Pastor Harry Reeder: Some evangelicals disagree, but here’s why it’s good to emphasize church celebrations during Christmas






Listen to the 10 min audio


Read the transcript:


ISIS violence

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I’d like to cover a story today dealing with an attack that took place over our Thanksgiving Day weekend. Militants attacked a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing over 300 people, including 27 children. Another 128 suffered injuries.

DR. REEDER: Now wait just a minute. Did you just say that Muslims attacked Muslims? Well, the answer to that is “yes” and “no.”

What’s really been interesting is you have seen the movement of ISIS. ISIS as a caliphate movement sought to be faithful to all of the injunctions of the Koran’s call to put the world under Sharia Law. Therefore, they would take a Holy War not only against Christians and Jews and secularists, but they would also bring their Holy War upon Muslim heretics.

But there is no offshoot of Islam that is more despised than the Sufi heretical movement from their perspective – they would call it a heresy. One of the reasons is because they have something akin to saints and sainthood and people that they would speak to – either to speak to Allah they would speak through these people and therefore any intercessory work that you do speak to anyone other than Allah in your prayers is considered a rank heresy.

That and a number of other things. So the Sufi branch of Islam is not considered within the boundaries of Islam is considered a cult of the cult and therefore they are targets of the caliphate movement as well.

So now we see Muslims upon Muslims but then again, if you ask an ISIS Muslim, the ISIS warrior, they would say, “No, this is not a valid Islamic expression, therefore, we are not bringing war against Muslims but upon Muslim heretics is what we’re doing.”

Therefore, we have this horrendous act of these gunmen surrounding during the worship services taking place in the Sufi mosque producing this genocidal slaughter of human beings that took place in Egypt. Of course, Egypt itself is under the attack of the ISIS caliphate, as well.

Interestingly, Tom, it happens in a Sufi mosque in what is called the Sinai, which is, of course, the very region where the Israelites existed for 40 years as the Lord was disciplining them to bring them into the Promised Land under Joshua.

But for 40 years having been delivered from Egypt, they wandered in that very area where this atrocity took place. They wandered where the Lord sustained them from marauding nations and supplied for them the manna from heaven and prepared them to cross over the river Jordan under Joshua to give them the Promised Land.

Advent season

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, let me switch gears. Today is December the 1st. I don’t know where 2017 went – it flew by – but here we are in the final month. We’re in the Advent Season. Let’s switch gears from the news of the day to look at the Good News of the coming of Jesus Christ in the Advent.

DR. REEDER: Yes, a glorious message of the unique Gospel of saving grace in Jesus Christ. Not a man-made religion whereby what do we do thinking that we can be right with God. But the glorious good news that those who are not right with God, cannot be right with God because of our sin, and are incapable in a man-made religion to be right with God that God has done what we could not do.

And when there was no way God has made the way and that way is His Son Jesus who is The Way, the Truth and the Life and we celebrate His birth into this world. We celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 1:15 that this “is a trustworthy statement serving full acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Praise the Lord that He came into the world in order to go to the cross to pay for our sins and then He is risen in victory, He is ascended, He now intercedes for us and is coming again to bring His people to Himself and to a new Heavens and a new Earth. Oh, the glorious, wonderful Gospel of Saving Grace in Jesus Christ.

Briarwood Christmas events in Birmingham

Well, Tom, I know, at Briarwood, we have a wonderful time to celebrate this season because of two things: 1) By focusing on the birth of Christ we get an opportunity to focus on the gospel in a very succinct way.

God’s purposes and God’s plan were seen in the person of Jesus as the Son of God humbled himself, not by subtracting His deity but by adding humanity to come into this world. Since by a man came death. 2) Adam, now a man, the second Adam, Jesus the Messiah, by Him comes the resurrection of the dead, comes life itself. So that’s what we get to celebrate.

I know, even as you and I speak, we’re on the verge of one of our first events – the Angel Tree Carnival. We do Samaritan’s Purse ministry, packing the shoe boxes to send all over the world. And we also do Angel Tree, in which we pack boxes and take them to the children of prisoners and minister to them.

The next week is the big walk-through nativity, 14 scenes of the birth, the life of Jesus, His death, and His resurrection. Then our Briarwood ballet, Sunday on December the 10th, “Glory to the Newborn King.”

And then, the most unbelievable, phenomenal choral symphonic concert, phenomenal choir and it is so exciting. We’ll be doing that on December 17th. Break forth into singing – the Lord has come and we join the angels in singing to the Glory of God. You just do not want to miss that.

Our wonderful Christmas Eve services, we have a 5:00 family candlelight festival, 7:00 family candlelight festival – we just can’t get everybody into the 5:00. We conclude our Advent celebrations with the Christmas Eve communion service that Sunday night on December the 24th.

We love this time because it’s not only a chance to focus all the texts of Scripture why Jesus came into the world, but it also allows us to bring our friends and invite our friends to come and enjoy these marvelous celebrations and hear the glorious truth that Jesus Christ, who is no friend to sin, is a friend to sinners because He has come to save us from our sins.

Should evangelicals downplay seasonal celebrations?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, there are some in the Evangelical Christian circles who want to downplay these certain celebrations. The thought is every Sunday ought to be the same celebration as it would be around Christmas and Easter. Is it proper that we magnify and celebrate this season?

DR. REEDER: Well, you know, in the Old Testament you had certain feast days and what happened in the New Testament, in the New Covenant and in the early church by the apostolic leaders and then those that they disciple was kind of a development of a non-conscience binding.

In other words, these are not things that we would bind any church to do, but it’s good to have feasts, it’s good to call for fast, and it’s good to have feasting times. And so the early church – kind of as a reflection of the Old Testament, three great feasts of the Old Testament – the early church also had its three feasts around the celebrations of the birth of Jesus in the Advent season, the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus during the Easter season, and then the celebrations of the outpouring of the Spirit of God at Pentecost. And so, mirroring the Old Testament feasts were these feasts.

I would totally agree that’s one of the things I love about Briarwood and meeting with our team that plans the worship – every Sunday is Easter and every Sunday is Christmas as far as we’re concerned.

This doesn’t mean that we love the Lord more during these feasts, it’s just a season of focus that in the culture gives us a bridge to talk to people about the Lord that we don’t always have. It’s a ready opportunity for us to tell them. As one person said, Jesus is the reason for the season and we would like to tell you about Him. So on the one hand, I would agree with my friends.

There is nothing in the Bible that should bind anyone’s conscience to the celebration of an Advent season. We celebrate the coming, death, and resurrection of Jesus every Lord’s Day and each and every day of life.

But there’s also nothing that prevents us from having seasons that we embrace as an opportunity to focus on one theological dynamic of the life of Jesus that opens up an opportunity to declare the majesty of the Gospel of Grace and it provides a bridge for us into the world to invite people to hear of the Savior we tell them about each and every day.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

8 mins ago

Alabama Rural Broadband Act on governor’s desk

A bill that would provide grants to aid rural broadband expansion is on Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk.

The legislation was delivered to the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon after the Senate adopted changes to the Alabama Rural Broadband Act previously made in the House.

Originally conceived as a bill that would offer tax incentives to companies to provide high-speed internet services to some of the state’s more remote areas, the bill was changed to offer grants instead. Projects that would provide speeds of 25 megabits per second down and 3 megabits per second up would be eligible for $1.4 million per project, while projects providing minimum speeds of 10/1 could get $750,000 each.


The bill is expected to provide $10 million annually, with the program being administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Private providers and cooperatives would be eligible for the money, but government entities would not.

The sponsor, Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), wanted to give providers tax credits for providing broadband rather than cash. The bill still has safeguards in place – the money won’t be received upfront and a legislative committee would monitor the program for effectiveness.

Scofield couldn’t be reached for comment this week.

Ivey is expected to sign the bill after speaking about the need for such programs in her January State of the State speech. The legislation sailed through the Alabama Legislature, receiving unanimous yes votes in the House on Tuesday and in the Senate concurrence vote on Wednesday.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), said grants are better for taxpayers.

“It’s more transparent and gives us more accountability,” he said.

In reality, both funding mechanisms have been dismissed by critics. The MacIver Institute said in a 2014 report that incentives can actually hurt economic growth, while Obama’s stimulus grant program was one of the more stark examples of grant largesse.

Alabama lawmakers hope their broadband plan goes hand-in-hand with a proposal from President Trump to spend an immediate $200 billion and long-term $1.5 trillion on infrastructure improvements. Trump hopes to spur more public-private partnerships – so-called P3s – with his proposal to help state and local governments shoulder more of the load. But his plan has faced criticism on both sides – Democrats aren’t fans of the president’s goal to put more costs on the states, while many Republicans say the plan calls for too much spending and haven’t exactly deemed it a high priority this session.

Some on both sides have criticized the lack of any guaranteed funds for broadband, although the plan cites high-speed internet as an infrastructure priority. There are concerns that federal broadband grants could accelerate the growth of government internet projects, which have largely been a sinkhole for taxpayer money.

38 mins ago

Alabama Committee approves ethics exemption for economic developers

An Alabama Senate committee has approved legislation, pushed by the state’s top industry recruiter, to exempt professional economic developers from the state ethics law.

The Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved the House-passed bill Wednesday on a 10-2 vote. It now moves to the Senate floor.


The proposal would exempt professional economic developers from the rules that govern lobbyists. The rules include registering with the state, undergoing yearly training and reporting activity.

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield has said professional site developers, who help businesses decide where to locate, will not work in Alabama if they must register as lobbyists.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton has expressed concern about exempting a group of people, whose primary job involves interacting with government officials, from the state ethics law.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

Human trafficking bill that would impose severe penalties for obstruction is step closer to becoming law

Anyone who obstructs a human trafficking investigation in Alabama could be met with the same penalties as the traffickers if the governor signs a bill that passed the House this week with near unanimous support.

The bill, which already passed the Senate, increases penalties in place for those who obstruct, interfere with, prevent, or otherwise get in the way of law enforcement’s investigation into the practice that includes child sex trafficking.

Under current law, such obstruction is only a Class C felony and could result in just one year in prison. The new legislation would increase the maximum offense to a Class A felony, with a minimum jail sentence of ten years.


Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) sponsored the bill and said he is proud that the Alabama Legislature made this a priority.

“This week we’ve taken another crucial step in ending this horrific practice,” Ward said in a statement. “By increasing penalties for those who would aid traffickers, we will hold them just as accountable as the traffickers themselves.”

Human trafficking victims are often children who are trafficked into sexual exploitation at an average age between 11-14 years old, according to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force.

“Most people assume, ‘Well, that doesn’t happen in my backyard,’” Ward said in an interview with Yellowhammer News when the bill was first introduced. “…It’s everywhere in our state, but there’s low awareness as to how bad it really is.”

Just this week, a Decatur man pled guilty to child sex trafficking and other charges related to his plan to kidnap, rape and kill a mother and sell her 14-year-old daughter to a Memphis pimp, according to horrifying details reported by the Decatur Daily.

Brian David “Blaze” Boersma’s plan was thwarted because an informant, who Boersma recruited to help him with his plan, alerted the FBI.

“Oftentimes it’s like what we say with terrorism,” Ward said. “If you see something suspicious, tell somebody, because a lot of times, trafficking can take place right underneath our noses in our communities.”

The legislation to increase penalties for obstructing human trafficking investigations was delivered to Governor Kay Ivey for her signature Wednesday afternoon.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News.

Bill funds ‘active shooter’ training for local law enforcement, school faculty and staff, and students

For much of the year, the safety of our students rests in the hands of the faculty, staff, and resource officers at our schools.  Without a shadow of a doubt, the people who know best how to protect our schools are the teachers, parents, administrators, police officers, and students in their own communities.

In February, the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida resonated throughout our communities, highlighting a disturbing trend of individuals who clearly show signs of grave mental instability falling through the cracks.

Sadly, this incident likely could have been avoided had there been better oversight at every level of law enforcement. From the top down, we failed these students by not heeding the warning signs and working together as a team to ensure our students’ safety.


In response to this incident, the House recently passed the Student, Teacher’s Officer’s Prevention (STOP) School Violence Act, which Bill  to help identify and prevent school violence before these tragic events occur.

First, the STOP School Violence Act provides funding for training to prevent student violence, including training for local law enforcement officers, school personnel, and students in the event of an emergency.  This training would be designed to give students and school personnel the ability to recognize and respond quickly to warning signs of violent behavior and would include active shooter training.

Second, the bill provides funding for technology and equipment to improve school security.  This includes the development and operation of anonymous reporting systems, as well as the installation of metal detectors, locks, and other preventative technologies to keep schools secure.

The legislation also authorizes funding for school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams for school personnel to respond to threats before they become real-time incidents.  Recognizing the warning signs of violent, threatening behavior and having the proper resources to address it on the front end can prevent these tragedies from ever occurring.

Finally, the STOP School Violence Act provides funding to support law enforcement coordination efforts, particularly the officers who already staff schools.  From the federal level all the way down to our local law enforcement, we need to ensure there is accountability and communication when handling violent behavior.

Many of our local schools are already reevaluating their security measures and taking additional steps to promote a safe learning environment for our students.  Our students’ safety and security should always remain a top priority, and I believe it is imperative that our local schools have the most appropriate resources in place in the event of an emergency.

As we look for ways to prevent these terrible tragedies, I am open to additional solutions to address the underlying issues that cause these events to occur.  That said, I remain steadfastly committed to upholding the individual right of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.  Millions of Americans should not have their Second Amendment rights infringed upon due to the bad actions of a few individuals.

Rather, I believe we should focus on addressing mental health issues and combatting the role of violence in our modern culture, such as the prevalence of violent video games that normalize this behavior for our young students, and promoting commonsense solutions that will address the larger issues of mental health so that those with mental illness do not fall through the cracks.

There is still work to be done to ensure each child’s safety and well-being while attending classes. However, I am proud that we have taken this action in the House to promote a safe, secure learning environment for our children.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. 

(Image: File)

2 hours ago

Ex-Tuskegee football coach accused of selling cocaine, pot

A former assistant football coach at Tuskegee University is accused of selling cocaine and marijuana in Alabama.

U.S. Attorney Louis V. Franklin Sr. says in a statement that 33-year-old Ramone Jardon Nickerson was arrested Wednesday. Prosecutors say the Phenix City man was indicted by a grand jury after being found with roughly 3 ounces of cocaine, a pound of marijuana and a .40-caliber handgun March 13 in Russell County.


Tuskegee’s website says the alumnus coached cornerbacks and was a four-year starter before joining the coaching staff in 2006.

If convicted, Nickerson could be sentenced to a maximum 20 years in prison for drug trafficking charges and at least 5 years for a related gun charge. There’s no parole in the federal system.

It is unclear if Nickerson has a lawyer.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)