advent we explore what God revealed to us through Light and through His Son, the Light of the world.
In the beginning, all was dark. The Holy Spirit hovered over the dark, formless creation. God’s first command in the Bible was, “Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). By this light we can see everything else He has made. We know that Jesus was at work from this beginning: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:3-5).
Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). At His birth, the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds as an angel brought them “good news of a great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).
One day, in the new heaven and the new earth, Jesus will reign: “And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).
So now, in the 21st century, where is the light? Peter’s words written to persecuted believers also apply to Christians today: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Today, His marvelous light can shine through us in our homes, our neighborhoods, our church, our city, our country, and our world. One day, night will be no more and we will be together in God’s kingdom, built through Christ, whose birth we are celebrating, for our joy and for His glory.
Two of this year’s devotionals are written by friends in our city with whom we share light to our world. Look for ways they and we are doing this. Enjoy photos of light by fellow church members. Truly, Jesus is the Light of the world. As you read these devotionals, be looking for the light!
Helen Owens has attended First Baptist Nashville since the Cradle Roll. She and Dan (plays trombone in the church orchestra) have two daughters, Mary Frances (Chuck) and Susanna (Brittan), two grandchildren, and two more expected soon! Helen works on the Advent guide service group and hopes you find a thought here to ponder about the Light of the world. She also hopes you meet a writer in our church community who is new to you.
Monday, November 29 – Gary Eaton
Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4, CSB)
On a moonless dark night, looking toward the constellation Andromeda you might spot a faint smudge. That smudge is the Andromeda Galaxy. Need help? Yes, there’s an app for that. The galaxy is a massive spiral with around 1 trillion stars. It’s the closest large galaxy to our own Milky Way. At 2.5 million light years away, it is the farthest object visible with the naked eye. That is, traveling at 186,282 miles per second it takes light 2.5 million years to reach us. Viewing the Andromeda Galaxy is looking back in time. With telescopes, even more ancient light is visible.
Let’s look much farther back beyond all telescope limits and imagine primeval time before first light had shown. Nothing on Earth we think of as grand or beautiful existed – no mountains, rivers, sunsets, and no life. It was formless, empty and in total darkness.
Then, as recorded in the first few verses of Genesis, a simple yet profound and stunning event occurred. The Spirit of God hovered over the deep and God said, “Let there be light.” The very power of His spoken word inaugurated light that burst forth. As master artist, beginning with light, God brought order to the world we recognize and experience. In our scientific age there is still considerable mystery concerning the nature of light. For believers, there is no mystery regarding its origin.
Light reflects the very nature of God. Light is good. Light supports life. With light we see and feel warmth. It is a gift. Metaphorically, light represents all of our blessings, including truth, salvation, the very presence of God and more. May we welcome the light that shines into darkness, penetrating deep into our lives enabling us to truly reflect His presence for those around us here on planet Earth.
Gary Eaton retired from Lifeway Christian Resources in 2018, after a 34-year career, and resides in Franklin with his wife Kenna. They enjoy traveling together, visiting museums, and camping. They have two grown sons, Daniel and Chris. Gary is an avid amateur astronomer and enjoys cycling as well as classical music, theology, history and science. Kenna grew up at Nashville, FBC. Gary and Kenna were married at FBC in 1980 and are active members of the Connecting Class. Kenna plays flute in the church orchestra and enjoys art and gardening.
Tuesday, November 30 – Nancy Ross
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them LIGHT, so that they could travel by day or night. (Exodus 13:21, NIV)
The Israelites had just escaped from bondage under the Egyptians and were on their way to the Promised Land. They were bewildered with nothing good that they could see. Darkness was all around them. The nighttime darkness was probably even more bewildering because when morning came, they still had no guidance of what to do next. But God was there, always there. He provided a cloud for them to follow in the daytime and a fire so they could rest and be protected during the nighttime.
“Faith is walking to the edges of all the light you have and then taking one more step.”
This quote was popular when I graduated from college. I was pretty much in the darkness at that time. I remember feeling darkness all around me. As I think back on those days, over 50 years ago, I see God guiding, protecting, and saving me from dangers that were always close enough for me to see them.
He DID protect me. He DID guide me with the offer of a job that was perfect for my skills. He DID provide me a place to sleep with the offer of a bed from a college roommate. He was there in the darkness as I rode the bus, and when a teenage girl offered to teach me how to drive. And soon He stepped into the darkness around me with the offer of a car I could afford to buy.
Now as I look back over those 50+ years, I can see many times that He broke through the darkness to show me slivers of LIGHT: the perfect husband who cares for me as I walk now through several health issues; doctors who zero in on my needs and provide what I need; and, most precious of all, a church full of people who nurture me, give me a place to serve Him, and show me the LIGHT that gets brighter and brighter the more I trust Him and walk toward the LIGHT.
Nancy Ross, a native of Springfield, TN, graduated from Belmont 56 years ago. She and her husband, John, have been members of NFBC for 34 years. Shortly after they joined, their son, Andy, age 10, was baptized by Dr. Page; he had wonderful years in the youth group led by Carolyn Jenkins. John and Nancy taught preschoolers in Sunday School for over 20 years. At home she enjoys coloring in adult coloring books, playing her baby grand piano, making greeting cards, and researching her father’s huge Turner genealogy. She has begun writing and mailing her discoveries to 90 of her “closest cousins.” At Christmas she and John decorate their home with the 200+ elves she has collected over the years.
Wednesday, December 1 – Beverly Curtis
2 Samuel 22:29
For you are my lamp, O Lord,
and my God lightens my darkness. (2 Samuel 22:29)
More than ever before, reading through the Bible this year has given me a greater appreciation for the Old Testament. Like many Christians, my focus has more often been on the New Testament. The Old Testament comprises roughly three-fourths of the Scriptures.
God had a divine purpose in giving this Word to mankind. It shows His mercy and grace to His human creation. It gives His promise of never leaving us. Near the end of 2 Samuel, David is an old man. He sings his song of thanksgiving to our Lord, from which we can glean many lessons.
We all stumble and fall just as David did; however, the light of our Lord, ever present in a dark world, gives us the strength to continue. As with David, our Lord does not consider appearance. God looks at the heart. David came from a humble beginning. David was a sinner. As are we. All David had and all he was came from God, as is our case.
No one can see in the darkness; how merciful is the light! We need light when we stumble. God’s light. God was David’s support and rescued him as He will rescue us if we humbly ask Him. God is our refuge and shield as he was King David’s. God warms our soul with his light. When you are looking for the light, look to God. He is wrapped in light, and that light permeates all things. Trust in God is vital to standing In God’s light.
My prayer each day is thanking God for never giving up on me, and thanking him for continually providing His light in which I bask.
Beverly and Ken Curtis have been members of NFBC since 2000. Beverly has volunteered at Christian Women’s Job Core (now Begin Anew), the Next Door, Samaritan’s Purse, and now at Project Connect in Madison. Her husband, Ken, taught 6th grade Sunday School for 18 years and now is the Church Director for Room in the Inn. Beverly assists him when possible. They are members of the Encouragers Connect Group.
Thursday, December 2 – Melinda Cullen / Katie Cullen / Ann Beasley
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
Katie Cullen (granddaughter):
With Psalm 27:1 as my life verse, it is almost comical to know the number of fears that run through my head and how I try to deal with those thoughts alone. In those moments of worry, before panicking, I stop and try to redirect my worries into prayers. A friend said, “You can’t control what happens, but you can control where you place your trust.” There is no greater sense of peace than knowing He is always near. David says: “He is our LIGHT and THE strength.” Fast forwarding to the end and getting answers before knowing our Author of life would be no fun anyway, right? Our home is in Heaven, so why worry in this life?
Melinda Cullen (mother):
Many days I awake with worries for the day and troubles ahead. Anxieties about my family, my health, my future can go on and on. Rejoicing in the gift of Jesus who endured the pressures of this world and experiencing life as we see it, is a help to me. His humbleness and humanness remind me that He understands and He empathizes. When I rely on His words, rely on my faith, rely on my prayers, and rely on my fellow believers, the extraordinary peace and calm overflow. Then, I can confidently say I am not afraid!
Ann Beasley (grandmother):
I love being active doing things with family and friends and doing things for myself. When Covid started, I became mad, afraid, lonely, and concerned. After a few weeks, I felt the blessings from the love and concern shown from my family. I read my devotional, prayed and worshipped daily, and really started listening to what God was saying to me. He wrapped His arms around me, and I felt peace and love. He said, “Relax! There is more to life than Ann.” Through His words and prayer, I know Jesus is my light and salvation. I shall not be afraid.
Ann Beasley has been a member for 56 years. She and her late husband, Bill, have three children, Mark, Melanie, and Melinda, who grew up in the church. Melanie (Brad Dunn) and Melinda (Kevin Cullen) and their families are active members of NFBC. Mark and Beth live in Raleigh, NC, and have three children (two are married). Melanie and Brad have three sons. Melinda and Kevin have two children, Blake (22) and Katie (20). Katie is a Junior at Auburn University studying Marketing and Graphic Design.
Friday, December 3 – Dabbs Matthews
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9, NIV)
One of my favorite things to do around Christmas time is to drive around and look at Christmas lights with my family. Some houses have elaborate lights while others are plain and simple. What is similar between both is that the light always shines through the darkness.
So is Jesus in the life of every believer…
He gives us truth.
He gives us hope.
He gives us peace on our paths.
He is light in our darkness.
As the fountain of life, Jesus sustains us, and we can draw from an endless well of love.
Dabbs Matthews is the son of Andy and Renee Matthews and brother to Harper and Catherine. He and his family have been members of Nashville First since 2010. As an 8th grader, Dabbs is active in the student ministry and youth choir at Nashville First. He loves sports and all things outdoors.
Saturday, December 4
Following is a compilation of meaningful activities to use with your family during the Advent season. These are favorites that were submitted by parents and grandparents.
Truth in the Tinsel for preschoolers.
Each day, you will be led through a passage of Scripture. It also includes detailed supply lists, links to Scriptures, simple craft tutorials, step-by-step talking points, craft templates and a fun paper chain countdown. This ebook will give you everything you need (besides a few basic craft supplies!) to walk your kids through the entire Christmas story from the Bible–beginning with prophecy in Isaiah, through the stories in the Gospels all the way to Jesus’ ultimate goal for coming to earth.
Christmas Story Rebus.
One year, we read the story of Jesus birth—maybe one or a few verses each night. After reading, we had one child draw on a big poster board what we read. It was fun to see and re-tell the finished story on Christmas Day. I actually had it framed and we put it out each year for Christmas.
I have little pouches or pockets that we put in a daily reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible. See Faith Gateway for Free Printables and other ideas. On various days throughout Advent, we’ll put little surprises in the pouches—only one surprise is ever a toy or a “material” item. Most are experiences and I try to mix them up between family fun and thinking of/caring for others. For example, one might be to take a ride to look at Christmas lights. We deck the inside of the van out with Christmas lights, make hot cocoa, popcorn, and watch a Christmas movie if we’re going to be waiting in a long line. Another might be having Chick-fil-A for dinner and paying for the person in line behind us. Making treats for our neighbors and/or for the local fire station one year. Last year, we did a surprise ice skating night. It’s getting a little harder to “surprise” as they get older, as well as keep their enthusiasm up if it’s not exactly what they would have wanted to do. We’re intentional about being low budget.
This year, I’m going to add in more nature-based things. We’re going to make an Advent Wreath for our table with items we find in the yard and/or on a hike.
Christmas Eve Hike
Take a walk and look at the stars. Talk with your kids about darkness and light and how God used the lights of His creation to guide people to the ultimate “Light of the World.”
Themes of Advent, for older children and teens
For older children and teens, explore the themes of Advent with the kids.
Stained Glass Sugar Cookies
We make stained glass sugar cookies. Even my big kids still get into it. We make the sugar cookie dough. We use Christmas cookie cutters and jolly ranchers. I cut out a space in the center of the cookies. They love to smash the jolly ranchers into tiny pieces and sprinkle them in the center of the cookies. We watch the jolly ranchers melt and liquify. When the cookies cool, the center of the cookies look like stained glass and you can see through!
Follow the Star
This is an activity that my cousin did with her kids, At the beginning of Advent, they set up the nativity scene under the tree in the living room, and they placed the Wise Men in the farthest corner of the house from the tree. Each night they moved the Wise Men a little bit closer to the tree, arriving at Christmas. (Though they probably didn’t arrive at the manger itself, but they were coming!)
Kids Devotion: Light and Darkness. An experiment.
Materials you will need: water, bowl, black pepper, dish soap, toothpick.
Follow the Star
Setting up the Nativity has been a tradition with our daughter and now our grands. We purchased a non-breakable but beautiful set—Fontanini—and added to it each year. We then gave a starter set to our grown daughter at Thanksgiving and added pieces each year. St. Mary’s Book Store carries these figures and also has an amazing display of Jerusalem in their basement.
Allow the children to set up the Nativity, minus the people. After everything is in place, read (or have an older child read/tell) the story. Let the younger children act out the story with the figures. If you have more than one younger child, let them choose who they will be. Be sure to do this frequently throughout the season so everyone has a turn to be the characters of their choice.
A variation on Helen’s activity. Set up the Nativity with all of the characters in various stages of their journey to Bethlehem. Talk about how they did not all arrive at once. Each night of Advent, use a flashlight for the star and move the characters closer to the manger. You might even combine this activity with Kimee’s and put Baby Jesus in the pocket for the 25th. If you have a large, outdoor nativity, move the pieces closer to the stable each week of Advent.
Daily Reflections for Teens
Let these free printable cards guide your pre-teen/teen to reflect in his/her own journal. Writing down thoughts is a good way to re-live the experiences with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph during this season of expectation. Let your teen choose one card each day and reflect by writing in his/her journal. They will enjoy looking back each year on these journals and discover their spiritual growth.