Deacon Barbara’s Twelve Days of Christmas

December 25th, 2016 by

Every Christmas Eve, since her children were small, Deacon Barbara would share a bible lesson with her family.  In a world where every seems to be changing it is a comfort to know that some things, worthy things, remain the same.  This year the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren came to hear about the twelve days of Christmas on the 22nd of December because of schedule conflicts.  She shared her understanding of the tradition and then she shared the twelve prayers of Christmas for after they returned home.


  1. LOVE: Lord, help us follow the ways of love! Let the love of Christ, who died for us, compel us to demonstrate our most tender love by actions instead of by emotions or words.  Help us remember Paul’s lesson (Romans 8:35 & 38):  “What can separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, fear, or peril?  Neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God,” which was demonstrated by His greatest of all gifts to us – our Lord Jesus Christ!
  2. JOY: Lord, restore to us the joy of being Your creation!  Help us be joyful, not only at Christmas time, but at all times, regardless of pain or problems.  Inner joy never can be taken away by outer circumstances, so make our prayer the words of Psalms 51:12 and 16:11:  “Restore unto us the joy of Your gift of salvation, and uphold us with Your Spirit.: … “The Lord will show us the right paths to take, and in His presence we will find the fullness of joy.”  Allow us to take personally the happy message of the Christmas carol:   “Joy to the world!  The Lord has come!”
  3. PEACE: Let Your presence, Lord, rule and guard our hearts with the peace that comes only from belonging to You.  Cause us to remember that in this troubled world, You are our only Source of real and lasting peace.  Imprint upon our minds and hearts the message of Philippians 4:7:  “The peace of God passes all understanding.  It keeps our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.”
  4. HOPE: Lord, enlighten our mortal minds so that we know our hope is more than just wishing for something better.  It is believing and knowing our hope is based upon the riches of our inheritance awaiting those who respond when called to do Your will.  Teach us this lesson from the Lord:  “I know the thoughts and plans I have for you to give you hope and a future.”  (Jer. 29:11)
  5. FAVOR: Thank You, Lord, that we have access to Your favor, which is good-will and kindness to us, far beyond measure.  Make us grateful for Your favor of grace – a freely given gift we cannot earn, buy, nor deserve.  Help us to follow our Lord Jesus’ example.  He increased in favor with God and man. Give us increased favor with those who reject or abuse us or who reject our Savior.  Teach us how to behave so others will see Your favor resting upon our lives and also see that the same favor reflects our desire to be in loving unity with all we come to know.  May we make our daily prayer Proverbs 8:35:  “Whoever finds and surrenders to the Lord finds life and will obtain His favor!”
  6. LIGHT: Lord, in Your Word we are called to “Arise; shine!  For our light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon us” (Isaiah 60:1).  Christmas season is the time for bright lights and shiny decorations.  But what of other seasons?  Do You not call us to “let our lights shine” at all times and in every dark hour?  We cannot do that in our own strength, for many’s the day we must face blackness of weakness or darkness of painful sorrow.  But we can let Jesus’ light shine through us.  Help us to be a bright reflection of You, the Light of the World!  May You be our Light that shows us the way and brings others to be guided by the Everlasting Light.
  7. SALVATION:  Of all the gifts we’ve ever been given, the greatest is salvation offered by Christ’s sacrificial death, the payment for all our sins.  “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord”  (Romans 6:23).  How bountiful is the love that was personified when our punishment for sins was placed upon the sinless One!  Why?  So we might be presented to God as pure and blameless as new-born lambs of His fold.
  8. SELFLESSNESS: Lord, help us today to think of others rather than thinking of ourselves.   May we abstain from self-seeking and prideful attitudes.  Make us like the persons described in Romans 2:7-10:  “Those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek no glory for themselves, but who build up others with honor and by good works.”  Keep us from complaining, and close the ivory gate around our wayward tongues, lest we gossip or find fault.  In silence, may we contemplate ways to demonstrate selflessness instead of selfishness.
  9. GENEROSITY: How rich we are in blessings!  How fortunate we are to have homes, food, and freedoms that we take for granted while others are homeless, hungry, and living under constant fear for their lives!  Lord, give us thankful hearts expressed by hands outstretched to give, arms ready to embrace, and feet swift to run to meet needs of the less fortunate!  Because You have been so generous with us, use us to show a similar generosity toward others.  And may that generous spirit bring praise and honor to Your holy name!  “Being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, let us first give thanks and then share our bounty by a gladsome administration of service.” (2 Cor. 9:11-12)
  10. RECEIVING:  Lord, is it pride that makes us reluctant to receive from others?  Do we dislike being beholden, or is it feelings of inadequacy to receive that can make us frown upon favors sent our way?  We know it is more blessed to give that receive, but keep us from preventing or denying others the joy of giving to show their loving generosity.  Teach us how to receive gracefully, especially when You want us to receive from You – Your blessing, Your spirit, Your kingdom.  Help us to recall “the saints of the Most High will receive and possess the kingdom for eternity” (Dan. 7:18)  Count us in!
  11. SEEKING: Encourage us, Lord, to seek and to desire Your presence with all our hearts.  It is only when we stay close to You that we see ourselves clearly as we really are and not as we wish we were or pretend to be.  We become more Christ-like when we seek the Pattern by which we want ourselves to be remade.  Help us also to seek holy graces we lack – more love, kindness, patience, meekness, forgiveness, and all other attributes we want to obtain.We want to become what You have created us to be.  Make Psalm 27:8 our goal for today and every day:  When the Lord said for me to seek His face, my heart replied, “Lord, Your face I will seek!”
  12. PRAISE: O Holy Savior, we laud, praise, and worship You!  We ascribe to You honor and glorify Your name.  Forgive us when we forget to pay tribute and to magnify You throughout each day.  Let us make our New Year’s resolution to start and end each day with songs and words of praise on our lips for all You are – our Redeemer, our Deliverer, our Holy Place of Refuge!  You are our Rock from which the Living Waters flow to quench our thirst for righteousness.  Let us keep in remembrance the words of 1 Chronicles 16:28-29:  “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name.  Bring offerings and come before Him with adoration.  Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.  Amen.”

Use the blank space below to add #13 (or more) so your own prayers will continue after the 12 days end.  First, pick a topic, and then look up Bible verses about it.  Add your comments or thoughts after meditating on what the Scriptures say about the subject.

Here is a brief example of one way  (not the only way!) to do this:

  1. PRAYER: (1 Thess. 5:17:  “Pray without ceasing.”)  Oh, that I could compose such godly prayer that rigid minds would change and start to care!  If my prayers don’t bring change for all to see, keep me praying, Lord, for prayer changes me.    – Deacon Barbara








































12 Days of Christmas Prayers























December 14th, 2016 by

Originally sent to parish via email on December 9, 2016

I asked the clerk at the checkout if a lot of Christmas had been passing by her register.

“Yes”, she said. “Lots of presents, and wrapping paper, and good food.”

I asked if she had finished her own shopping, after seeing so many gift ideas and examples of getting the job done pass through her line at Register 16.

“No. I’m just watching it go past, one beep at a time.”

The Advent invitation is for us to step into the season of Christmas before its arrival. To hear in the words of the Prophets, John the Baptist and Mother Mary a call to join in the movement towards the crèche. To be more than just a witness, but also a participant. To not simply let the beeps go bye.

The lady at the register has good reasons to have an incomplete list of shopping and preparation. She is working, serving others. And she was noting intently how others were preparing. We each have our own favorite reasons to stand back as well.

How do we take the next step? What does it feel like to move from a place of observant witness to active participant in this most marvelous and miraculous birthday celebration of all time?

First, we observe that we are witnessing a call to join in. The prophets call us to hope, the Baptist calls us to prepare, Mother Mary calls us to remember that “The one who is coming,” (in Fr. Gabriel’s magnificent sermon from Advent 01) “is Coming to me and is Coming for me.” This Advent call tells us that salvation is coming towards us in history, in life, in decision. We will meet it, ready or not.

Second, we observe that those who shared in the first advent of Christ, like those who will be filled with joy at the final advent of Christ, are those who are moving in light of the good news that has reached them. Mary and Joseph’s public and private response to heavenly heralds and holy dreams, Elizabeth’s (and John’s) response to the presence of the incarnating Lord under her roof, the trek to Bethlehem, the shepherds’ journeys, angels dispatched with oracle and song, Magi (patiently waiting for Epiphany-tide) and all the others who heard and hoped that Messiah’s arrival would be in their day. Or in the days of their children and for the sake of the world. Likewise, we also move towards this coming advent with acts of service, trust, eating and praying that connect our daily living with eternal promises.

Supernatural grace sanctifying mundane spaces. Glorious routines of fidelity and hospitality.

“The King is coming” fills every task with dignity and expectation. Then.  And now.

This is one reason it is so great to see you all greet new friends at Fezziwig’s, hear you help your children learn the songs for the Christmas pageant next weekend, select gifts with prayerful revelry and generous service for refugee families and go about the usual seasonal opportunities with faith and expectation. It moves you into participation. Big leaps, small steps, all welcome.

One way you can continue to participate is by praying for Charlotte Louise Blackston, who will be baptized this Sunday. This little one has already been the object and recipient of many, many answered prayers. And like our other recent baptisms; Alise, Avery, Cameron, Christopher, Caleb, Laura, Valentina and Ian, she will need the community of faith to be both witnesses as she receives the sacrament of new birth, but also participants as she grows in the life of grace and faith in Jesus Christ. Stepping toward Advent’s invitation is a step towards community, changed by the grace of Christmas for the sake of others around us. Don’t miss this chance to step into Advent’s invitation.

Grace and certain hope,


PS- Today is the ten-year anniversary of ordination for Tyrone Harvey, Todd Hare, Charlie Vensel and myself. We were each ordained deacons by Bishop Sandy Greene here at New Covenant in an evening service with Nick Johnson ordained to the priesthood. Many thanks to God, my family, and this parish community for the opportunity to serve Him with you in this place. Many thanks to good and godly friends here and in the heavenly Jerusalem whose faithful prayers have made these years fly past in steep and open places. Thank you.

We Wait… An Advent reminder.

December 9th, 2016 by

Advent – a season of waiting, anticipation. I just wanted to share a little snippet from my devo that touched my heart. I think we can all agree that all is not well (yet) in this world. We long for His coming…

From “Seeking God’s Face” devo: “More than just remembering Christ’s first arrival, Advent hopes for Christ’s second coming. Advent is a season of expectant waiting, tapping into the sense we have that all is not well, the longing for the world to be made right again. It’s a season for restless hearts and people weary of a broken world who want, with all our being, to know there’s more than this.

Advent cultivates in us a discerning eye, helping us to spot the sin that clutters our lives and notice all the ways we need to be saved. By helping us to hope intensely for restoration, to feel our own need to be saved, Advent prepares us for genuine Christmas joy and faith in the One who saves us from our sin, Jesus.”

I’m asking that He bless you with peace and joy this season,

Much love,


One of Our Missionary Partners


P.S. Keep an eye on your snail mailbox!! I’ve sent out a newsletter. It should reach you before Christmas.

African Refugee Christmas Party

December 9th, 2016 by

December 17, 2016

11:00 am-3:00 pm

The African Refugee Christmas Party

Summit Church

Herdon Campus735 Herndon Avenue, Orlando, FL 32803



December 9th, 2016 by

Originally sent to the parish via email 12-2-16.

Do you believe in angels? I mean, like the angels we read about throughout the Bible? Especially at Advent and the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus, angels appear everywhere. We sing carols about them, see them on Christmas cards, and in pageants. But are they real today?

This Sunday at the 10 AM service, I want to share with you how I came to believe that angels were and still are real. We will discuss who they are, how many there might be, what God calls them to do, and share several recent angelic encounters that cause me to say, “I believe!” Hope to see you Sunday!

Larry (more…)


December 9th, 2016 by

Originally sent to parish via email 11-26-16.

We begin Advent with the familiar Gospel of Matthew on the second coming of the Lord instead of his first coming which seems more logical for Advent. The point would be to highlight the importance of understanding both comings as mutual meaningful and fulfilling; this is a very strong, unbreakable relationship similar to the one we see between the Old and The New Testament.



December 9th, 2016 by

Originally sent to parish via email on 11-18-16

Thanksgiving is always an opportunity. It isn’t thanks-taking or thanks-taxing.

The calendar may schedule it, the Pilgrims and Native Americans may model it, but you can eat turkey, even pumpkin pie, without it. Manners or situations may expect it, but no one may demand it.

This past week, the Thursday small group spent some time looking at the Psalms of Thanksgiving that are sprinkled through the Psalter. Examples include Psalms of individuals like Psalm 18, 30, 31, 32, 40, 66, 92, 116, 118, 120 and Psalms for the community like Psalm 65, 66, 107, 118, 124, 129. (Here is a helpful chart that describes how these psalms are structured.)



December 9th, 2016 by

Originally sent to the parish via email 11-11-16

Holding hands is huge, isn’t it? From the reach atop the Sistine Chapel to two lovers walking down their lane, to symbols of unity, caring, victory: holding hands means a lot, conveys a lot, says a lot.

The other Sunday morning our grandson Emmett reached out for hands on the first note of the Lord’s

Prayer. Barbara saw it and later shared it with me. We both thought it was huge because we saw it as an outward and visible sign that the Sunday morning liturgy was shaping, training, forming, and “recreating”* his soul. And that is huge!



December 9th, 2016 by

Originally sent to the parish via email 11-4-16.

What do All Saints’ Sunday, the Baptisms of Three Bravo Siblings and the Upcoming Presidential Election Have in Common?

Sounds like the start of a corny joke, doesn’t it? Few people would argue about the positive effects the saints’ lives have had on our eternal progress as Christians. The same holds true with the baptisms. We at least cognitively grasp that the decision to follow Christ and the subsequent submersion in water of each of the Bravo children constitutes a rebirth into the family of all believers.


Expected Delivery Date

December 9th, 2016 by

Originally sent to the parish via email 10-28-16

Tracking numbers are great to help you know the route your package from Oregon is taking on its way to your house. They are great if you want to know when to be home to sign for something. You can take some measure of comfort while things are moving from place to place. They keep you “in the know.” They assure you that your item is “en route.”