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.

2 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Stopping H.R. 1, amnesty keys to winning in 2022 midterms — ‘Then we will be able to neuter Joe Biden’

FLORENCE — With the third month of the 117th Congress now underway, House Democrats have pushed forward in their efforts to pass H.R. 1, which would impose so-called reforms to the country’s voting system.

Also among the priorities for Democrats, who control the White House, House and Senate, are immigration measures that could include amnesty for illegal aliens.

During an appearance at the Shoals Republican Club on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) panned those efforts and said he hoped to stymie the progress of House Democrats on those two fronts.

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Brooks told those in attendance that if Republicans could prove successful in those efforts, it would set the GOP up for wins in the 2022 midterm elections and hamstring President Joe Biden’s push to promote a left-of-center agenda.

“We’ve got to stop H.R. 1, and we’ve got to stop the amnesty and citizenship that Joe Biden has promised,” he said. “If we do those two things, then we’re going to take back the House in 2022. I hope we will take back the Senate in 2022. And then we will be able to neuter Joe Biden over the next two years if we control the House and Senate and set the stage as well for us taking back the White House in 2024 with whoever our nominee may be.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

3 hours ago

2021 Birmingham Heart Walk goes virtual

COVID-19 has forced many nonprofits to shift gears in their fundraising efforts and the American Heart Association (AHA) is no exception. The AHA’s 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk has been reimagined as a digital experience this year to maintain necessary safety protocols due to the ongoing pandemic.

Through the event design, AHA is striving to get more people moving in Birmingham while continuing to raise life-saving funds and keep participants safe in the process. The Birmingham Heart Walk is Saturday, June 12, from 9-11 a.m. and participants can walk from anywhere.

Leading up to the event, participants are encouraged to track their activity through the “Move More Challenge” using the free Heart Walk activity tracker app that can be downloaded from Apple or Google Play. Once registered, users have 30 days to log minutes, and any activity counts. Top movers and fundraisers will be recognized on Heart Walk day.

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“The American Heart Association holds a special place in my heart,” said Southern Company Vice President of Technology David Coxwho will chair the walk for the second time. “They have done so much for my family and for my daughter, Emily, who was born with multiple congenital heart defects. I’m pleased to partner with this outstanding organization in their efforts help our community connect and stay active as we adapt to this virtual world.”

More than 600,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, and the risks have only been compacted by the pandemic. Among COVID-19 hospitalizations, 40% are heart or stroke patients, so this year, donations from the Heart Walk will help fast-track COVID-19 research and train front-line workers in addition to the many other research projects and resources funded by the AHA.

Fundraising and activities for the Heart Walk are beginning to ramp up as the warmer months approach.

“Now is the time to sign up, lace up and start fundraising for the 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk,” said Hannah Carroll, Heart Challenge director of the Birmingham AHA. “Signing up now ensures you won’t miss any of the fun this year, like Rally Days and our new activity tracker.”

On Feb. 18, Cox hosted a virtual kickoff for business leaders in the Birmingham area who will be fielding teams at this year’s Heart Walk. He encouraged counterparts to begin their fundraising efforts by saying, “We’re here for a reason – to fight for a world of longer, healthier lives.”

To view Emily’s story, click here. To learn more about the 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk or to create a team, click here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

Schoolyard Roots growing stronger, smarter kids in Alabama

When kids participate in the life of a garden, they see the complete cycle of growing food, cooking and preparing it to eat. School gardens are exciting places for kids to learn basic academic subjects, too.

The Tuscaloosa community came together more than 10 years ago to develop a garden-based learning program called the Druid City Garden project, now called Schoolyard Roots.

Schoolyard Roots employs a full-time teaching staff that provides garden lessons for students, as well as professional development training for teachers. The school gardens provide an outdoor experience rare to many students. They are more likely to make healthy choices and try new foods. Students gain a sense of responsibility, to collaborate and work together as a team.

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“When we see a child’s health and education improve, we know that we’re not only investing in that child’s life today – we’re helping them build a better future,” said Nicole Gelb Dugat, interim executive director. “Schoolyard Roots builds community through food. By increasing access to fresh, locally grown produce, we empower our community to make healthy and sustainable food choices.”

In March 2020, the impact of COVID-19 significantly affected the teaching community. Almost immediately, the Schoolyard Roots team began distributing produce from its gardens directly to local families. By the end of last year, the program had distributed more than 750 pounds of fresh garden vegetables to the community.

“We stewarded our gardens as fresh-air sanctuaries, where children and adults could relax, refocus and reconnect,” said Dugat. “Through it all, we shared vegetables and flowers. We cultivated moments of peace and learned together. We could not have done any of it without our incredible community of supporters.”

They found hope and inspiration in the small miracle of seeds planted by the students. Gardens bring joy, peace and courage in times of struggle. And gardens remind us to have hope for new growth and what is to come.

Schoolyard Roots partners with Tuscaloosa-area elementary schools to bring learning to life through teaching gardens. The nonprofit works in 11 elementary schools across Tuscaloosa County.

Its mission is to build healthy communities through food with the Gardens 2 Schools program.

Gardens support and encourage healthful eating as a key component of children’s physical wellbeing, which can aid their academic and social success, too. The garden is woven through many aspects of a school’s curriculum and adapted for different grade levels.

“The Gardens 2 Schools program cultivates curiosity,” Dugat said. “The program teaches the students how to work together (and) learn self-reliability and compassion.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 hours ago

Has Washington’s stimulus measures saved our economy?

Congress is expected to soon pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, the fourth major response to the pandemic. Did these measures save our economy from a protracted recession?

Our initial response might be yes because of last spring’s economic free-fall. The stock market declined 20%. Unemployment jumped from 3.5% in February to 14.8% in April, the highest level since the Great Depression. GDP fell 10% in the second quarter.

The economy stopped collapsing and began regaining ground. The stock market hit new record highs. Unemployment fell to 6.3% in January and inflation-adjusted GDP in the fourth quarter of 2020 was within 2% of the 2019 level. Post hoc ergo prompter hoc, however, is a logical fallacy.

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Macroeconomists disagree over whether government spending can lift an economy out of recession. Keynesians, following John Maynard Keynes’ analysis of the Great Depression, see a role for government stabilization. Austrians in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek argue that government often causes recessions. New classical analysis has blown many holes in Keynesian theories.

Regardless of the efficacy of a fiscal stimulus, our economy may not have faced a recession in 2020. The COVID-19 slump arguably resembled an off-season shutdown in a resort community more than a recession. Except that the pandemic shutdown was unexpected while seasonal closures are planned.

The economy could have been expected to bounce back on its own if the business closure and stay-at-home orders did not last too long. And this seemingly happened during the summer and fall.

How can we assess the stimulus spending? The Payroll Protection Plan and augmented unemployment likely kept some persons employed and softened the financial blow for idled workers. These programs could also be viewed as compensation owed by the government for business closure orders, not a stimulus. Personal saving has risen sharply, so many households’ stimulus checks produced little spending.

Unemployment programs have been beset by fraud. The Foundation for Government Accountability estimates that fraudulent schemes siphoned off $36 billion, more than the $26 billion in unemployment compensation paid out in all of 2019. Do Keynesians think fraud is a fiscal stimulus?

One trillion stimulus dollars were unspent as of January 2021. While some Republicans argued that we should spend this money before approving President Biden’s proposal, the unspent money was in the process of being spent. Still, money not yet spent did not stimulate the economy in 2020.

Proponents of fiscal stimulus warned that the economy would sputter without a fall stimulus. One forecast warned of a five percentage point increase in unemployment and 5% decline in GDP. The House and Senate did not agree on an encore to the CARES Act until December. And yet unemployment fell and GDP grew in the fourth quarter.

Even if some spending helped in 2020, the current stimulus package is almost certainly unnecessary. The Congressional Budget Office was already expecting growth to recover “rapidly,” with GDP surpassing the pre-pandemic level by mid-year and unemployment returning to its prior level by early 2022. For comparison, after the Great Recession unemployment did not reach its 2007 level until 2016.

President Biden’s package includes $500 billion to stabilize state budgets. States operate under balanced budget rules, so revenue declines due to the pandemic would trigger spending cuts potentially slowing the recovery. The $500 billion was based on an 8% decline in state revenues; the Wall Street Journal reports that revenues will be down only 1.6%.

Whatever the verdict on the stimulus spending, it worsened the national debt by about $3 trillion. The long-term debt impact may easily offset any short-term boost to the recovery.

The economic case that government spending can prevent or end a recession is weak. Fortunately, the COVID-19 shutdowns did not trigger a prolonged recession. While we might say, “Better safe than sorry,” the cost of the stimulus will be with us for years to come.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

7 hours ago

Packaging Corp. of America plans $440 million project at Alabama mill

JACKSON, Alabama – Packaging Corp. of America (PCA) plans to launch a three-year, $440 million project to permanently convert a paper machine at its mill in Clarke County to produce linerboard used for corrugated packaging.

Lake Forest, Illinois-based PCA announced that it discontinued the production of uncoated freesheet, used for copy paper and other applications, on its No. 3 paper machine at the Jackson mill in late 2020.

After a temporary switch to produce linerboard, PCA is now making preparations to convert the mill’s paper machine into a 700,000-ton-per-year high-performance, virgin kraft linerboard machine in a phased approach over the next 36 months.

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PCA said key elements in the conversion project include the installation of an OCC plant for recycling old corrugated containers and various pulp mill modifications. In addition, modifications and upgrades will be made to critical sections of the paper machine.

PCA Chairman and CEO Mark Kowlzan said the project will enable the company to meet strong packaging demand and to optimize the Alabama mill’s profitability and viability. The capital cost of the conversion is expected to be approximately $440 million.

“We are appreciative of the continued support from the State of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Commerce, the City of Jackson and Clarke County to help us continue providing quality jobs and a positive economic impact in the Jackson community,” Kowlzan said.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Governor Kay Ivey said the project represents a positive development for the Jackson mill, a major industrial employer with more than 500 workers.

“Packaging Corp. of America’s reinvestment in its Jackson manufacturing facility will solidify the plant’s future by enhancing its competitiveness,” Governor Ivey said.

“This decision underlines the company’s confidence in its Alabama operation while also preserving jobs and safeguarding local education tax dollars. It’s a win for the company, the community and the state.”

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said PCA’s project will increase the efficiency of the Clarke County plant while providing a long-term economic boost to Jackson, a city with a population of around 5,300.

“We’re committed to helping existing businesses grow and thrive in Alabama, and the impact of a major investment is always magnified when in happens in rural communities,” Secretary Canfield said.

“With this project, PCA is positioning its Jackson mill for the future, which will significantly benefit the city and the region for years to come.”

‘LONG-STANDING RELATIONSHIP’

Jackson Mayor Paul R. South said the project will allow PCA to continue providing quality jobs while securing a positive economic future for Clarke County.

“The City of Jackson looks forward to working with the corporation as the project moves forward,” South said. “In my opinion, they couldn’t have selected a better community.  Jackson is a safe and peaceful city full of great people, with good schools and recreation and a strong work force, along with extensive natural resources.”

“This is wonderful news for Clarke County and the City of Jackson,” said Stan Hutto, chairman of the Clarke County Commission. “We have a long-standing relationship with this outstanding company, and we are committed to helping them achieve their goals to ensure a bright, successful future.”

PCA is the third largest producer of containerboard products and the third largest producer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America. PCA operates eight mills and 90 corrugated products plants and related facilities.

The Jackson mill’s No. 1 paper machine will continue to produce uncoated freesheet products.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)