First Baptist Church St. Simons Island

Advent Devotion


Matthew 19:14
Revelation 22:20

When my older brother hit his preteen years, I became the last and only child to retain the bursting excitement over Christmas morning. So for a few years, I alone kept the anticipation of Christmas alive. I woke before dawn rushing to his bedroom door. I knocked rapidly with excitement, “Bubby, it’s Christmas. It’s Christmas, Bubby, it’s Christmas!” My thrilling proclamation was met with groans yearning for more sleep. I didn’t care. It didn’t faze me, and I continued to rap impatiently on his door until he emerged.

In the Gospel of Matthew, people bring children to Jesus, but his disciples rebuke them. Jesus replies, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). I often wonder what Jesus implies when he remarks the kingdom belongs to the child-like. Most say Jesus is referring to a child-like faith and ultimate trust. Others believe Jesus is proclaiming his acceptance of the lowliest. While I think both are accurate, maybe, just maybe, Jesus is also referring to the unwavering excitement of a child’s heart.

My excitement as a child on Christmas morning was nothing holy. In fact, one could easily call child Ellie selfish. Let’s be real; she was excited about the presents. However, maybe we should take a lesson from the bursting excitement that cannot be squelched even when met with groans from others. As we rest our heads on Christmas Eve tonight, may we find it hard to sleep. Tomorrow our savior is born bringing all the love into the world that we shall ever need. May we wait with anticipation over his next coming saying, “Come, Lord Jesus.” He is coming soon. Wait with love and excitement in your heart tonight and always.


1 Corinthians 13:4-8

When I think about love, I obviously think of relationships I have that fall under that classification—my relationship with my husband, my children, my parents, my siblings, and with very dear friends.

Shouldn’t my love for Christ start that list? I grew up with a knowledge and utmost respect for the authority and power of God in my life. It wasn’t until years later, sitting in a Bible study where the question was asked, “Could you describe your relationship with God as a love relationship?” Logically, I knew the right answer. I mean, this was a Bible study class. But, if I was going to be honest, the answer was no. Respect him? Yes. Love him? No.

As is often the case, life took me to places where only Christ’s love for me would help. I would love to tell you that I had a moment of realization and threw myself into his word working as hard as I could to develop a strong relationship with him. However, that was not the case. In reality, he picked me up, he held me, he healed me, and he loved me with the purest, life-changing love. I grew to know the love of Christ for me. I felt it. It transformed me. Then, as a result, without even trying, I had an overwhelming, spontaneous love for him. There aren’t words to explain. His love had taken over and I had a new, profound love for him that flowed naturally out of my heart. The scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is a portrait of what Christ’s love is for us and of what he intended love to be. Some relationships may not always follow his pattern for love and may cause injury. The beautiful part of his love for us is that it always protects us and it will never fail us. Our hearts are safe in his care. We will find that we are most fulfilled when we freely receive his love for us and when we freely share his love with others. Could you describe your relationship with God as a love relationship?

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God’s Household

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

In these verses, we read that David, the new king of Israel, wants to build a house for God. David looks at his luxurious house and then looks out his window and sees the tent where the Ark of the Lord was sitting. David appears to be embarrassed that Israel’s God is housed in such a meager tent.

God refused David’s request only to grant him one far above all that he was able to ask or think. God instead intended to build David’s house! How often does he do so? How often, when we are worrying about our prayers not being answered, God is answering them in a far greater way? God used David to do the ground work or preparation for building the temple. David gathered all the supplies and Solomon later built the temple. David was expecting great things from God and attempting great things for God. His only problem was that he was not in step with God’s timing. God’s plan involved something much more lasting than a stone structure. It involved the plan of salvation for the world. God is more interested in the household of faith than the house or building in which we meet.

Today we celebrate the coming of Jesus, the descendant of David, as the Savior of the world. God’s plan was to offer salvation to all mankind. God made a covenant with David that the Messiah would come through his offspring. God offers to us that covenant relationship through Jesus so that we might be saved from our sins.


God of love,

You promised to make David’s household great among nations. Then you sent your son, Jesus to change this world so that all people are in the great household of God. Show us how to live as your children and show love to all. Amen.

A Special Gift

John 3:16

Several years ago one Christmas morning, the girls woke up to a play set complete with swings, a slide, and a tree house in the backyard. Santa and his elf must have worked really hard and long to get it built so that it would be there Christmas morning for the girls. But Santa ran out of time before he needed to move on to the next house, so he left a note for Garrow with a few minor finishing touches the play set needed. One of the things on the list was to put a door knob on the door to the tree house. A couple weeks later, the girls were playing in the tree house and the door knob fell off. Lexi said, “Mom we need to call Santa back. He’s a way better builder than daddy.” Garrow and I just looked at each other and laughed.

Lexi has no idea how much planning, sacrifice, and love was put into that special gift from Santa. Sometimes we take for granted and don’t understand the planning, sacrifice, and love that went into the gift God gave us all. God gave the best and most perfect gift ever. He sent his son Jesus to earth to show us how to live and to ultimately die for our sins. Because of that precious gift, we can have eternal life with God in heaven. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Joy in All Circumstances

Psalm 16:11

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11).

Christmas of 2009 seems an unlikely example of a time of joy. On Tuesday, December 22, 2009, late that night I received a call telling me my father had passed away. My father and I had talked earlier that evening and our last words expressed our love to each other. Wednesday was spent contacting family and friends, making funeral arrangements and travel plans. The expressions of love and sympathy from so many filled me with joy. How blessed we are to have a loving church family. On Thursday I made the eight-hour trip to Anniston to finalize the service scheduled for Saturday, December 26. I made the trip alone because John would be driving Christmas day collecting the rest of our immediate family as they traveled. God’s presence on the drive gave me strength and helped me focus on the positive rather than the sorrow I felt. After meeting with the funeral director and finalizing arrangements, I joined my step-sister and her family at their church for a Christmas Eve service. While singing the traditional carols and hearing scriptures read, I continued to experience the joy of God’s presence. Jesus’ coming to earth made joy possible even in times of grief. “Joy to the world! The Lord is come.” Christmas Day my family joined me at the motel where we celebrated Christmas. Saturday morning we celebrated the life of my father with family, friends, and his church family. Knowing my father is with God brought joy.

Father, help us experience the joy of your presence in all circumstances. May we always look to you for guidance. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Experience Joy

Psalm 100:1
Psalm 30:5b

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth” (Psalm 100:1).

The psalmist encourages us repeatedly to have joy and to make noise about it. How often do we dwell upon the negative and keep quiet about the positive in our lives and in our world? Our challenge is to shout it from the mountain top and share our joy with others!

Joy is more than an emotion, more than happiness. When the Bible speaks about joy, the writers are addressing a dimension way beyond happy. In fact, we can, and often do, “fake” happy. Perhaps that is better than being negative or rude, but is less than genuine, nonetheless. I suggest that we cannot fake, force or fabricate joy – joy is genuine, pure, all-encompassing – an experience. The Bible tells us that God is love. When that genuine and unconditional love of God consumes us, we experience joy.

Borrowing from Jeff Foxworthy to provide examples of joy, I challenge you to begin a list of joyful experiences in your own life.

If you have looked into the face of a newborn baby, you have experienced JOY.

If you have felt the sweet hug of a grandchild, you have experienced JOY.

If you have allowed Jesus in your heart and accepted him as Savior, you have experienced JOY.

If you have genuinely rejoiced with others over good fortune in their lives, you have experienced JOY.

If you have held a dying parent whom you know is seeing the face of Jesus, you have experienced JOY.

Perhaps the feeling of joy is not always apparent, but because we trust in God we know that it is always available to us, even in times of trouble and grief. I find comfort in Psalm 30:5b, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Give and Prepare

Philippians 4:4-5

Some people may say receiving gifts is a way of experiencing joy. However, I find that giving gifts is also a good way to experience joy. Last Christmas my sister Susannah wanted a Kavu bag. I looked all around for the perfect size and color. On Christmas day her face was priceless.

This Christmas we may get ready by setting up the tree, visiting Santa, or shopping for the perfect gift. While doing this, we also need to prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus. He is the source of our joy.

Overflow with Joy

Romans 15:13
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

I am a morning person. I love greeting the sunrise and enjoying the sound of the birds waking up. Their songs of praise to their Heavenly Father remind me to praise the Lord for his care of me and my family. Starting the day talking to God helps me to prepare for the busy day ahead. I can’t wait to see what God has planned for me. I am learning to be flexible in my schedule to allow for the unexpected interruptions that God brings into my days. I am amazed at what God does on some days! I want my days to overflow with the joy and peace that I have in him. That joy and peace can only come in complete surrender to the will of God for my life.  God is not stingy with his love and mercy. I am the only one who can limit his goodness to me.  The Word of God challenges me to live life to the fullest. One of my favorite Bible verses is 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.” I pray that you may know the Giver of Life and experience the inexpressible joy of his presence.

Praise God and Love People

Mark 1:3
Psalm 126:3
Psalm 30:12
Philippians 1:6

Prepare the Way of the Lord” (Mark 1:3).

I’m thinking of two ways we can prepare the way for Jesus to come into ourselves and into others: praising God and loving people.

St. Augustine said, “He who sings praise, not only sings, but also loves Him whom he is singing about/to/for . . . in the song of the lover there is love.” The song itself becomes love as it brings into presence the One who truly is Love itself. Entering his courts with thanksgiving and praise prepares the way for God’s Spirit to fill us so that we become proclaimers as well as receivers.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced” (Psalm 126:3).

When we express gratitude for God’s graciousness we receive Joy. It takes practice to be consciously present in each moment and to be aware of the many gifts we receive. I have been writing a list of gifts each day, and in my times of struggle, I re-read the list and receive Hope knowing that God has never forgotten me and will always be with me. He holds me in my sadness, shows me new blessings and comfort, and gives me new purpose and direction. I receive God’s Peace.

So that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever” (Psalm 30:12).

Finally, loving actions prepare the hearts of others to receive all that we have been given. Jason Gray has a song,

With every act of love, we bring the kingdom come. . .

God put a million, million doors in the world

For his love to walk through

One of those doors is you.”

God has given each one of us unique gifts for serving and loving. Every day, ask God to open your eyes to see each person who crosses your path. “ I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Thank you, God, for loving me. Thank you for sending your Son to set me free. Empower me with strength to press on and live in the attitude and nature of you. Let my life bring more of you into the world.

God’s Changing Love

12.15.14 (Lexi Alberson)As I think about this advent season, I am thankful for what Jesus’ birth has done to change my life. Since I have been saved, I try to be nice to everyone I see, even my enemies. I get to spend time with my dad at Christmas, and I want him to know about God’s love too. As God loves me, I want to spread his love to all of my family and friends.