Archive for December, 2017

Advent Podcast Day 5: “The Meaning of Christmas Is Easter”

December 7, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Genesis 22:1-13

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Hi, this is Brent White. It’s December 7, 2017, and you’re listening to Day 5 of my series of Advent podcasts. You just heard Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band’s “Poor Little Jesus.” Here’s “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”

In yesterday’s scripture—the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1—Matthew begins by saying, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Jesus is the son of Abraham. Well, obviously… Doesn’t it go without saying that if Jesus is the “son of David”—as all messianic prophecy makes clear that he must be—then he is also the son of Abraham. Since David is the son of Abraham, Jesus is also the son of Abraham. Why the need to emphasize this fact?

It’s because Matthew is reminding us of another messianic prophecy. This one is found way back in Genesis 12, when God calls Abraham to leave his home, leave his family, and leave his country to go to the land—the promised land—which God would show him. God will make of Abraham a great nation and in him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3. God goes on to say these blessings will come through his offspring—who is Jesus.

So… Matthew’s genealogy points back to Abraham because the story of Abraham points forward to Christ.  Read the rest of this entry »

Advent Podcast Day 4: “Jesus’ Family Tree”

December 6, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Matthew 1:1-17

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Hi, this is Brent White. It’s December 6, 2017, and you are listening to Day 4 of my new series of Advent podcasts. You’re listening to Frank Sinatra’s version of “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” from his 1957 album A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, which was arranged by Gordon Jenkins. My copy of the record was renamed The Sinatra Christmas Album, but it’s the exact same album with new artwork. You can know that that song was from Side B of the album because all the songs on Side A are the classic “secular” Christmas songs—like Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song.” All the songs on Side B are sacred Christmas hymns and carols like this one. I prefer for them to be mixed together, but whatever… It’s a great album, regardless.

Our scripture is Matthew 1:1-17. I suspect when many of you read this in your Bibles you either skip over it or skim it quickly. It’s Matthew’s genealogy. So hang on, I’m going to read it very quickly…

Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father, author of most of the Federalist Papers, and man who served as our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, grew up poor in the British West Indies, an illegitimate child who became an orphan. I only know that because I’ve heard the soundtrack to the Broadway musical Hamilton.

And of course we learn from the musical that the main thing that drives Hamilton to succeed is his desire to prove to himself and the rest of the world that he’s so much more than where he came from, or who his parents were, or the scandalous circumstances surrounding his birth and upbringing—so that, if someone will only give him a shot, well, as he says in the musical, he is not going to throw it away. Hamilton eventually makes his way to the thirteen colonies, to New York, where he discovers that he can be a “new man”—and not be judged by his family tree.

The ancient world—even more than the world of the 18th century—wasn’t like that at all! Everything you needed to know about someone you could learn by looking at his or her family tree. Which is why genealogies were so important. Genealogies served the same purpose to ancient people as résumés do for us today.

And on that score, Jesus’ résumé is impressive enough. He is descended from King David, after all, as the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament say he must be.

But then we dig a little bit deeper, and we notice that Jesus’ résumé, unlike most résumés today, tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Read the rest of this entry »

Advent Podcast Day 3: “God with Us”

December 5, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Matthew 1:17-20

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Hi, this is Brent White. It’s December 5, 2017, and you are listening to Day 3 of my new series of Advent podcasts. You’re listening to “Emmanuel,” a song written by Michael W. Smith and performed by a young Amy Grant on her 1983 Christmas album, modestly called A Christmas Album. Still my favorite of her three holiday albums. You need to hear this song in the context of the album, because it includes this nice transition into “O Little Town of Bethlehem”—set to a very different melody from the traditional hymn. I’ll have to play that in a future podcast.

But I’m playing this song because I’m reading the angel’s words to Joseph in Matthew 1 starting with verse 20—after Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant—and that Joseph is not the father.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

When I was a young man back in the ’90s and early 2000s, my favorite band in the world—by far—was a female rock trio called Sleater-Kinney. I really loved these guys. I still do! I’ve seen them in concert several times. On one occasion, I arrived at the concert venue when the doors opened. We were nearly the first ones in the theater. So I left my friend Keith to hold my spot in front of the stage while I went to the lobby to the concession stand. And who should be standing there—right in front of me, ordering hot tea and lemon, but Corin Tucker, the lead singer and guitarist in the band. She was inconspicuous because she was still in her street clothes. The handful of other people in the lobby didn’t recognize her. But I did.

“O.K., think Brent. What are you going to say to your rock idol that isn’t going to make you sound like a complete idiot.” That’s what was going through my mind! I was nervous. I didn’t know what to say. I felt like doing what Wayne and Garth do in the Wayne’s World movie when they meet their hero Alice Cooper: fall at his feet and say, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”

So I was tongue-tied… And then… Someone walked up to Ms. Tucker and said, “Are you Corin?” And then of course she started to talking to him. I missed my chance! Ugh.
Read the rest of this entry »

Advent Podcast Day 2: “Humanity’s Biggest Problem”

December 4, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24-25

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Hi, this is Brent White, and welcome to Day 2 of my new series of Advent podcasts. This is another song from Jon Anderson’s wonderful 1985 Christmas album, 3 Ships. This is an original composition called “Where Were You?” I can’t say enough about this record. It’s one of my favorite albums, Christmas or otherwise.

Years ago, I heard an interview with actress Patty Duke, who struggled for decades with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. She said, “What a relief it was when I received the diagnosis! I finally had a name for this thing that had caused so much harm in my life!”

I can only imagine… Healing can’t take place until we know exactly what the problem is!

During this season of Advent, it is fitting for us spend time reflecting on a problem that harms all of us human beings. The Bible has a name for it: sin. It is a problem over which we are utterly helpless. You can hear Paul describe this helplessness in his words from Romans 7: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

I’ve never been in Alcoholics Anonymous, but I admire the organization and its twelve steps. I had a professor in seminary who had a friend in AA. In fact, his friend’s AA group met in his church’s basement. One day my professor was was in the narthex of his church, about to walk into the sanctuary for a church service, when he saw his friend emerging with other members of his AA group from the basement. His friend saw my professor, motioned to the basement door, and said, “That’s where church happens!” Read the rest of this entry »

Advent Podcast Day 1: “The Bible’s Sneak Preview of Christmas”

December 3, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Genesis 3:1-7, 15

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Welcome to my sermon podcast. This is the first Sunday in Advent, and today I’m beginning a series of short devotionals each day through Christmas. Of course, I’ll continue to podcast my sermons here as well. Each Advent podcast will feature some music from my extensive collection of Christmas records. You’re listening to Jon Anderson, the lead singer of the band Yes, and his version of “Three Ships”—from the amazing album of the same name, which came out in 1985. I might also occasionally feature snippets of audio from movies and TV specials. Regardless, I pray that this new series of devotionals will be a blessing to you.

Today’s scripture is from Genesis 3:1-7 and verse 15.

Where does the Christmas story begin? You might say it begins in the gospel of Matthew, chapters 1 and 2. Matthew tells the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective and features the evil King Herod and the magi from the East who come following a miraculous star. Or you might say that it begins in the gospel of Luke chapters 1 and 2, which tells the Christmas story from Mary’s perspective—which features Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist, along with shepherds abiding in the fields—this is the scripture that Linus famously reads in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

You might even say that the Christmas story begins in John’s gospel, which tells us that in the beginning the Word—that is, God’s Son, the second person of the Trinity—was with God and the Word was God, and that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Although the Word is eternal and had no beginning, John tells us, the “Word becoming flesh” happened when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ was conceived in Mary’s womb and was born at Christmas.

But the Christmas story doesn’t begin in these three gospels of the New Testament. It begins much earlier. In fact, it begins… near the beginning—in Genesis 3. Read the rest of this entry »