About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Be Prepared

2016-12-18 Matthew 01 18-25 "Be Prepared"

"Be Prepared"

The whole theme of the season of Advent is to "Be Prepared" for the birth of Jesus.

That's what we've been doing the past 3 weeks in worship: getting prepared.

We've lit candles. One for hope, one for peace, the pink one for joy, and today one for love. We haven't lit the tall, white one in the middle yet.

Remember the Children's Sermon when I asked the kids, "What do we call the tall candle in the middle?"?

And one hollered back: "The Santa candle!"

Close enough.

We've lit candles. The choir sang a magnificent Cantata. We've had a potluck dinner. The handbells and chimes have rung.

And we've brought gifts. Pledges for 2017. Offerings for Gatlinburg. Baskets of food for the hungry. Socks for the sockless.

We've decorated the church as a gift of love to praise God and to remind us – to remind us what the season's about. All this is to remind us what the season's about. It's not about shopping. Not parties. Not the sacred tradition of arguing with our relatives. Not politics. Not even football, although we couldn't be happier for Florida Atlantic.

All this, all these activities, all these weeks are to remind us that the season is all about Getting Ready. It's all about Being Prepared. It's about preparing our hearts, preparing our homes, preparing our minds, our spirits, our souls for the birth of Christ the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Jesus the Messiah, Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace – one a lowly child born in a manger to bring salvation to all the earth.


The scriptures are filled with preparation. God sent prophets. God sent great signs. God sent Isaiah and Ezekiel and John the Baptist to tell everybody to Be Prepared.

And were they? After generation upon generation of getting the people ready, were they ready? Really?

When you read the Bible, you see that they were sort of ready, but not really. Mary wasn't ready. Matthew says she was "found to be with child from the Holy Spirit." Not something you can be ready for. Joseph wasn't ready. He wondered, "What should I do?" Not what he was expecting. And despite the preaching of John by the River Jordan, the world wasn't ready, not for this kind of Savior, not a child, not a vulnerable infant God.

That's the way God comes into the world. Even if we THINK we're prepared, we're not. Not really. Nobody is ever really prepared for the Advent of God.

Advent isn't one day. Advent is a season. Truth be told, we could make Advent not four weeks but fifty-one, and we still wouldn't be truly prepared. Because to Be Prepared is always a "Be" not an "Am."


Dennis McCurry has spent forty-three years teaching the Boy Scouts of Troop 457 to Be Prepared. Corey Pelton is one of the 30+ Eagle Scouts the Troop has produced. Corey grew up and became a pastor, and that got my attention. So I wrote him, and asked him about Being Prepared.

And this is what he said:

I always felt duped by the Scout Law. It reads like this:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

I know no scout whose true duty it is to fulfill the Scout law. To say it, yes. To fulfill it, no. Certainly not me. I could never meet up to such a high standard. In reality, we ought to have a revised Scout law:

A scout is sometimes trustworthy, occasionally loyal, can be helpful, wants to be friendly…
when in the presence of a girl . . . courteous, frequently kind, reluctantly obedient, often cheerful, rarely thrifty, feigns brave, sort of clean, and honestly mostly ir-reverent.

You see… Scouts are in process of "being prepared."

Dennis McCurry has been mightily used in that process.

My favorite breakfast is a steak and egg biscuit from Hardees because that's what Dennis bought me on the way to the Clinch River to duck hunt one October in early wood duck and teal season.

I love the idea of fly fishing for trout (idea because I still stink at it) because Dennis taught me to tie flies and build my own fly rod.

I hate water skiing, but that's not because of Dennis. I got up waterskiing for the first time being pulled by Dennis on Ft. Loudon lake. I just don't like waterskiing.

I often tell the story of plucking ducks using melted paraffin, because Dennis took me hunting and later melted the vat of wax and showed me how to peel the ducks like an orange.

I long to paddle the lakes of Canada again because Dennis organized us to take multiple trips on those beautiful lakes . . . though portage you must.

I like smallmouth fishing more than fishing for pike, because Dennis taught me to appreciate the battle more than the brawn and the fillets more than the bones.

I like brook trout over all other trout species, because they are what we caught on Eagle Creek. The miles and elevation were worth the beauty of one five inch brook.

When I take my family camping we use a dutch oven to cook chicken, pineapple upside down cake, sweet potatoes, etc. because Dennis taught me how to load it with charcoal and leave it for the day only to come back to camp with dinner hot and ready.

I could go on, and on, and on.

You see, Dennis was a vital part of the process of my being prepared for life . . . of growing up.

I know I am just one of many. But I know that he gave much of his time and life for that young boy who was hungry to learn and who still appreciates the countless hours of Dennis' service to Boy Scout Troop 457.
Ironically, while I was on the path of earning merit badges, the most significant thing I learned through scouting was that my merit earned meant absolutely nothing in the eyes of God.

One scout meeting evening Dennis invited a friend to come teach, what I thought, was another way to add a notch in my belt toward being the perfect Eagle scout. It turned out to be a diagnostic of my heart and my soul.

What would I say to God when I died? Why should I enter into heaven? My answer was basically that I had done good enough. On my scale, my merit was weightier than my demerit.

Dennis' friend opened the Bible and read passages that revealed my true heart. I could never do enough to gain God's favor. I could never earn enough merit to merit His attention. I was prideful and thought myself greater than others because of what I thought I had earned. But then I heard the good news of from where real preparedness comes: "For our sake, God made Jesus His Son (who knew no sin) to be sin on our behalf, so that in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God." God exchanged the merit of Jesus for my demerits. Now not only can I not fetch God's love through my good attempts at merit, but my demerits are not held against me. That news changed the course of my life forever.

We are not prepared through becoming better people. We are prepared through faith in One who was prepared for us through His birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Through scouting, God has used Dennis McCurry to prepare the way for true life for me and countless others. Whether he knows it or not, he has been an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer. I am forever grateful.

- Corey Pelton, December 2016


I have always loved how the first people to follow the star and visit the baby were shepherds. Time and again the people God chooses are simple shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks, guiding them, leading them, caring for them.

Not even the shepherds, though, were really prepared. The angels appeared and "stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified."

They were terrified, but they went. They were unworthy, but they followed. As unprepared as they were, they saw.

And after they saw, "…the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them."

Like the shepherds, we're all in the process of being prepared. We're not there, yet. We never will be, not totally. But in the meantime, God gives us signs and seasons, and our own shepherds, some in Scout uniforms, to guide us and care for us along the way.

Be Prepared. Be prepared for Christmas, as much as you can. Be prepared for the Advent of Christ in your life, today, tomorrow, as the Spirit pleases. As much as you can. Help others Be Prepared.

And then, if you can Be Prepared for something, Be Prepared to glorify and praise God for all you have heard and seen.

The Boy Scout motto is: Be Prepared.
As people of faith we are Being Prepared.
Not by our own works, but by the will of God.
By God's love, God's hope, God's peace, and God's joy, we are prepared for the light of Christ.
Be as prepared as you can.
And then, be amazed.