Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Advent Meditations - 2001
2001 is supposed to have been the year we would go on a Space Odyssey, a la Stanley Kubrick, into infinity. Instead, we have gone on another kind a trip: a journey into terror, rage, fear, anger, grief, sadness, and uncertainty.
How should Christians respond to the evil of September 11, 2001? We are confronting a demonic form of what Rudolf Otto called the mysterium tremendum: a mystery which terrifies and repels us, what Paul called (2 Thess. 2:7), the "mystery of iniquity" (or lawlessness").
This demonic mystery is not the only, or most fundamental, kind of mystery. Otto's full description of the object of our profound religious experience is mysterium tremendum et fascinans - the mystery that both terrifies us because of holiness, it also fascinates us, draws us to itself because its Otherness is also supremely lovely. Paul speaks of this kind of mystery as well (Col. 2:2-3): "may you have...the riches of...the knowledge of God's mystery, Christ himself...." The mystery of God is also the mystery of our salvation, because we experience God's mystery in Christ.
One of the ways the Colossians expressed this mystery was in music: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God" (Col. 3:16). Consequently, this Advent season, many of our members have expressed their response to the demonic mysterium of September 11 with hymn texts (set to familiar hymn tunes) which give voice to the beneficent mysterium of God's love for us in Christ.
Long before September 11 (actually back in February), Rowan Claypool submitted some wonderful stories from his experience of organizing and leading the CHBC "Choir That Shows Up," which carols along Frankfort Avenue in the evenings before Christmas. These stories, along with these original hymns, and some other reflections, constitute this year's Advent book.
May these daily readings deepen your commitment to and strengthen your discipleship with the One whose birth we now celebrate.
Bill Thomason, editor
I wrote these verses in response to the tragic events of September 11. They are meant to be expressions of my hope and faith in a future that will overcome fear.
Sunday, December 2, 2001
GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
Tunes: ST. LOUIS or FOREST GREEN (O Little Town of Bethlehem)
A child is born in Bethlehem while angels hover near,
And few are those who hear His cry e'en now upon the ear.
But if you trust His quiet call and offer Him your fear,
He'll give to you His peace and love, this Christ of hope and cheer.
GIFT OF LIFE
Tunes: ST. LOUIS or FOREST GREEN (O Little Town of Bethlehem)
O Christ, who knows my every fear, and feels my special pain,
Who promises all peace and joy within my heart to reign.
I turn to you in confidence with faith made strong in strife
And offer you in humbleness my dedicated life.
September 23, 2001
Crescent Hill Caroling:
Monday, December 3, 2001
Dashing Through the Snow
For a number of years members of the Crescent Hill Baptist Church have caroled along Frankfort Avenue. The group that convenes for three or four nights each year can best be described as "The Choir that Shows Up." It includes everyone willing to walk and sing and does not discriminate based on talent, though we have discovered over time that having some good singers in the group is a big asset. It is a humble effort to reach out and spread Christmas cheer to our neighbors along Frankfort Avenue.
Sometimes it snows. Snow quiets the soul. It hushes the clamor of the Christmas season, gentles the spirit. Our footsteps crunch as we hit the pavement. My son John plays by throwing snow in the air and letting it drop back on his face. It is Christmas time. A time to reflect. A time to renew. A time to give. Mostly for me, it is a time to sing. The long strand of Frankfort Avenue lies ahead of us-off we go.
Tuesday, December 4, 2001
O Come All Ye Faithful
Phone calls, mailed invitations, notices in the bulletin, and word of mouth. All this effort to get up a choir. Why is it so hard? It's a busy time of year I tell myself, but look at the opportunity, the adventure! All I ask is one night in the whole Christmas season to spend caroling to literally hundreds of folks.
But every night I feel the same anxiety in the pit of my stomach. The questions repeat: will anyone come, will I have to sing alone? The same anxiety every night. But look-here come Darrell, Reba, Elaine, Deanna, Mera Sue, Kevin, Mera Katherine, and John. Yes, we will have enough. "The Choir that Shows Up" has arrived. Once again God has provided just enough to do his work, just in the nick of time-so why do I worry?
"Emmanuel: God is With Us
Wednesday, December 5, 2001
"Emmanuel. God is with us. That is the homily,...that's all."
Then - Silence...
Emmanuel-Yes, God IS with us.
I sat and experienced church.
The sights: the manger, the cross, the wood in the church; the candles and the tiny lights on three Christmas trees; the poinsettias, the greenery and the garland; the good old '70's two-fingered, v-shaped peace sign, when it was time to pass the peace; and probably 100 children crowded around the priest for the children's sermon.
The sounds: the organ, the piano, the songs from the choir; a baby's soft (and then not so soft) cry; the rustling pages of the hymn books; the priest's tenor voice as he sang the Mass; a child's stage whisper (after 70 minutes), "Only one more minute, right?"
The smells: the incense; candle wax; evergreen boughs.
The feel: of the pew and the cushion; and of hands, as friends greet and as lovers, spouses, parents, and children sat close together.
The taste: of communion, and of the chocolates distributed during the children's sermon.
Yes, God IS with us
O, come, O come Emmanuel! And share with us, bring us together, and fill us with the ultimate Peace!
Thursday, December 6, 2001
INTO A WARRING WORLD:
A Christmas Hymn for 2001
Tune: CRANHAM (In the Bleak Mid-winter)
Into a warring world, comes the Prince of Peace,
Born of Jesse's lineage, the prophecy complete.
In His peaceful Kingdom lions feed with lambs;
For He is peace incarnate reaching for our hands.
Into a deepening darkness, comes the Son of Light;
He is Mary's baby born on Christmas night.
Angels tending tell us, "Do not fear;
He will shine forever and be forever near."
Weighted by our sorrow, we long for joy once more
And stumble on by starlight through a stable door.
There we gaze on God's face, smiling at our own
And kneel in joy and wonder that we are welcomed home.
--Janet G. Tharpe
October 28, 2001
Friday, December 7, 2001
In the Bleak Midwinter...yet what I can I give him, my heart
It was pouring rain; however, because it was warm I insisted we press on. The kids ran in the puddles and stayed as far as possible away from the adults under umbrellas. My son in particular was committed to getting thoroughly soaked. I made the group go on because I sensed something special would happen tonight.
As we turned at Genny's Diner to start the wet trek home, we made a stop in Rascal's, a dark bar with a low ceiling and a narrow passage past the bar to pool tables in the back. The only light was the profusion of beer signs and two TV's airing the day's horse races around the country. There was not a single patron in the place. So we sang to the bartender. At first he was a little taken aback, but then it began to sink in that this "joyful noise" was just for him. He cried. Huge tears ran down his face as the women sang a few of his favorites. He wouldn't let us go without coffee to warm out long walk home. I have never seen him again, but I know God used "our best" to bless this man's Christmas.
Saturday, December 8, 2001
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
The three steps up to the front door belie the enormity of the barrier to our entry. She has never been in a place like this: The Longshot Saloon. The Longshot is a slightly seedy watering hole on our route. But this was our first year; we have never attempted this before. We didn't know how we would be received in a place like this, how the patrons would respond to carolers.
But for her, the apprehension was more personal. She is a pillar in the Baptist Church, a deacon, and a lady. Sensing her hesitation I said, "Jesus would go in," (and I believe he would). Buoyed by the group and this encouragement, we all entered to discover our best audience yet. They even made a request: "Happy Birthday" for their friend turning 40.
Thank God that He didn't judge our worthiness before He sent His son to dwell among us.
Sunday, December 9, 2001
Tonight the Sky is O, So Bright
Tunes: ST. LOUIS or FOREST GREEN
(O Little Town of Bethlehem)
Tonight the sky is O, so bright,
The stars shine up above.
Their brightness beams to one great sight
that leads to one great Love.
The Love of God descended
to earth that glorious night
To fill our hearts with one accord
with Love, God's pure delight.
In troubled times we seek you, Lord,
To feel your light anew.
Help us through Love to drop the sword,
In hope to turn to you.
O, Lord, our hearts are heavy,
But still we seek your light.
Through birth and childhood, youth and age,
We praise your name tonight.
--Hilda Dean, 2001
Monday, December 10, 2001
Silent Night...Angels Sing, Alleluia
He was taking the last drag of his cigarette as we exited Heine Brothers. A rough looking guy of 30 something with the hard hands of a working man.
He said he used to carol in Crescent Hill years ago, but now he lives across town. We asked him to join us, but he demurred. We persisted and finally he gave in. He informs us he can only sing one song and it is a solo. We say fine. (Once again someone had confused us with an actual choir.)
On each of the next few stops we sing our usual repertoire and step back to give him the floor. His one song is "Silent Night," sung in a soft tenor voice. Everyone is mesmerized by him. You could hear a pin drop. We left him in one of the bars; a man with one glorious song to sing to his Maker.
Tuesday, December 11, 2001
In the Bleak Mid-winter
Everyone was cold as we gathered in the Birchwood entrance. Rightly so, it was 15 degrees. Murmurs of mutiny were beginning. But not tonight. This was a special night of caroling, added at the last minute. I know that even though the "earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone," a warmth beyond measure lay ahead. The faces of our audiences were radiant. Their attention and applause broke the cold outside. Just "as in bleak mid-winter a stable sufficed for our Lord God Almighty" a warm spirit sufficed for us too and warmed us from within.
Wednesday, December 12, 2001
God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
We knock for ages. First, the front door of the fire station, then the back. They never expect us, but finally we catch someone's eye and they open up. It's always like entering into a living room. A video is usually on and some men are generally cleaning up, yet they always welcome us. One or two float down from upstairs where they sleep, one or two come up from the basement. We sing to the firemen that protect our neighborhood. We share the story of the life that was given to save us all. I think the firemen understand the meaning of the story better than we do, these men that risk their lives to save others.
Thursday, December 13, 2001
He's got the Whole World in His Hands
Although there are many passages in our Bible about not loving this passing world and its sensual pleasures, the Koran is obsessed with the glory of getting out of this vain world and into the Paradise of the next. To Mohammed, the heresy of Christianity was not that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. Rather, the Prophet couldn't conceive of Allah's begetting a Son - equal in divinity - and being sullied by the messiness of birth and the helplessness of being a baby.
Yet, one of the scandals of the Christian faith is that God did just that. Citing or creating a hymn of the early church, Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:6-11 that Christ Jesus "did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are..." And then for the next thirty plus years, the Christ mixed it up with his creation tasting the joys and the sufferings. He got his hands dirty. He still does. Indeed, He's got the whole world - the good and the bad - in His hands!
God's incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ inspires us not to set up the false dichotomy of choosing between this world OR the next, but rather allows us with love and thanksgiving to embrace enthusiastically this world AND the next. This is God's creation, and through His Spirit the work of the world continues through the activities of butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and the whole host of people creatively engaged in honest work and play. The whole world's in His hands. Hallelujah!
Praise be to God incarnate in Jesus Christ, and thanks for Your creation and gifts to us.
Friday, December 14, 2001
Joy to the World the Lord is Come
He rushed out of the far dining room of the Irish Rover to hear us. We always sing in the big room because it is so crowded. In fact, we usually have to dodge waitresses with food and folks coming in and out of the restrooms. It's tough to find your space sometimes.
But he came out from the back room to hear us more clearly. He sings along, his smile infectious as he belts out the lyrics. In a moment his wife joins too, hugging his ample waist while he embraces her shoulders. On our final song: "Oh Holy Night," he begins to cry as he mouths the words. We don't know his wounds or his struggles. But God does, and God touches his heart in a busy, noisy season.
Saturday, December 15, 2001
We Three Kings
We love treats, we carolers. Caroling is hard work. We walk and sing for about 2 hours so we really work up an appetite. Certainly, by the time we reach Sweet Surrender on the return leg we look hungry. Originally built as a Toll House on the Louisville-to-Frankfort Road, the historic building feels like a house. The entry foyer is the perfect room for us.
The sound of our voices fills the room like a great chorus. The staff always stops their baking. They come out of the kitchen in their aprons, covered in flour. Thankfully, they always sense that long-suffering hungry look in our eyes and offer up some of the night's latest goodies. Not exactly a meal of loaves and fishes, but a sweet treat to keep the troubadours going.
Sunday, December 16, 2001
BROTHERS, SISTERS, HEAR THE STORY
Tune: REGENT SQUARE (Angels, from the Realms of Glory)
Or PICARDY (Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence)
Brothers, sisters, hear the story,
Of the Babe of Bethlehem.
Sent by God for all the ages,
Wondrous gift this Christmas morn:
Listen, listen, every creature,
Listen to this wondrous news.
Sisters, brothers, believe the story,
Of the King born wee and bare,
Long awaited blessed infant,
Needing Mary's tender care;
Listen, listen, every creature,
Listen to this wondrous news.
Brothers, sisters, tell the story,
Tell your children, everyone.
Th'incarnate Word is now among us,
God has sent his only Son;
Listen, listen, every creature
Listen to this wondrous news.
--Nancy A. Howard
Monday, December 17, 2001
Silver Bells, Silver Bells its Christmas time in the city
The door is locked because it is always after closing time. But she hurries to let us in. On the first night of each season she greets us so warmly: "We have been waiting for you." Tonight, she recognizes Darrell from a picture in the newspaper. She makes us feel like honored and long awaited guests.
I imagine Simeon must have acted the same way on the temple steps in Jerusalem. He was destined to recognize the Messiah, but the wait was long and he was growing old. Yet, like the owner of Jerry Hestons, Simeon smiled and welcomed Christ, the infant, into the temple fulfilling the prophecy. Then he proclaimed to the multitude: "come see the Messiah, the long awaited King."
Tuesday, December 18, 2001
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
A good exit is just as important as a good entrance. Therefore, we never overstay our welcome. Crowds get a little restless after three songs. The athletes in the fitness center return to their weights. The hair stylist start-up their blow dryers again, fearing their customers' hair might dry naturally. The busboys start to clear the dishes after a respectful pause.
So we sing our exit tune: "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and head out into the cool might for the next stop down the street.
What Child is this...whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Paul is so tall that he has to duck under every doorway. He anchors the back corner of the choir, solid as a backstop. He sings with a clear gentle voice. I imagine the shepherds centuries ago had to duck under the doorway just like Paul to enter into the stable that housed the manger. They too, I imagine, stood in the back, awed as they witnessed the humble power of the Christ on that first Christmas morning, an infant yet a King.
Wednesday, December 19, 2001
Little Drummer Boy
Not everyone wants to carol, especially my 8-year-old son John. To say he is a reluctant participate is putting it mildly. Actually, he is not so much a participant as a satellite, circling the group at a safe distance. He is a gyrating ball of energy, only barely in our company. Mera Sue tells him that he will always remember these nights with his Dad. He shoots her a look as if to say, "If you only knew what my memory will be."
No parent ever knows which experiences in his child's life will stick, make an indelible mark, or which ones will fly-by, lost forever. My hope is that John will remember these nights with fondness. My fear is that he will recall them with dread. But I am not in charge; God is. I must trust my parenting into His hands.
Thursday, December 20, 2001
Here Comes Santa
Santa drives a Volvo. How do I know, you may ask? Because he almost ran over us pulling into the parking lot. He was Santa for sure: portly, tall and full of good cheer and most importantly he was in a Santa suit. He was fresh from a pre-Christmas office party on his way to meet some friends.
Somehow, we got him to join us along the way. He would stride into the room waving his hand, shaking hands with the men, pinching the children's cheeks as we would sing a medley of Santa songs. Everyone thought this was the show, not knowing it was just an accident of timing. So with a Volvo-driving Santa we spread some cheer.
Oh, Holy Night
A duet. Two young voices with such wonderful talent. Their sweet notes settle the chaotic noise of the Irish Rover. The rest of us join in, add some bulk to their duet in the noisy room, but I know it is their voices God wants to hear as He listens to the world tonight. Two angels loaned to us.
Friday, December 21, 2001
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
The entire Heine family wore Santa hats. Four big red hats with white fur around the edge and a huge white ball on the floppy top. It had never occurred to the veterans of "The Choir that Shows Up" to dress up for caroling. But the caps made a statement. Just like Rudolph's nose those hats led us through the night's inky blackness showing we were on a special mission. The hats elevated the entire choir and lighted everyone's hearts.
I Wonder as I Wander...
He sits in the same seat, holding up the corner of the bar. He doesn't sing along or mouth the words like the others do, but he does straighten his back and sit up tall in his stool. I imagine he has held up the corner of that bar for years, stooped over from its weight. But tonight we lighten his load a little. I believe he is glad to see us.
Saturday, December 22, 2001
Away in the manger...the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head
He sits high on the barstool in his mother's lap. His big blue eyes are unflinching in their stare at this motley crew of holiday singers. His mother attempts to talk to him, explain who we are; but he knows who we are, we were sent to sing to him. Every night it is the same, an intense stare and a lively clap changed the world forever.
Hark the Herald, Angels sing
Applause. What a great feeling. We have just started our first event. The choir is always apprehensive, tentative before Porcini's, but the applause wakes us to the pleasures of singing. We are set for another great night of Caroling on Frankfort Avenue.
Sunday, December 23, 2001
HEAVEN CAME TO EARTH
Tune: GERMANY (All Things Are Yours)
Heav'n came to earth in Bethlehem's stall
When Christ was born the Savior of us all.
He came to save us from Satan's snare,
We praise our God for his kind, loving care.
In Bethlehem there was not a room,
Jesus was born in a stable's dark'ning gloom.
In manger low, where he did lay
In swaddling wrapped, kept warm in the hay.
While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
Angels broke forth in glorious light.
Their alleluias the earth did ring,
"Peace to all people," their voices did sing.
And from the East, men came from afar,
Following the light of the bright and shining star.
We join in worship with all to say,
"Rejoice! For Christ born on Christmas Day."
--Lance Springs, 2001
Monday, December 24, 2001
A NEWBORN BABY
A newborn baby, looking around, reaching out and smiling,
Alert and watchful with sparkling eyes,
Your fingers long and your hair so dark
What will you look like when you are grown?
Tall or short, thin or round, a smile or a frown upon your face.
What will you be when you're grown up?
A doctor, lawyer, or basketball player?
A farmer, poet or engineer?
What kind of light to mankind will you be?
Another baby, so long ago,
Smiling, kicking, looking around,
Seeing shepherds and sheep,
Kings and donkeys gazing upon him.
What would we have thought of you?
And would we have wondered about your future, too?
Would we have known you then as the Wise Men and shepherds knew?
Knew that the Light of the world had been born that night.
Tuesday, December 25, 2001
The Gift of Presence
Don came to the Open Bible class because Dr. Barnette invited him. None of us had known him before. Tall, slender, patrician, his open, smiling, countenance kept me from noticing his thinning white hair and the frailty that later grew more pronounced. In class Don looked directly at people when they spoke, intently (often nodding and smiling in response), asked thoughtful, probing, questions, and thanked Dr. Honeycutt more than once for the lesson outline each Sunday. Don was genuinely interested in the Bible and the things we talked about.
Obviously well educated, articulate, and sophisticated, Don had a broad knowledge of life, yet could identify with the simple, humble, and down-home. Once Dr. Barnette told of writing a book on loneliness as a causal factor in some mental illness, because, "at the time the only people interested in loneliness were country-western singers." He paused as if trying to think of a song title. I suggested "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and Don added "I'm So Lonesome I Could Die." We knew we meant something to him and he to us.
I learned of Don's cancer when he was in radiation. Everyone sent him a card. Don later called to thank each of us. Don had missed both our class party and the big party at church honoring Dr. Barnette's 90th birthday. He asked about both and wanted the details. So I described the parties at length. He thanked me for my "vivid reprise," and said he felt as if he had actually been there. It was a conversation I will not easily forget.
The Sunday after his memorial service, we sat in our class and "called to remembrance" our times with Don. Lavern said to me, "He noticed little things." We remembered Easter Sunday when she and I-in departure from the hatless norm at Crescent Hill-wore hats. On entering the class that morning Don chirped, "in their Easter bonnets." Always fully present, fully alive, Don Cooke brought the gift of his presence to our class. He took time to see, to attend, and to value others. It seems to me that this is the first and best gift we can give others. All other good gifts flow from it.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
Advent 2001 © 2001 by Crescent Hill Baptist Church, 2800 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher.
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CRESCENT HILL BAPTIST CHURCH
2800 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
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