First Baptist Church St. Simons Island

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Wise Men

Psalm 33:20-22

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:20-22).

I’ve always loved Christmas pageants. My little church in north Alabama always reenacted the Christmas story. The cast of actors changed every year as children outgrew the angel costumes made from coat hangers and tinsel, and shepherd costumes made from old bathrobes. The role of Mary and Joseph was passed down to new parents whose baby might lie quietly in the manger with Mom nearby. However, the three wise men never changed: my uncle Spencer, Herbert Gay, and my dad, because singing “We Three Kings” was a requirement of the part and no one else could carry a tune in a bucket.

So it is not too surprising that my favorite characters in the Christmas story are the wise men, riding camels in regal robes to see the baby with the most impractical baby gifts. I can imagine Mary thinking, “What in the world will we do with these things?” Oh, I learned about the symbolism of the gifts, but some of those symbols likely would have been lost on Mary at that point. But then someone suggested perhaps these gifts were God’s provisions to fund the family’s flight to Egypt to escape Herod. After Joseph’s dream where the angel told him to flee, I imagine him realizing what perfect gifts these strange packages were. So that is how I choose to view the wise men, the conduit God used to provide for Joseph and his family. And this is the source of my joy, because I know that God is still in the providing business today.

A Peaceful Heart

John 16:33
Psalm 33:18

When I think of peace, I think about the world. What a wonderful world we live in but world peace…that seems almost inconceivable. That’s where Jesus steps in. No matter what’s going on in the world, I know I can always turn to Jesus to keep peace in my heart. With Jesus in my heart, I know I can always get through the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Jesus is always there to protect me from harm and to give me hope for the good. If you have Jesus in your heart, you never have to be afraid. Just trust in him and he will bring peace in your heart.

Zoe’s Prayer:

Dear God,

When I heard how many people were waiting and watching for the birth of the Christ child, I am reminded he is always with me. Amen.

Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love” (Psalm 33:18).

Peace on Earth

Luke 2:11-14
John 14:27
John 16:33
2 Thessalonians 3:16
Philippians 1:2

God gave us the only way that we can experience peace in the form of his son, Jesus Christ. He made the provision as told in Luke 2:11-14, “‘to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth 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 heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’”

We worry, we fret, we scream, we cry, but we fail to rely on the one who has come and sacrificed to give us peace. He tells us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Jesus assured us that we can have peace in this life here on earth. He says in John 16:33, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” He gives us his peace in the midst of the trials of life. Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:16, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.” During this Advent season, reflect on the one who came as a baby to be resurrected as Savior and Lord to bring peace to your life—here on earth and for all eternity! If you haven’t accepted Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior, please do it before this season is over. Today is the day of salvation and true peace can never be yours without it.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:2).

Peace in Christ

Mark 1:1-8

Many people yearn for peace in today’s world: peace in the Middle East, peace in the continent of Africa, and even peace here in our home country of America. While peace between nations and people is very important, inner peace is something that most people yearn for also.  In the first chapter of Mark, we are reminded that a messenger will come before Jesus to remind us to make ready for him. That messenger was John the Baptist. People traveled from all over to hear John the Baptist speak, and when they repented from their sins, he baptized them. How wonderful these new Christians must have felt. I think back to the time in my life when my faith was new and invigorating. I remember the very night that I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I remember the calmness and peace that washed over me as I turned my life over to him. I was only eight years old, yet I remember that night as if it were yesterday. Why, I have often wondered, has this feeling of peace not been with me always? The answer is simple. When I am living a life that is not putting Jesus first, there will be no inner peace. When Jesus is first in my life, that is when the calm is present.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. My favorite Christmas of all time was in the year 2007. After a trying year of health scares with our newborn son, we were all healthy, happy, and together at Christmas. The peace and contentment that I felt had nothing to do with expensive presents or lavish trips. In fact, I had not worked in five months due to Connor’s health problems, so the actual presents exchanged were slim that year! However, I cannot think of a time when my relationship with God was stronger nor a time when my family was happier. My daughter, Cammie, was three. I remember her climbing in bed with us early on Christmas morning and shouting, “Christmas is finally here!” and Chris and I laughing at her enthusiasm. I remember the rosy cheeks of my five month old son and praising the Lord for my many blessings. 

John the Baptist foretold the coming of the Messiah. We know that he is coming again.  The material things on Earth don’t matter! The peace from having a relationship with Jesus is what matters. Please take the time this Advent season to find that peace!

Christmas Memories

2 Peter 3:8-15a
Luke 2:14

Christmas is first and foremost a time to reflect on the birth of our Savior. It is also a time when families gather to remember their loved ones, and cherish the family ties that still bind them together. It is a time when love, joy, and peace are prevalent in the home, in the community, and many parts of the world. It is a time when we hold fast to memories that have helped to shape us into who we are today. A Christmas memory I have always cherished is going shopping with my Mema for gifts for families in need. Mema made a point to teach my brother and me the importance of doing for and sharing love with others especially those that had less than we did. Seeing the joy of the children we visited brought a sense of peace to my heart as I knew joy filled theirs.

I challenge you today to reflect on memories, specifically ones made with loved ones around the holiday season. Think of how these memories bring peace to your heart and ways to make new memories with your family.

May joy surround you this Christmas season, and may peace fill your heart.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (Luke 2:14).

Experiencing Peace

Mark 3:1
John 14:27

Webster defines peace as “harmony, concord, serenity, calm or quiet, free from conflict.” Does that describe your home during December? Not mine and probably not yours! We spend a lot of time preparing. There is the shopping, the decorating, the cards, the baking, the parties, and etc., etc., etc. We spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for the festivities surrounding Christmas Day, but, in reality, not much time “preparing the way of the Lord.” What does that mean anyway?

John the Baptist came to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He cried out to the people to make their paths straight, to repent, to be baptized, and to live holy lives devoted to God. He exhorted them to turn from their sinful lives and return to God. We as Christians are called to take on this task and declare the good news to the entire world. We are to follow in John’s footsteps and “prepare the way of the Lord.” This is not an easy task and it is often met with resistance, but it is a task worth doing.

What are you doing to “prepare the way of the Lord?” During this Advent season take some time away from the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas Day and spend some time preparing for Christ’s coming. Spend time in his presence and experience the peace that comes from knowing God, meditating on His word, and listening for his voice. Consider what you need to turn over to him, to confess, to let go of, so that your heart can be at peace. We experience peace when our hearts and minds are clear and ready to receive what God has to give us, his son.

 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Mark 1:3

As I read this scripture verse, I can’t help but think of my own responsibility to my children to plant a seed of preparation for this Advent season. No one plants seeds one day and expects a harvest in the morning. There are things to do. We are called to cultivate our lives and rest in the fact that God has our future in his hands.

The first and most important thing we can do to prepare our children for Advent is to prepare ourselves first. After all, if we are impatient and crabby – pressured by all the busyness of this season – we won’t be very good at teaching our children anything about quiet, expectant waiting. If they never hear us talk about what we long for from the Lord, how will they learn about this kind of longing? And, if they hear “the coming of Jesus” talked about at church, and perhaps at school, but never hear us talk about the coming of Jesus, what kind of message will we be giving them?

Of course, our children will be watching us and listening to us – what we say and do, and what we fail to say and do, so the first thing we can give our children is our commitment to enter Advent as deeply as we can. We want to clear our own Spirit so that we can be present to theirs. The graces we receive can be the graces we share with them. The blessings of God need to flow through us to others around us – let’s give him a way to do so.

Prayer: God, help us prepare a way in our lives so that we develop Godly ways, Godly habits, Godly consistency, and Godly practices. Help us to turn all our holy places into holy ways that carry us throughout our daily lives. Amen.


My son Micah was born during Christmas time. For the first couple months his favorite pastime was crying. We would go through the checklist: diaper, food, burp, sleep, too cold, too hot. Despite going through all of them, he would cry and cry for hours.

One of my fondest memories of “newborn Micah,” however, was one night, after my wife Ellie went to bed, I was holding Micah. Now this was one time where Micah attempted to wake China. Since he was not quite loud enough to do it, he thought that crying for a long time might help his cause. Well, China didn’t hear anything (I think?), but I sure did. After going through the checklist all I could do was hold him, tears and all, and hope that my presence would eventually be enough to bring him peace.

Scripture describes God in parental terms testifying to the fact that we are always and forever in the arms of our Loving Parent. I am convinced that the times when we are most broken, when our lives are crumbling to pieces, are the times God most cherishes. In those moments, whether or not we are aware of it, God is holding us close, hoping that we will eventually find peace in his embrace.

Advent reminds us of this. For God has come, and peace is here. Jesus is called Immanuel, God with us, the Prince of Peace, the one who casts darkness out by his light and comforts the afflicted. Jesus reminds us that God is working to bring about a new, better world, one of infinite peace.

So this advent season, may we find peace in whatever might be causing our tears as we remember the birth of Christ, his presence with us, and look forward to his return.

Tracking Christ

Last year on Christmas Eve, my son Grady and I pulled out the laptop to track Santa on the NORAD Santa Tracker. I had never done something like this before, so I did not know what to expect. Grady and I found Santa somewhere over Morocco, which led to a conversation about the world, where we live compared to Morocco, the large ocean that Santa will have to cross to get to us, etc. But before too long, Grady had run out of questions and was ready to settle down for the night. He fell asleep and Christmas came the next day.

I had not thought about the Santa tracker since Christmas Eve last year and figured it was one of those random things that we did once as a family and might not do again. However, I recently asked Grady about what his favorite things are about Christmas and he told me he loved tracking Santa on the computer last year. This surprised me greatly! He did not say presents, cookies, the tree, or any other such thing. He has not really said what about tracking Santa was so special to him, and I might not ever know, but I have begun to wonder if it is the hope that tracking Santa brings to the heart of a child. To Grady, seeing some satellite image on the computer is proof that Santa is coming – even if he is currently flying over another country across an ocean.

I have realized my hope in Christ is very similar Grady’s hope in Santa. As I look for things in life on which to build that hope, such as scripture and my relationships with other believers, I see that I am tracking Christ. These are the tangible aspects of the Christian life that bring hope to the heart of every child of God and remind us that Christ is coming and Christ is real.

A prayer from Grady: “Dear God, thank you for everything you do and let us be together. Amen.”

Expectant Waiting

Psalm 130:5
Jeremiah 29:11

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (Psalm 130:5).

Today is World Soil Day. Now that probably seems like a rather random reference for an Advent devotional, but I think soil is a great metaphor for hope. We plant and we wait, and as we hope we must also wait. But in neither case do we wait idly. It’s important to prepare soil for planting and to tend it as seeds sprout and grow.

We should also prepare our hearts for Advent and nurture the hope that we have in God’s promise of Jesus’ coming. I love that we have this guide, prepared prayerfully and lovingly by our church family (of all ages!) to help us with that preparation.

Nor do we wait foolishly. We wouldn’t plant green beans and expect watermelons to grow. So we shouldn’t hope for things that are beyond what God has promised– things that are our desires versus his plan. With all of the changes in my life around this time last year, it was comforting to claim Jeremiah 29:11 and to trust and hope in His plan for my future. I celebrate the path and new adventure he has given to me.

There’s eagerness in waiting for the harvest. And I think it’s OK to be a little impatient, or maybe the better word is “expectant,” while we wait and hope for Jesus’ coming. Kids get it– sort of. No other time of year is as anticipated as the Christmas season. They’re impatient for its arrival. They expect exciting things.

Is that how we approach this season of Advent? Are we preparing our hearts and hoping in God’s promises? Are we excited and expectant?