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New 2018 Advent devotional: A love story of those with special needs

 

Presbyterians Today publishes ‘God Lifts the Lowly’ based on Mary’s Song of Praise

 By Donna Frischknecht Jackson | Presbyterians Today

LOUISVILLE – As a pastor, I am reminded weekly during Sunday’s prayers of people that life is not easy. I listen as those in the pew ask for comfort, guidance, healing and hope. I listen, and then I pray for our laments to turn into songs of praise.

Mary had a song of praise — one that thanked God for looking favorably upon her and the plight of her people — and so in planning this year’s Advent devotional, I thought it was fitting to hear from Mary and to be reminded once again that God sees us, hears us and is with us always. 

Presbyterians Today’s new Advent devotional for 2018 is based on verse 52 from Mary’s Song of Praise — also known as The Magnificat —found in Luke 1: He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.

After reading verse 52, I began thinking about my low moments in life and how God raised me up out of the muck. I began thinking about all those who have gifted me with their songs of praise — beautiful notes of God looking on them with mercy. I especially began thinking about the special-needs saints God has brought into my life, and how their songs of praise, sung amid adversity, made me realize God has a song for us all. It doesn’t matter who we are or what our circumstances or challenges might be. Songs of praise can come from our lips.

Just ask Andrew Weatherly, who wrote the poems and created the original oil paintings for this devotional. Andrew was in my Sunday school class while I was a seminary intern at South Presbyterian Church in Bergenfield, New Jersey. Born with Down syndrome, Andrew hasn’t let anything stop him, and he now uses his art to raise awareness of the capabilities of those with special needs. Recently, Andrew was inducted into Closter, New Jersey’s Hall of Fame. His name now displayed on a wall in the library next to the names of professional athletes, actors, scientists, doctors, professors and other artists.

Kris Van Tatenhove joins me in writing this devotional. The father of a special-needs son, Krin knows what it is like to fight “the system” so that his son can have the same opportunities as those who are labeled “normal.” Krin and I have spoken about the challenges and blessings of those who are called “different” and we find ourselves often wondering who can define “normal.”

As for me, this project is close to my heart. I have a special-needs brother who struggles to find his place in the world. Born in the 1960s at a time when doctors, teachers, social workers, even my parents, didn’t know what do with him, his time of Advent waiting seems endless. It’s hard at times to keep the faith that God is working on my brother’s song of praise. But isn’t that what the season of Advent invites us to do — to trust God even in our darkest days?

May this devotional, inspired by Mary’s song, be an Advent blessing to you. May it be the reminder we need that no matter what, God lifts us up. And so, get ready to sing a song of praise!

God Lifts the Lowly is now in stock in the PC(USA) church store. For additional information and to order, visit pcusa.org/2018advent.

Donna Frischknecht Jackson is editor of Presbyterians Today and a rural ministry networker in Washington County, New York.


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