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Advent and Christmas, ever wondered what’s the difference?


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TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, today is our final broadcast prior to Christmas Day 2017. Today, I’d like to have a discussion on what is Advent? For many of us, we think, “Well, it’s a season between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.” Is that all it is?

WHEN CHRIST ISN’T IN CHRISTMAS

DR. REEDER: Tom, first of all, let me say something about Christmas because that relates to Advent, obviously, and understanding it. Here’s what’s happened today: We’ve got a little Advent because we’ve got a little Christmas. You got this big secular Christmas out there that everybody’s committed to, but it never fulfills their desires.

Everybody thinks, “Okay, secular Christmas says we can have Christmas without Jesus. We can have Christmas without God’s glory. We’ll have a “secular Christmas and we’ll invent mythologies about made-up people that are actually going to do something for you that know when you’ve been sleeping and know when you’ve been awake, etc., etc.” And we do all of that and it never fills the bill.

We always think, “Well, there’s going to be some party, there’s going to be some experience at Christmas, there’s going to be some nostalgic moment at Christmas, there’s going to be some gift that I get or gift that I give,” and then Christmas Day comes and the head is empty from the parties, the boxes are empty and now you’ve got to put it all back up and you say, “Oh my goodness, it’s Ecclesiastes, all is vanity. Actually, this is just empty – just not there.”

What does the world do with their secular Christmas? Well, they say, “Hey, the problem isn’t what our world and life view is, the problem isn’t what Christmas is now representing to us – the problem is we didn’t start early enough so let’s start in November. By the way, now, let’s start in October.” I saw Christmas stuff out before a pumpkin came out for Halloween.

And then, “I know what, the gifts didn’t matter because we didn’t get a big enough gift. I’ll tell you, let’s get bigger gifts. Let’s spend more money on gifts. That’s what’ll do it.” It’ll always be empty.

THE OTHER CHRISTMAS

However, there’s another Christmas and it’s a sacred Christmas and that Christmas is the celebration that God has come, Emmanuel – God with us. Why is that glorious? We all need to be saved and none of us can save ourselves and none of us can save anybody else.

When we do a baptism, we say, “Father, name your child,” and the father names the child. It’s a wonderful moment when that happens but, in this case, when Joseph named his child, he didn’t get to think it up – he was told what to name his child and he said, “There’s two names,” Matthew, Chapter 1, verses 18-25, “that were given to Him from Heaven through the angel and it’s, ‘You shall call His name Jesus,’ and ‘you shall call His name Emmanuel.’”

Emmanuel because that’s the name that was prophesied in the Book of Isaiah, meaning “God with us.” Here is God, humbling Himself, not by subtraction – He doesn’t cease His deity – but by addition – He takes upon Himself humanity.

Because God humbles Himself, He now comes to be with us and to be one of us in order to take our place before the judgment seat of God and then give us the place that He deserved, which is the place of glory.

I’ve always thought it’s interesting there was no room for Him in the inn, but He made room for us in Heaven. There was no place for Him, but He took our place so that we could have a place and that’s a glorious, wonderful Christmas.

By the way, the Bible ties the fact that Jesus came – the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation – Jesus came to save sinners and that’s what’s glorious, Emmanuel, God with us, because God came to be one of us to be able to save us.

And, now, we’ve got this glorious truth which makes sense of “Yeshuah,” which means “Jehovah saves.” God himself comes to save us. Well, that’s a big Christmas. Well, that leads to big preparation instead of empty parties and empty boxes.

WHAT DOES ADVENT MEAN?

Advent means “preparation.” We have a preparation for a celebration. God came to save us and that will come to a consummation. This same Jesus is coming again who, first time, came and gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and that He might purify for Himself a people for his own possession who were zealous for good deeds.

Here is this glorious, most big Christmas, big celebration and we need a great preparation so that’s what the Advent season is all about, preparing to celebrate “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.”

The second thing is that, in our culture, the Advent season is a great time for outreach. We have our big Briarwood Christmas Festival where we have the ballet and the orchestra and I get the opportunity of the connecting tissue of the Gospel. People are coming to hear this vocal excellence of the chancel choir and the chapel choir and orchestra.

This year, I’ll tell you – I went back to my old Star Trek days – I just said, “Jesus, beam me up. It can’t get any better than this. My, oh my.” I couldn’t even go to sleep that night, I was so filled with joy.

And then, of course, we have our fourth Sunday of Advent which are carols and lessons and then Christmas Eve services where people come in and we make a wonderful time of worship and praise for a one-hour service.

And then we end with a Christmas Eve Communion. Why? Because Jesus came to die for our sin so Communion reminds us of the body and the blood and the gift of Christ. We even do a special thing of putting out the tables and so everyone comes to tables while we’re all singing, a capella, great songs of praise to God who has now come to die for our sins. It’s a glorious Christmas Eve service. And then we finish with Christ Sunday – the first Sunday after Christmas – and give praise to God for what He has done.

CHURCHES SHOULD CELEBRATE ENTIRE SEASON

Tom, all of that process is not only opportunity for outreach and proclamation, but it is a glorious opportunity for celebration and so Advent can be used that way. I did not really have that growing up. My family had these traditions, but my church didn’t. It just came up, we’d have a Christmas sermon, and that was pretty much it, but I have grown to love these opportunities.

In the Old Testament, there were three great feasts that were celebrated and, in the New Testament, early believers, I think very intentionally, mirrored that by taking the birth of Christ, and the death and resurrection of Christ – the birth of Christ, Christmas, the death and resurrection of Christ, Easter, and the Ascension and Pentecost season – they took those three seasons and made them a great emphasis as a church because we not only need to fast, we also need seasons of feasting. And our feasting isn’t so much the food that we prepare, but the Jesus whom we celebrate.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, you quoted earlier, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” I’ve often heard that that not only applies to the first Advent, Christmas, but also the second Advent.

DR. REEDER: “He rules the world with truth and grace.” That’s what great Christmas carols do. “He did leave His throne,” and look at the last verse, “When He leaves it again to come for His people.” The really great Christmas carols always tie the two Advents of Christ together.

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Well, Harry, have a great Christmas with you and your family and we do wish our listeners a very blessed Christmas and we look forward to Christmas Day. We will have a special Christmas broadcast next Monday.

DR. REEDER: And, Tom, if I could say to everyone, here’s what’s really interesting: The people that think the nostalgia of family and gift-giving and celebrations during the Christmas season without Christ are always disappointed and it’s always empty but, what’s interesting, when Christ is Christmas, No. 1, the day after Christmas is another Christmas Day – it’s always Christmas for us.

And the second thing is this: Our celebrations, our gift-giving, and our experiences and memories actually do become joyous because we haven’t idolized them, but we have used them because our praise, and glory, and confidence and trust is in the God who came to save us. Praise His name and joy to the world, the Lord has come and is coming again.

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.

11 hours ago

Alabama apps: App2Talk helps nonverbal children communicate

As children grow they learn to communicate at first through sound and body movements before advancing to words and language.

But for children with nonverbal autism, communicating needs or wants can be more difficult.

A nonprofit in Alabama is working to help these children by developing a mobile app to assist with communication. Based in Mobile, Autism2Ability aims to develop programs for families with special-needs children.

Autism2Ability founder Ray Miller saw how these families needed tools to enable clearer communication, so the nonprofit partnered with an Apple developer and began building the new technology.

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After years of development, App2Talk launched on the app market in November 2014 for a one-time cost of $99.99.

Miller said the hard work was well worth it given that 25 percent of children with autism don’t speak.

“I felt there was a call for me to do something – it was providential,” Miller said.

The app has many customizable pictures allowing words to be communicated visually when the child needs something.

For example, if a child wants popcorn, he or she presses the popcorn image on a smartphone or tablet and a voice says the image pressed, meaning parents and educators can hear the request.

Since its official launch, the app has evolved with each update.

Miller works with experts in various fields while developing updates for the app, including speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and special-education teachers.

He said each update makes the app more robust and ensures the autistic community will get maximum usefulness while using App2Talk.

“These children are very smart people. A lot of them just need an outlet to show that off, so we try to make sure we give them the best one,” Miller said.

The three levels of learning on App2Talk – elementary, intermediate and advanced – give children an opportunity to grow and progress when communicating. The app also automatically tracks their progress, giving parents and educators an avenue to analyze what the child has mastered and what’s still difficult.

Educators like Jennifer Williams see positive feedback when using the app.

Williams is the behavior specialist manager at the Mobile County Public School System and uses the device when she’s working with kids. Because many behavioral problems are rooted in a lack of communication, she has used App2Talk to help bridge gaps with children undergoing struggles they can’t necessarily voice.

Williams said a child has also used the app to communicate while in pain.

“Throughout his childhood, the pain was indescribable. It was beyond words,” Williams said. “The child couldn’t tell anyone where he was hurting or how much the pain stung, and the frustration would lead to self-inflicted damage. App2Talk changed that.”

Using the app, the child selected pictures of the body parts in pain, and the parents were finally able to help the child.

“We know the need is there,” Miller said. “We just have to keep pushing, and keep helping out the kids because they’re our future.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

13 hours ago

What’s in a name? ‘It Don’t Matter’

It don’t matter whether you’re on your way to the Gulf, or you’re a native Crenshaw Countian who loves a meat-and-three. The restaurant with the eye-catching name is sure to make you want to pull in.

The “It Don’t Matter” family restaurant in Highland Home, 27 miles south of Montgomery, has the best thing an eatery could have going for it besides good food: an unusual name and location, location, location. “It Don’t Matter” sits directly on U.S. Highway 331, the main drag from north Alabama to the Florida beaches at Destin, Fort Walton, Seaside and the western end of Panama City.

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If you’re heading south, the restaurant is perched on the left on a hill as 331 slips in to Highland Home, an unincorporated town of 1,200 in the very northern edge of Crenshaw County and a stone’s throw from the Montgomery County line. Owner Pete Hayes is keenly aware he has a ready-made clientele of beach-goers driving in front of his daily breakfast; a lunch/dinner buffet of Southern-style meats and vegetables; a seafood buffet on Saturdays; and hand-cut steaks Friday and Saturday nights.

“I’ve had people come in and say, ‘We passed by and turned around and came back. We saw the name and all the cars and said let’s go back and try it,’” Hayes says.

But what they really want to know is where the restaurant got its funky name.

Hayes says it came from original owner John Faulk, a local homebuilder, who would respond, “It don’t matter” when his wife asked what he wanted for dinner every night. Faulk built the restaurant in 2000 on the site of an abandoned gas station that was long ago the site of Highland Home school.

The story of how Hayes acquired the 200-seat restaurant – and Hayes himself – is as interesting as the name.

He was a professional wrestler in the early 1980s alongside the likes of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and the “Fabulous Freebirds” Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy in the heyday of Georgia Championship Wrestling.  GCW, later called World Championship Wrestling (WCW), with popular announcer Gordon Solie, drew a national following coast-to-coast in the early days of Atlanta cable Superstation WTBS. Pete Hayes wrestled as Pete Martin in Atlanta and over the years wearing a mask as the Assassin, the Enforcer, Masked Superstar, Los Lobos and the Skull Master, with tag-team partner the Bone Crusher.

Hayes, 58, grew up in the nearby town of Panola. Other than his wrestling career, he has worked most of his life in kitchen maintenance for what has grown to 52 Montgomery County schools.

Every afternoon, Hayes makes the 27-mile trip to the restaurant to make sure everything is going well. His wife, Liz, helps manage, too.

His path to buying “It Don’t Matter” in 2005 wasn’t exactly in a straight line. His son, “Little Pete,” went there to work for Faulk as manager. When Faulk realized it was too much to run both the restaurant and his construction business, he shut down the restaurant, Hayes recalls.

Little Pete said he would manage the restaurant if his father bought and reopened it, which Hayes did. Little Pete, however, eventually went to nursing school, ending his management of “It Don’t Matter” and leaving his father with the restaurant.

Which didn’t matter to Hayes.

“I really like this business because I like talking to people,” Hayes said as one of the main reasons he kept the restaurant. He isn’t a silent owner. He is very visible, socializing with customers and helping replenish the buffet. He even cooks, with steaks his forte.

While the name of the restaurant is fun, and Hayes has plenty of it, things haven’t always been that way. In 2012, the restaurant burned to the ground in just a few hours after it was struck by lightning, taking 8 1/2 months to build back.

Hayes says he will likely retire from the Montgomery County school system in five years, but has no plans to retire from the restaurant business anytime soon. In fact, he recently opened his second restaurant – Front Porch Barbecue – at the Fort Deposit exit on Interstate 65 some 15 miles away.

“The biggest challenge in this business is to make your customers happy,” he says. “You may make 150 of them happy one night, and you make one mad, and they tell 1,000 people. So we try to put out the very best product we can and make people feel like they’re at home.

“It does matter to us if you enjoy it.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

14 hours ago

VIDEO: Trump/Putin summit, Alabama campaigns go negative and lose, no hope, and more on Guerrilla Politics!

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Did President Trump mess up the Vladimir Putin summit?

— Did Alabama candidates who went negative cost themselves their races?

— Is there any evidence a “blue wave” is ready to hit Alabama?

Candidate for Lieutenant Governor State Rep. Will Ainsworth joins Jackson and Burke to discuss his victory over Twinkle Cavanaugh and the upcoming general election.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at Twinkle Cavanaugh, who thinks a boat citation is an “arrest” worthy of an attack ad.

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14 hours ago

5 ways Alabama researchers are taking on aerospace challenges

Universities across Alabama are helping to shape the future of the global aerospace industry.

From complex research projects to intensive training for future pilots and engineers, these institutions are making a significant impact on the journey to conquer skies and space.

As global aerospace industry leaders gather at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow, it’s time to take a look at five interesting projects happening inside labs and classrooms across the state:

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‘MARSBEES’

An assistant engineering professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville recently received a 2018 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Award for his proposal involving robotic bumble-bee-sized flapping-winged fliers to aid in the exploration of Mars.

Dr. Chang-kwon Kang is collaborating on the project with other researchers at UAH, as well as those from George Washington University and the Tokyo University of Science. The proposal features the Marsbee, whose large cicada-like wings have the ability to hover in the Martian atmosphere. It’s also equipped with sensors and wireless communication devices.

“Flying on Mars is challenging because of the ultra-low density in the Martian atmosphere. Our preliminary work shows that bio-inspired aerodynamic mechanisms can help in generating sufficient lift to fly on Mars,” Kang said.

“One of our main goals for the first phase is to experimentally demonstrate that these Marsbees can lift off their own weight in Martian density conditions in the vacuum chamber of UAH’s Propulsion Research Center.”

He said the long-term goal is to develop swarms of Marsbees that can help with the human exploration on Mars.

Kang’s proposal was one of only 25 selected to receive an award from the NIAC program, which invests in early-stage technology with the potential to revolutionize future space exploration. It provides up to $125,000 in funding over nine months to award winners, and the concepts that succeed in feasibility testing are eligible for Phase II awards.

RFID TECH RESEARCH

 At Auburn University, the new Delta Air Lines Aviation Education Building is expected to open this fall.

The 23,000-square-foot facility, funded with a $6.2 million gift from Delta Air Lines, the Delta Air Lines Foundation and the Jacobson Family Foundation, is the first building designed exclusively for aviation education at Auburn.

It will include more room for growing enrollment and class offerings, as well as state-of-the-art flight simulators, technology-equipped classrooms and faculty offices and workspace.

The gift is also supporting the university’s Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) lab, where scientists conduct research on how specialized sensor technologies can affect a variety of industries. For aviation in particular, such technology is useful in maintenance and safety history, tracking passenger baggage and making air travel safer and more efficient overall.

Also benefiting from the gift is Emerge, a student leadership program at Auburn that hosts monthly speakers focused on values, vision and teamwork.

Auburn’s Department of Aviation is home to one of the longest-standing public flight programs in the U.S.

“We know firsthand how capable Auburn graduates are and look forward to a future with Auburn in which truly, the sky is the limit,” said Paul Jacobson, Delta’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, trustee with the Delta Air Lines Foundation and chair of the Jacobson Family Foundation.

SPACE STATION FREEZERS

A research group at the University of Alabama at Birmingham designs and builds freezers that play key roles in experiments conducted on the International Space Station.

A multi-year contract between NASA and the UAB Engineering Innovation and Technology Development (EITD) research group was recently doubled, giving the group a $50 million cap on work to provide and maintain these cold-stowage units for the ISS.

The freezers are capable of maintaining temperatures as low as negative 160 degrees Celsius, and each line meets specific cold-stowage demands. They are used to store scientific samples and serve as galley refrigerator/freezers for the ISS crew.

The group also monitors the units from its Remote Operations Command Center on the UAB campus.

EITD is comprised of nearly 40 engineers and technicians and led by Dr. Lee Moradi, a UAB engineering professor.

“These contracts are evidence of the quality of personnel we have in our group,” Moradi said. “Our engineers and technicians have an impeccable reputation that has been built over decades, and we have been able to recruit extremely talented young engineers and software developers, including several top UAB students, both graduate and undergraduate.”

ELECTRIC SPACE SAILS

University of South Alabama researcher is studying a form of propulsion that would revolutionize deep space missions.

Dr. Carlos Montalvo, an assistant engineering professor, is conducting research on the electric sail, or E-Sail, which has major implications for aerospace.

“The Electric Sail is a relatively new concept of advanced in-space propulsion,” Montalvo said. “This technology has the potential to provide propellant-less propulsion throughout the solar system. An electric sail deploys multiple long (20 km) tethers that are positively charged. The solar wind interacts with the tethers to provide propulsion.”

Based on the E-Sail’s characteristic acceleration, it can reach the heliopause region, the boundary marking the end of the sun’s influence, in 10 years. By comparison, the characteristic acceleration of a solar sail puts it in the heliopause region in 20 years, while chemical rockets take 24 years.

“The only spacecraft to reach the heliopause region is the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, which reached the heliopause region in 36 years,” Montalvo said. “The increase in performance from a solar sail to an E-Sail lies in the growing sheath width of the electric sail, which grows with distance from the sun.”

E-sails provide a new way for small spacecraft to be used for deep space missions.

“This has never been done before. It would pave the way for small secondary payloads to reach uncharted territories of our universe,” Montalvo said.

TRAINING THE FUTURE WORKFORCE

Tuskegee University’s Aerospace Science Engineering Department is focused on sparking an interest in STEM activities among local students, using the power of flight.

Along with the university’s Mathematics Department, Aerospace Science Engineering hosts a weeklong summer camp, “Fly High Your Math and Science Skills,” for Macon County middle school students.

One of the program’s highlights for the students is flying various missions on a flight simulator.

“The simulator is a favorite for students – it provides hands-on experience and allows us to better connect math and science concepts for them,” said Dr. Javed Khan, head of the Aerospace Science Engineering Department.

The activities also teach critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and communication skills. In addition, middle school teachers receive science and mathematics education training.

The project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“This is the second year for the program, and it continues to be an outstanding learning opportunity that will greatly benefit teachers and students alike, as well as prepare students for career opportunities in the STEM fields,” Khan added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

Public contributes ideas for new Birmingham downtown linear park

Dozens of individuals, plus representatives from local businesses, public agencies and nonprofits expressed themselves Tuesday about what should be in the mix of amenities and activities at a proposed linear park in downtown Birmingham.
Officials with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and the City of Birmingham kicked off the first of multiple public sessions aimed at crafting a unique, 31-acre, 10-block-long public space that will live underneath a rebuilt elevated section of Interstate 59/20.

“We want to do something special,” Brandon Johnson, the city’s director of Community Engagement, told the crowd at Boutwell Municipal Auditorium.

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“We want your input. We value your ideas,” said DeJarvis Leonard, ALDOT region engineer.

Dubbed CityWalk BHAM, the public space, running from 15th Street to 25th Street North, near the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, is scheduled to be completed in time for The World Games coming to Birmingham in summer 2021.

“The World Games is a magnificent opportunity for the city, and we think this project can be a welcomed attraction for visitors and natives of Birmingham alike, come 2021,” Leonard said.

Ben Donsky, vice president of  Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, told the audience at the start of the first public session that the project is an opportunity to create a unique public space that offers an enormous variety of activities and programming, serving different audiences at different times of the day. One of the project consultants, Biederman has helped design or redevelop numerous public spaces around the country, including Bryant Park in New York City, Salesforce Park in San Francisco and Canalside in Buffalo, New York.

“We want to build something that is sustainable, that will be treasured for generations,” Donsky said.

Participants in the first session moved among six viewing stations, where they could examine conceptual images of different activities and elements that could be incorporated into CityWalk. They ranged from skateboarding to walking paths and playgrounds, a dog park, a farmers’ market, cafés and music stages.

Donsky said programming at CityWalk also could range broadly, from exercise classes for seniors, to art and music events for adults and children, to food stalls for downtown workers on their lunch hour. “We want to have lots of variety,” he said.

“We think this could be an economic generator for the city and a regional attraction … from every demographic and every age level,” Donsky added.

Participants could mark their preferences among the many images spread on the tables – or suggest their own ideas.

Donsky said few cities have created public spaces of this proposed magnitude underneath a rebuilt highway. “It’s really groundbreaking.”

A comprehensive price tag for the project hasn’t been finalized, but an estimated $15 million to $20 million is expected to be available from state and federal transportation coffers for construction. Officials hope to add to that amount with local support, along with corporate and philanthropic dollars that could help to provide resources for ongoing events and programming.

In addition to the three public sessions held Tuesday at Boutwell, a second round is set for July 24 at the Birmingham Crossplex. Additional public meetings also could be scheduled. More information is available at a new website, http://citywalkbham.com/, and a new Facebook page, where additional details are expected to be shared from the public sessions.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)