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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.

12 hours ago

Geneva County Commission strips funding for school resource officer program

The Geneva County Commission has placed the Geneva County School system in a bind after it pulled funds committed to the school resource officer (SRO) program.

Per a Dothan Eagle report, the county commission voted in June to give $15,000 to the SRO program this year, including an additional $60,000 next year.

After commissioners found that the budget would not balance, they realized that the promised funding for the SRO program could not be provided.

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Fred Hamic, chairman of the Geneva County Commission, sent a letter informing Superintendent Becky Birdsong of the decision and included a $15,000 check.

Birdsong said she was “disappointed,” but assured she will work hard to ensure the SRO program remains in place.

“I am disappointed, but I am still committed to doing what’s right for our students,” Birdsong told Dothan Eagle. “We don’t want parents to be concerned that this is going to make our schools less safe. I’m not saying we have the money now, but I am going to work on this and try to secure funding for this.”

Birdsong said that she is working with parents to increase security on school campuses in the schools she oversees.

@RealKyleMorris is a Yellowhammer News contributor and also contributes weekly to The Daily Caller

13 hours ago

Steve Marshall talks liberal tech bias, joins select group of national officials tackling the issue

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Tuesday joined a select group of state attorneys general for “a productive dialogue” led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other Department of Justice (DOJ) officials regarding perceived discrimination against conservatives by leading tech companies.

Per a DOJ release, “The discussion centered on ways the Department and state governments can most effectively safeguard consumers using online digital platforms. Each state attorney general’s office shared their views of the important issues for federal and state authorities to consider when addressing these evolving technologies. The discussion principally focused on consumer protection and data privacy issues, and the bipartisan group of attendees sought to identify areas of consensus.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Marshall – who joined the meeting by teleconference – made it clear that there was a long way to go before reaching a consensus on how to tackle the complicated issues of tech transparency and bias, saying, “To the degree that there was any consensus, it is that we still have a lot to learn about how to best protect consumer interests in this context.”

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“Today I participated in a bipartisan meeting of several state Attorneys General, hosted by Attorney General Sessions, to discuss consumer protection concerns related to the tech industry. The conversation covered many of the same concerns raised in recent Congressional hearings,” Marshall outlined.

He continued, “I appreciated the invitation to participate and was interested to hear the perspectives of the various states represented. To the degree that there was any consensus, it is that we still have a lot to learn about how to best protect consumer interests in this context.”

The DOJ, which was represented at the meeting by Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore and other senior staff, explained, “Many shared the view that it is essential for federal and state law enforcement authorities to work together to ensure that these challenges are addressed responsibly and effectively.”

Sessions’ DOJ will review the information and insights shared by the state attorneys general and expects the constructive dialogue will continue moving forward. Marshall, in an interview earlier Tuesday morning with Talk 99.5’s Matt Murphy and Andrea Lindenberg, made it clear that he prefers a market-based solution as opposed to stifling government regulation.

“It is a field that I think we need to tread very lightly,” Marshall explained. “You look at the ability of government to regulate – I think we do the military well and everything else is a struggle. So I think we need to be very, very careful in how we tread in that regard.”

The argument from some is that social media platforms are like modern-day utilities.

“You hear it coming more from Democratic AG’s across the country … it’s why, I think, you have to be very careful, because the market itself has the ability to regulate and one of the things that we have to do from the government side is do not tread into the world of antitrust lightly,” Marshall outlined.

Alabama’s attorney general used Google as an example, saying consumers have multiple choices in search engines, free online email providers and the web browsers themselves (Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla, etc.).

“It is important, however, when you do hear the stories of internally that Google may be directing people for political purposes that otherwise is not disclosed. That is concerning,” Marshall said.

For Marshall, the questions of whether these tech companies should allow their left-leaning biases to affect consumers “need to be asked, whether or not government needs to get involved in that, however, is a different story.”

Marshall summarized that his overall view is the tech services need to be held accountable to being open and honest with what they are doing and then the market can effectively take care of the rest. If consumers do not like what the services are doing, competition, not the government, should be the counterbalance.

“To the extent that there is transparency, I think it’s a good thing. Across the spectrum, whether it be private business or in government, and in this field particularly, if they are able to respond to questions about how it is that they control content and what they do, then I think we all have knowledge and then can make decisions ourselves,” he advised.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Strong like Samson, tough like Benaiah and wise like Solomon -Thomas Cox reveals his plan for himself and raising his kids

Finding the time to do everything in a day is tough, but Thomas Cox shared his secrets on “The Ford Faction.”

In this episode, Thomas Cox from Mealfit.co discussed where his parenting techniques come from and how he finds time to execute them. He breaks down the processes he does with each of his children.

First, he teaches them to be strong like Samson. He wants his kids to be strong in many ways: mentally, physically, socially and spiritually.

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Second, Thomas wants his kids to be tough like Benaiah.

He said, “Toughness is one of the biggest parts of our lives we have to get better at so we can adapt to what’s happening around us.”

Finally, you have to be wise like Solomon.

Thomas told host Ford Brown, “I think if you’re not spending a lot of your day on self-development, you are missing the boat.”

Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Rep. Byrne: Breaking down Tax Reform 2.0

Since Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year, the American economy is booming, and Alabama families have more money in their pockets. By lowering taxes and simplifying the tax code, we have unlocked our economic potential and made life better for hardworking Americans.

The economic numbers speak for themselves: higher wages, lower unemployment, more jobs, bigger paychecks, employee bonuses and much more. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the average family in Southwest Alabama will see their tax bill decrease by $2,187 a year.

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The good news is that we aren’t stopping here. This week, the House is expected to vote on additional changes and improvements to the tax code, something we are calling Tax Reform 2.0. Working with President Trump, we will continue to make the tax code even fairer and more competitive.

Tax Reform 2.0 includes three major pieces. Here’s a quick overview.

First, we want to make the tax cuts for small businesses and middle-class families permanent. Due to Democrat obstruction and arcane rules in the Senate, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was only able to lower taxes for ten years. Under Tax Reform 2.0, we will make the tax cuts permanent.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation found that making the middle-class and small business tax cuts permanent will create 1.5 million new jobs and increase gross domestic product (GDP) by 2.2%. This further expands our economy and makes life even better for families and small businesses.

Making these changes permanent, will also lock-in the simpler tax filing process. As you may remember, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified the tax code to the point where many Americans are now able to complete their taxes on a postcard-style form. A Tax Foundation study shows that this will save Americans between $3.1 to $5.4 billion in compliance costs. Instead of needing an accountant to navigate the complicated code, most Americans will be able to file on their own.

Second, Tax Reform 2.0 promotes family savings and helps more Americans plan for retirement. Currently, too many Americans have been unable to save for retirement or put money aside to cover unforeseen emergencies.

We want to help small businesses provide retirement plans to their workers by allowing small businesses to join together to create a 401(k) plan more affordable and by giving employers more time to put new retirement plans in place. Just as important, we will help more workers participate in retirement plans by exempting small retirement accounts from mandatory payouts and by eliminating the age limit on IRA contributions.

We don’t stop there. Tax Reform 2.0 will create and expand additional programs to help Americans save. For example, our plan creates a new savings account to offer a fully flexible savings tool that families can use at any time right for them, expands 529 education savings accounts, and creates a new baby savings program to help with the birth of a new child or an adoption.

Finally, Tax Reform 2.0 will help grow the economy by promoting start-up businesses and spurring innovation. We do this by allowing new businesses to write off more of their initial start-up costs and by making it easier for start-ups to bring in new investors. America must lead the way on innovation.

As you can tell, Tax Reform 2.0 builds upon our efforts in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to ensure the American economy remains strong. We do that by allowing Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets. I fundamentally believe our country is the strongest when money is with the people instead of the government.

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

14 hours ago

Ivey, Merrill celebrate National Voter Registration Day – ‘Easy to vote and hard to cheat’

Tuesday is recognized as National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), which Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill celebrated by encouraging all of the state’s eligible voters to register.

The annual occasion is the largest single-day drive to register voters of the year. Merrill joined hundreds of different partners around the nation to observe NVRD, with Merrill specifically encouraging a “voter refresh” effort to update state voter rolls with correct information about Alabama citizens.

“Since I became Secretary of State, we have registered more than a million new voters who have helped us shatter state records for voter registration and participation in our elections,” Merrill said in a release.

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“But we also want our voter rolls to be up-to-date, so we are urging everyone to take a moment to make sure their current address is correct in the state system. We are pleased to participate in this special day that encourages more participation in our electoral process. We continue to work daily to make sure every eligible U.S. citizen in our state is registered to vote and has a photo ID. We want to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Merrill continued.

NVRD, held on every fourth Thursday of September since 2012, is endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors. Since 2012, more than 1.4 million people around the nation have registered to vote or update their registration as part of this event alone. This year, libraries, schools and other partners will hold local voter registration drives.

Since Merrill took office, Alabama has registered 1,064,616 new voters, bringing the state’s total to 3,418,839 as of September 7. Yellowhammer State residents can update their voter registration information by downloading the “Vote for Alabama” app on a smartphone or visiting the Secretary of State website here.

“There is no freedom more integral to this Republic than the right to vote and participate in our democratic process,” Merrill emphasized. “I am so proud we are able to work with the partners involved with National Voter Registration Day to help make increased participation a reality here in the state of Alabama.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn