Sunday after Christmas: Needing You This Christmas Season

By Jenn Leneus

Madonna and Child, Budapest, (c) 2012 Sandra Hasenauer

Madonna and Child, Budapest, (c) 2012 Sandra Hasenauer

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.11 For as [surely as] the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring forth, so [surely] the Lord God will cause rightness and justice and praise to spring forth before all the nations [through the self-fulfilling power of His word]. For Zion’s sake will I [Isaiah] not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest until her imputed righteousness and vindication go forth as brightness, and her salvation radiates as does a burning torch.And the nations shall see your righteousness and vindication [your rightness and justice—not your own, but His ascribed to you], and all kings shall behold your salvation and glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord shall name.You shall also be [so beautiful and prosperous as to be thought of as] a crown of glory and honor in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem [exceedingly beautiful] in the hand of your God. (Isaiah 61:10–62:3, AMP)

Christmas time is a season of celebration and of praise. It is a season of remembrance and appreciation; for even before we were of existence, before we had breath in our bodies, God saw fit to save us from a world of destruction. He provided a way before we even knew we needed direction. Christ left his throne of glory, and became human for our sake. He came for men and women alike; not differentiating between sexes, color, age, or religion, making one of more importance. He came to provide life to the lifeless.

We are called to walk in the image of Christ and to see as he sees. As women, we are beautiful. Not just on the outside, but on the inside. We ought to teach other women their worth and self-value. In this day and time where human trafficking is at an all-time high, but is being kept low-key as if it is not an issue, women all around the world are being degraded and treated as less than human. Are we any better than them? Do they deserve the life that they are given? Of course not! I believe we have certain issues in our environment so that we are able to grow as one in the body. For the body has many members, but each member has a specific task to complete (1st Corinthians 12:12). If there is an open wound in the body, the heart picks up its pace and pumps more blood to accommodate for the loss. In the same manner, we ought to go out and reach out to our sisters that are suffering, whether it is through missions, outreach, or simply prayer. We are commissioned to go out to the four corners of the earth to introduce Christ to others (Matthew 28:19).

In the spirit of Christmas, let us remember our sisters in prayer. Lift them up before God so that God may hear our cries and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). Let’s give them the assurance of being fearfully and wonderfully made. Together we can make a difference. Let us take this time to make a resolution to empower and uplift a woman, a young lady, or a little girl at least once a week. Who are we without each other? We are just one part of a body that needs our other parts in order to be fully functional!

Jenn LeneusJennifer Leneus serves as coordinator of Young Adult Women’s Ministries (2014-2017) on the national board of American Baptist Women’s Ministries. A member of Haitian Baptist Church at the Crossroads in Newark, New Jersey, Jenn served as secretary of the Youth Federation Committee for the Haitian Alliance of ABCUSA for three years. Jenn has helped plan several national events for young adult women sponsored by American Baptist Women’s Ministries. She is a graduated practical nursing student and is working towards her Bachelors in Nursing.

 

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Fourth Sunday of Advent: Being Brave

By Emilie Rodriguez

"Annunciation" by Qi He. Used by permission.

“Annunciation” by Qi He. Used by permission.

Luke 1:26-38 is perhaps one of the most famous biblical passages. The angel Gabriel manifests to Mary and tells her that she will give birth to the son of God, despite the fact that she is a virgin. Skeptical, Mary asks the angel how this is possible, and when the angel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come over her, she readily accepts her duty as the woman God chose to bring light of the world.

Many of us would have trouble accepting a task that God gives, especially if it has the same level of commitment, or the disbelief, as a task such as this. But Mary shows that our faith in our God needs to transcend this. Not only that, but God will give us the answers we need and give us proof of the miracles he wants us to perform, by telling Mary that her cousin Elizabeth will also have a child despite her age.

Our doubts and our fears always plague us; we are often afraid that we will not live up to the expectations or that we don’t have the capacity to do it in the first place. Mary shows us that it is okay to be scared: She was. Being told that she would give birth to God’s son, and then the fact that Joseph will believe she cheated on him, would make any woman afraid.

However, Mary teaches us that we must remain strong. We must push back against those things make us scared and bravely face things head-on. That little voice in your head telling you that you will fail and let down God: Tell it to be quiet, that God is speaking. It may be scary; we may fail, but God wants us to try and do his will, just like Mary did.

Emilie Rodriguez 2013-2015Emilie Rodriguez is convenor of the national leadership team of AB GIRLS, AB Women’s Ministries. A senior in high school, Emilie is thankful that God has offered her the opportunity to serve on the NLT and to have an impact upon girls and women in their journeys of faith.

Third Sunday of Advent: The Gift of Joy

Submitted by Kennedy Cooper

During the Advent season, I often look around and see people anxious for Christmas: Loved ones trying to find the best gifts for their family members, children anxious to tell Santa what they want, and people focused on the spirit of Christmas. I see all the picture perfect details of Christmas.

I often find myself focused on giving during this season as well. There are the lists of presents I want to give to my friends, family, and others who I love, of course, but I also find myself asking, giving people lists of items that I would like to receive. Sometimes I am so caught up in what I’m getting I forget the real reason for Advent.

You see, Advent is not just about waiting for the arrival of Jesus, but it is also about what is to come after his arrival. While reading Isaiah 61:1-4, I am reminded that the prophet of Isaiah was sent to bring good news to the poor. In this text he makes promises from the Lord that good things will come to the people. Not only does the prophet make promises to the people, but also he claims the year as the Year of the Lord’s favor.

This season isn’t just about the gifts and the picture-perfect Christmas that is spent with loved ones, but its also about the promises God made to us. God promised the people joy, the garment of praise, freedom for the slaves, and renewal of the ruined cities. And because of this the people should have everlasting joy.

So during this season, when you start to care about the gifts that you are getting from loved ones, remember that no gift that is given can be compared to the gift that the Lord has given you. This gift of joy should be celebrated during the Advent season.

(“Hark the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes,” based on Isaiah 61, by Philip Doddridge, 1735, as sung by Port Isaac Fisherman’s Friends)

Kennedy Cooper 2014-2016 (2)Kennedy Cooper serves on the national leadership team of AB GIRLS, American Baptist Women’s Ministries. 15 years old, Kennedy is a member of the Medical Bioscience Academy, Future Business Leaders of America, and Girl Scouts. She is active in her home church where she sings in the youth choir and is part of the usher ministry. She is honored by the opportunity to serve God.

Second Sunday of Advent: Choosing the Path

Submitted by Celine David

WoodsA few days ago, I went see my brother sing in a choir. The play “Lost in the Woods” was being preformed and the choir sang songs during the play. The play illuminated the Advent message found in Mark 1:1-8. In the play, the actor told a story about his childhood. When he was a little boy of about four years old, he was walking through the woods with his two older brothers. Once they reached a certain point, the older brothers couldn’t go any further along the path, so they told him how to return back to campsite by giving him the simple directions to follow. There would be landmarks that would lead him back to camp, they said, so he went on his way.

He followed the path but, with time, he couldn’t remember which way he had been told to go. He was lost in the woods. Decision time. Not easy for a four-year-old. He could have chosen to retrace his steps and go back to his brothers but he knew they might not be there anymore. The path that once was clear was not so clear anymore. Sometimes on a walk in the woods, we leave marks that help us find our way back, or we believe we’ll remember how to get back to where we once were. Here, the young boy was at a crossroads and he had to decide what to do: Take a new path forward or try to find the old one. The old one seemed safer but it might not take him where he needed to go. For a while, he just sat there crying.

Finally, the young boy realized that he should look up and search for power lines. He thought that they looked like road markers, drawn in the sky. He followed them back to the campsite. Where did this message about the power lines come from? To this day, it remains a mystery to him. I would like to think it was the Holy Spirit, committed to protecting a young boy lost in the woods, searching for signs to lead him home.

In the passage from Mark, the people of Judea and Jerusalem had to come out to the countryside to hear about the work of John the Baptist. Possibly, they were searching for a new way, a new path to go down. We can imagine them sitting there listening to John and having to decide which path to take: Stay and be baptized, or take the familiar road back: back to their old religion, back to everything they had ever known. How strange, exciting, and perhaps even frightening it might have sounded to hear the words of Isaiah being spoken, the promises of John of the Baptist, and the even greater promise of someone who was a virtually unknown to them all: Jesus, who would be greater than all who had come before him.

We live in a different time than they did but this story still relates to us. We all have choices to make. We have to choose which path will we follow day to day. We don’t have to stay lost in the woods wondering which path to take. We can lean on our faith, our church, our friends, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus, to help guide us down new paths to new experiences. These can be our faithful guides, telling us which path we should take.

Prayer: Blessed are You, Lord our God, for You have created a wide and wonderful world in which we can travel. We ask Your blessing upon those who are about to leave on a trip. May You, Holy Guide of Travelers, be their ever-near-companion, spreading the road before them with beauty and adventure. Free that road from harm and evil, and send as their escorts Your holy spirits, Your angelic messengers, who accompanied the holy ones of days past. On this journey, may they take with them as part of their traveling equipment a heart wrapped in wonder with which to rejoice in all they shall meet…May the blessing of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit be upon them throughout their trip; may it shield them from all harm and bring them home again in safety and in peace. Amen. (A travel prayer from Father Edward Hays)

Celine David 2014-2016 cropCeline David serves on the national leadership team of AB GIRLS, American Baptist Women’s Ministries. A sophomore in high school, Celine is active in the girls’ ministry in her home church in Utah and brings her enthusiasm and creativity to her leadership in ministry.