Crescent Hill Baptist Church

Advent Meditations - 2002

"By the Love of God
Fully Revealed In the Face of Jesus...."



Christology is that part of theology exploring the person and work of Christ. It answers two questions. Who is Jesus? How does he save us? These are not, in reality, separate. It is because of who Jesus is that he saves us, and it is in his saving actions that we understand who he is.

The two great seasons of Christian celebration -- Advent/Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter/Pentecost -- are Christological in nature. The season now beginning celebrates the person of Christ, emphasizing that Jesus is the Incarnate Word of God. He not only speaks words about God (like Moses and the prophets), he is in his very nature the Word of God, what God wants to say to us.

In the face of Jesus, we see the "face" of God, what God is like in human form. Psalm 80, for the first Sunday of Advent, has this refrain: ". . . let your face shine, that we may be saved." This suggested our theme, from the benediction John Claypool pronounced each Sunday when he was our pastor. It also reminds us of the line which ends the first verse of our Crescent Hill hymn: "Hands beneath us, arms around us, and above Thy shining face." In Advent, we affirm that God's face has shined on us in Jesus and saved us.

The ellipsis in our theme is important. It points beyond our celebration of this immediate season to the one which follows, emphasizing the redemptive work of Christ. The full quotation from the benediction is: "By the love of God, fully revealed in the face of Jesus, you are being redeemed." This last clause will be our theme for Lent, 2003.

We have meditations from a wide variety of our congregation; also some new stories from Rowan Claypool about the Choir That Shows Up. May these reflections, from our life together, deepen our commitment to and strengthen our discipleship with the One whose birth we celebrate and whose face reveals the love of God to us.

Advent 2002 Schedule of activities


In the face of Jesus we see

Sunday, December 1, 2002

2 Corinthians 5:14-19

How many times have my family and I experienced this "love of God revealed in the face of Jesus" these past two months! The face of Jesus has taken many forms -- a note taped to the door, bright flowers, a message ("You're not alone"), a potato casserole, a voice on the phone, a friend being there to help, someone picking up groceries, words of support for Chuck, Kim, Dawn, and Seth, a group gathered for prayer, tapes, books, a gang of folk in the waiting room during surgery, people willing to handle calls and messages. Three hundred words are too few to name all the people or their expressions of care.

I am not about to suggest one needs to get cancer in order to be so overwhelmed with affirmation. God's abundance is promised in the everyday routine, even when we don't claim it. In recent days I have experienced new images of the connection between healing and redemption and experiencing God's love.

Thank you, Church Family, for being God's arms of redemption in the past, the present and in the hope for the future.

-- Fay Leach

May God's face shine through me today. May I live intentionally each precious moment. May I not take anyone or anything for granted. May I live with hope. May I continue to seek purpose and meaning along with my family of faith so that today's hatred and terror can be transformed into love. Amen.

Monday, December 2, 2002

Isaiah 40:9-11

I am running late as usual, worried about who will show up this Thursday night. The e-mail RSVP's have all been negative, but as I turn the corner onto Birchwood Avenue, I am astonished. Everyone it seems is here. This is more than our typical chorus by five times! This is more than the Choir That Shows Up -- this is the Mob That Shows Up! This night, we crowd the sidewalk, overwhelm each restaurant foyer, and spread out a full block between gigs. Tonight, we are a mighty chorus drawn together to make a hugely joyous noise to our Lord.

Isaiah 9:2-7

They are pilgrims, albeit unusual looking ones. Hannah, five, is in a pink coat with matching pink mittens, a long pink and white hat drooping off her shoulder. She bravely walks, bouncing really, the entire route this warm night, a long walk for short legs. Her younger sister, Mary Katherine, three, spends most of her time in her Dad's arms. Her large brown eyes unblinking, as they drink in everyone in the Choir. Their little brother, William, a new-born, rides like a papoose on his Mother's breast. They are pilgrims as surely as shepherds following a distant star or ancient wise men calling on Herod's court. They seek what we all seek: the mystery of how a child, like themselves, was called to change the world.

-- Rowan Claypool

Loving God, in this season of Advent, give us a childlike faith that as you sent choirs of angels for your Son's first coming, you will give us Choirs That Show Up now, to proclaim he still comes in our hearts today. Amen.

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Isaiah 40:25-31

In The Secrets of the Vine, Bruce Wilkinson talks about Peter and the other disciples who are having an evening of fruitless fishing on the Sea of Tiberius (John 21). Peter suddenly hears a voice calling out to him to "cast his nets on the other side." It is Jesus, who has prepared a charcoal fire on the beach for cooking breakfast. As the disciples continue to fish, the nets are loaded, and they pull them to shore. Peter jumps into the water, anxious to get to Jesus whose face he sees through the smoke. Jesus takes some of the fish, prepares them, and then invites the disciples to eat.

This was the third time Jesus had appeared to disciples since leaving the tomb. Jesus instructs Peter and the others at this time to be "fishers of men," enlarging their vision of his calling for them.

For me, an illness some years ago sent me to many sources looking for patience and healing. I read the Bible daily, as well as reading from Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking, to pull myself together. As I prayed during those months, the face of Jesus was often before me. I read Isaiah 40 and asked for strength "to mount up with wings like eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint." In time I was healed and given an enlarged vision of my mission in the world.

-- Blanche Goetzman

Dear Jesus, help us to see your face and aspire to live a more expanded and abundant life in your service. Amen.

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Jeremiah 29:4-14

They were leaving early Saturday to fly half-way around the world: seven members from our congregation headed for mission work in Thailand. On Wednesday evening before their departure, Steve Cole, one of the group shared the itinerary with those gathered for the fellowship meal and prayer meeting. They would be on a plane for a day and a half, then rest briefly before beginning their first project: working with some children from the Palaung tribe to establish a vegetable garden near a stream.

"Wait!" my mind objected. "They are flying all that way to plant a garden with some children?!" What a waste! Here are seven intelligent, well-educated adults, spending their time and a lot of money to fly to the 'ends of the earth.' Surely they can put their talents and skills to better use doing something important!"

Then, from some better place in my brain came these ancient words: ". . . plant gardens and eat what they produce. . . ." This verse halted my other thoughts cold, as I remembered to whom the prophet Jeremiah delivered this message from God: Israel, a displaced and discouraged people, much like the Palaung tribe, trying to survive in a foreign land and culture. God's message was for the children of Israel to make a life for themselves where they were, trusting that God would continue to bless and care for them as surely as season follows season.

"Well," I said to myself, "planting a garden may be the most important project this mission undertakes. It certainly will be the most prophetic, with the precedent Jeremiah set centuries ago."

-- Anonymous

God of Incarnation, who did not just send us the words of prophets but became the Word among us, thank you for coming such a long way to be "God with us." Amen.

Thursday, December 5, 2002

Luke 7:31-35

There is a marvelous little book, The Martin Luther Christmas Book, in which the great reformer reflected on the love, comfort, and wisdom of God, who sent the Savior into the world as a "sweet babe, . . . playing in the lap and at the breasts of his most gracious mother." Who would not take comfort at this sight of mother and child at play?

Luther goes on: "Watch him spring in the lap of the maiden. Laugh with him. See how God invites you in many ways. God places before you a Babe with whom you may take refuge. You cannot fear him. . . . Trust him! To me there is no greater consolation given to humankind than this, that Christ became a man, a child, a babe. Now is overcome the power of sin, death, hell, conscience, and guilt, if you come to this gurgling Babe and believe the Christ is come, not to judge you, but to save."

Throughout my life, I have sensed the love, laughter, and wisdom of God in the face and actions of a child. Think of the stories of Jesus as baby, child, pre-teen.

-- Jesus, a newborn in diapers, placed on a bed of straw.
-- Jesus, adored and sung to by angels, shepherds, and surprised animals.
-- Jesus, visited by Magi who traveled long distances to find him.
-- Jesus, presented at the Temple by his proud parents to Simeon and Anna.
-- Jesus, the twelve-year old, astounding teachers of Israel, not giving a thought to how his parents might be worrying about his three day absence.

In the face of Jesus as a child we see the face of God.

-- C. J. Phipps

Help us see, in the faces of children, the face of Jesus, who was once a child. Amen.

Friday, December 6, 2002

Matthew 19:13-15

He seems to be especially sensitive to the presence of little children. Spotting one, he will move up close, bend down on one knee (as if proposing), and sing just to that child. The kids love this attention and respond with huge smiles. He gives them a carol sung just for them. This man's sensitivity to children has been forged over a lifetime, for he is one who truly knows what it means to bring the little children to the Jesus.

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-10

Brother and sister home from college. They warm our hearts as we recount watching them grow up. By the fourth stop, we persuade them to sing a duet. They sing "Oh, Holy Night" (a real favorite of the organizer of this Choir). The table of twelve, occupying the center of the Dark Star Pool Room, loves it too. Several take pictures, while one videotapes the event. But standing behind Thea and Andrew, I can only hear their words: "Fall on your knees, hear the angels' voices." I surely heard angels in their voices, this holy night at the Dark Star.

-- Rowan Claypool

Dear God, make us sensitive to little children, who may one day grow up to sing with the voice of angels. Amen.

Saturday, December 7, 2002

Hebrews 12:1-2

The writer of Hebrews calls our attention to the cloud of witnesses that encourages us for the race ahead. Chapter 12 links our endurance with the heroes of faith from the previous chapter. However, when I hear this passage now, I no longer think of Hebrews 11, but of my experience at Crescent Hill each week.

When we renovated the sanctuary, I worried about losing the great crowd of witnesses I find here. I wasn't worried the renovation might turn some of us away. Instead, I worried that we might put down a new floor. It is the floor that reminds me of the lives of those who have gone before us. If you are careful, you will see the footprints of those who once inhabited your pew. Many of them are small, caused, I assume, by women who wore high heels with a sharp point. Others form gentle impressions, the marks worn down through years of use.

When we gather, we are God's incarnational representatives for each other. These marks in our floor are visible reminders of those who have gone before us and how they gave time, talent, and money to show God's love to our community. I'm glad we didn't change the floor to make it look modern and inviting. If we had, we would have lost these reminders of those in whose pews we now sit.

However, the more I think about it, the more I worry about the future. In our day of soft-soled shoes, what sort of impression are we making each week? What will encourage those who follow us? For whom are we the incarnational representatives of God's love?

-- Barry Creech

We thank you, God, for those who have gone before us in this place. May we, like them, make such an impression that those who come after will take hope from the marks we've left. Amen.


In the face of Jesus we see

Sunday, December 8, 2002

Numbers 6:25-26

Everyday faces appear before my mind's eye:

Reverend Fred Tucker's smiling face, as he daily walked up Bayly Avenue to catch the bus to downtown and the poor and needy who awaited his loving presence. A long-time member of Crescent Hill, he ministered to the outcasts of our inner city throughout his life.

The kind and anguished face of my husband, Norm, as he sought to meet the physical and spiritual needs of Puerto Rican Christian pilgrims, who had been caught in a horrific act of terrorism, when they arrived at the air terminal in Israel.

The shining face of my grandchild as she held her first candle in the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. "Jesus is my favorite part of Christmas," she said.

The joyful face of a 70 year old mission volunteer who swept and cleaned and then served thousands of Israelis, both Arab and Jew, in the name of Jesus, and after hours massaged the feet of her fellow workers.

The merciful faces and hands of many Crescent Hill members who visited, prayed for, and ministered to my parents during their last days on earth.

In all of these, I see the love of God and the face of Jesus, one and the same.

-- Martha Lytle

Lord, make your face to shine on us and be gracious unto us. Lord, lift up your countenance to us and give us peace. Amen.

Monday, December 9, 2002

Galatians 3:28

In the darkness of the early morning hour
a slight mist rains down

Soon more leaves from the trees will follow suit
joining others on the ground

The chill dampness in the air hovers close like a cloak

There comes the bus -- a welcomed shield from the cold

The driver with short white hair and a round black face smiles:
"I missed you yesterday; were you sick?"

The passengers
a dark face -- eyes closed -- sleeping at first,
but she smiles as she gets off
a young white man with poor vision who looks mostly straight ahead
an Asian-American girl with a worried facial expression
-- she smiles when I greet her.

A sea of faces yields warmth in the midst of cold
A sea of faces yields light -- God's light -- in the midst darkness
A sea of faces all alike in God's eyes, yet so different to my eyes
which are so imperfect.

He came that cold night long ago that we might have more perfect vision
to see him in the faces of all we meet

-- Hilda Dean

Dear God, help us to begin seeing others with your eyes. Amen.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Psalm 4:8

Around an unfortunate number of recent funerals in John's family, we have been impressed with the Roman Catholic rite. During the saying of the rosary, we meditated on Jesus' first miracle at Cana, the Transfiguration, the raising of Lazarus and others (the "luminous mysteries," John Paul II recently promulgated). With our minds circling around these images, the rhythmic repetition of the prayers led to a sense of continuity with those events from Jesus' life and a sense of God's presence, not easily reached in other ways.

Protestant churches have become expert at individualizing funeral services, but Catholics have long been expert at combining the universal nature of such services with a degree of personalization that, taken together, is quite comforting. At the Mass for John's sister-in-law, the priest invited all present to come forward at communion time, but suggested those not wanting to partake could simply cross their hands over their chests to receive a personal blessing instead. At John's mother's funeral, his cousin, Kevin Robb, a Dominican priest, greeted each of the dozen or so mourners by name, calling them to last prayers for "our sister Eileen."

The celebration of the Catholic Mass, focused on the eucharistic meal, combines the universal with a personalized, individual blessing -- the call we are given to name our loved ones in our final prayers. This combination of the universal and the individual helps us sense, not only our own fleeting existence, but also our part in the much larger flow of life. It gives us a sense of God's over-arching presence and compassion.

-- John and Sharleen Birkimer

Thank you, God, that we can find your peace and comfort in rituals and the compassion of others. Amen.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

1 Corinthians 13:12-13

The worst time in my life was learning that my Mimi's lung cancer had spread. The diagnosis came right before her birthday, so we drove to Cadiz for a surprise visit. The house felt particularly strange, as if this was not a birthday but a going-away party. I could not comprehend all my emotions. Most of all, her calm appearance confused me. Mimi knew that she was dying, but knew that there was a place for her in Heaven and that in the end God would take care of everything.

The time came for us to go, and I was so frightened to leave her. I asked her if she was afraid to die. "Why, no," she answered. It did not surprise me. She has always been my role model, because of her relationship with Jesus Christ. Her faith was in everything she did. When I asked her what advice she had for me, she said, "Don't ever be afraid. Ride all the roller coasters."

I looked at my only Mimi, knowing I'd never see her again in this world, and asked, "How can I leave you?" Dad was packing the car, going in and out. As the screen door swung open, she looked at me and answered, "That door is open now. Kiss me quick and just run out that door, and don't you look back." On March 19th, 2000, heaven's door opened wide, and Dora Mae Hargrove Cossey kissed this world quick and didn't look back. From that day on, I have ridden ALL the roller coasters!

-- Mera Kathryn Corlett

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. . . . Oh, and the guts to ride the roller coasters! Amen.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Matthew 5:43-48

We are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a world full of fear, uncertainty, and war. If Jesus, the Prince of Peace, were President of the United States, what would he do? This is no idle, abstract question. Our President declared in his campaign two years ago that Jesus was the political thinker who had most influenced him. So, if Jesus were President, what would Jesus do?

The answer to this question, of course, depends on who we think Jesus is. Here's what I think Jesus would say.

"The attack of September 11, 2001, and all terrorist attacks are acts of unspeakable evil. God does not, under any circumstances, call us to do such things. Those responsible for such acts will be judged and held accountable for their deeds.

"But there is already too much killing in this world. Too many innocent children, women, and men die needlessly, as the result of conflicts that have nothing to do with them, but everything to do with international power politics and greed. I will, therefore, use all legal means available to bring these men to justice. I will create a Department of Peace, whose funding will match dollar for dollar that of the Defense Department. I will appeal to the common humanity we share with all people, as creatures in God's image, to stand with us in this pursuit of justice. But I will not pursue a policy of force that even unintentionally kills innocent human beings."

Jesus is not here to speak for himself. He has asked us, who claim to be his disciples, to do that in his stead. And so, we must answer this question for him.

What would Jesus do?

-- Bill Thomason

Lord, teach us how to love our enemies, even as you have loved us. Amen.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Ephesians 2:13-19

The Choir is so large the firemen have to open the big roll-up doors facing Frankfort Avenue. We sing "Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly," as we file past the two fire engines. Every night we sing to a different shift of the fire department crew. Tonight's group is mostly downstairs and happy to turn off the television. After September 11, we are all more aware of the risks these men take to save the lives of strangers.

This simple thought calls to mind the sacrifice we celebrate in Christ's life and death, which has saved us, who were strangers to God. The halls of the fire station are decked, not with holly, but with holy.

Colossians 3:23-24

Tina runs a little shoe repair shop nestled between the train tracks and Frankfort Avenue. We check every night, but tonight is the first time we have caught her (in a last-minute shoe repair emergency, no doubt). We crowd into her tiny workroom lined with Chuck Taylor high-tops in every imaginable color. We sing to a cobbler, busy at her work, about a carpenter, who was also devoted to his craft, saving humankind.

-- Rowan Claypool

Lord, make us grateful for those whose work-lives of service reflect the work of your Son, our Savior. Amen.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Matthew 11:28-30

She is dressed all in black, with a thin black necktie. She gently folds her arms as she rests her hip against the bar. Usually, the restaurant staff is too busy making drinks and delivering food to listen to our singing. But tonight business is slow In her stead stare, she pays us the highest compliment: she listens, maybe for the first time, to the message of this season. Tonight, she takes a pause from the grind of her work to reflect on what this season means to her.

Psalm 46:10

Our Crescent Hill Hymn says, "not our choice the wind's direction, unforeseen the calm or gale. Thy great ocean swells before us, and our ship seems small and frail." Each year I am struck by the complexity in the lives of my fellow carolers. The world and all its challenges are very much with us. It is ironic that, even though we are in the Choir, we are the ones who need the most to hear these words of hope and peace. Fortunately, singing presents us with a fresh, less rational hearing of the familiar Christmas message. And for me, singing allows the season's power of grace to penetrate the fog of my busy life.

-- Rowan Claypool

Help us, O God, to be still and listen for you in this Advent season. May this season help us pause in the busyness of our lives and feel your presence with us. Amen.


In the face of Jesus we see

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Philippians 4:4-7

Our friend Gary spends most holidays at our house. The rest of the year he lives in a group home for developmentally delayed adults in Brandenburg, KY. Gary looks forward with anticipation to his visit with us at Christmas and the rituals that have become a part of it. When he is with us, he follows David's every move. On Christmas Eve, he and David shop for things on Gary's perpetual wish list: two Elvis Presley CDs, a watch, a ring, and either a cowboy hat or a CD player. On Christmas morning, Gary can hardly wait to see what Santa has left him in his stocking and impatiently waits for the family to gather and open gifts. He opens every gift with total relish and abandon.

The joy continues in sharing Christmas dinner with family and friends. He greets each person as they arrive with a handshake and, if possible, a hug. He gets to sit at David's right at dinner. We know the meal is over when Gary announces, "See, Mrs. Graves, I cleaned my plate."

In our eyes, Christmas has a certain poignancy for Gary. On Christmas Eve, when he had just turned five, his mother committed him to the Kentucky Training Home in Frankfort, KY. His entire childhood and early adulthood were spent in state institutions without family contacts. What a miracle that out of such a lonely life Gary can so joyfully experience the love surrounding the coming of the baby Jesus.

We experience the full meaning of Advent with Gary at our Christmas Eve service. He seems to be engulfed in true anticipation, as he raises his candle and sings, "Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. . . ."

-- Margaret Graves

O Lord, help us, like Gary, to take joy in simple things. Amen.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Luke 2:10

In 1995 while living in Kuwait, Howard and I were invited to spend Christmas in Bangladesh. Our youngest son, Stephen, joined us there. Our last time in Bangladesh was in 1982, the year Steve graduated from Woodstock School in Missouri, India.

Bengali Christians are a minority in this predominately Muslim country. Their celebration of Christmas, called burro din meaning "Big Day," is different from ours in Louisville. There are no stores with reindeers, Santa Clauses ringing bells, and other things we associate with this season. But the true spirit of Advent -- the giving of oneself in love -- is evident everywhere among these Christians. They are poor in material possessions, but rich in spirit.

On Christmas Day, the Savar Baptist Church invited us to a Bengali Christmas dinner, called prem bhoj or "love feast," which is part of their tradition of celebrating the birth of our Lord. Everyone is invited to sit on the floor and eat a traditional Bengali meal of rice, chicken curry, and dhal (a lentil soup put on the rice). That night we went to a kirtan, which means "singing," where we sang Bengali hymns. What a joyous time all of us had as we felt the strong spirit of fellowship with our Bengali brothers and sisters. The language in which we spoke and sung was Bengali, but the spirit of the Advent season was the same that we experience in English at Crescent Hill.

The angel appeared to the shepherds and said, ". . . I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people." As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, let us remember that His birth can bring great joy to ALL people.

-- Maxine Teel

Help us rejoice, Father, in the faith of Christians around the world. Amen.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Psalm 100

When I recruit a caroler, I frequently confront the objection, "I don't sing well." Never impeded by this obstacle -- I can't sing a lick (growing up I was tolerated in choirs only because I was the minister's son) -- I respond that we are told to "make a joyful noise unto the Lord." I'm not a literalist, but in this case I take the Lord at his word. Bliss doesn't necessarily lead to competence, but I love to sing. So, I organize the Choir. I know a subtle but important truth: if you organize it, they can't kick you out. So, with this as our license, we in the Choir That Shows Up, welcome all comers and hit the street for another year to make a joyful noise.

There is a family story about a cousin who died years ago. He sang in the choir of the Lowery Memorial Chapel, Blue Mountain, Mississippi. One Sunday, mesmerized by the final hymn, he kept on singing after the choir had finished. He sang a complete verse by himself: "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, / Prone to leave the God I love. / Here's my heart, O take and seal it, / Seal it for thy courts above." He sang in full voice with his eyes shut. The congregation was a-titter and his family members, pillars of the church, were mortified. Owing to his age and stature in that small community, no one said a word to him. Maybe this is what we all need this Advent season: unfettered abandon to sing God's praise without concern for the consequences. I think this old cousin would fit right in with our caroling on Frankfort.

-- Rowan Claypool

Lord, teach us that it is the joy in our hearts that really counts. Amen

Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Advent Three: JOY

Philippians 1:3-5

It was bitterly cold, probably 10 degrees above zero, with a wind-chill factor of -30 degrees. The streets were icy and very dangerous. I was in St. Joseph's Infirmary on Eastern Parkway, paralyzed on my entire left side with Guillain-Barre syndrome. The night had not been a good one. The nurse had given me a sulfa drug at 2:00 a. m., along with a glass of milk and two saltine crackers, as required. As soon as the crackers went down, they came up again, and the nurse was very angry. She was the only one on duty in whole wing, and now she had to spend precious time changing my bed and cleaning me up. I couldn't get to sleep. Finally, I had the nurse raise the head of my bed and the foot also, and I slept.

When I awoke, I ached all over and felt like a pretzel. My private duty nurse
called in to say she couldn't make it. Fielden called to say he couldn't either and would stay home with the children. I became more and more depressed. I was as low as a snake's belly.

Then, about 3:30 p. m. God sent two angels to see me. As they appeared at the door to my room they looked, talked, and dressed like Hilda and Garland
Spalding. I was so happy to see them, I cried the first five minutes of their visit.

"The love of God, fully revealed in the face of _______ and _______."
You fill in the blanks.

--Gaga Woodward

Dear Lord, help us to see how we can be angels to one another. Amen.

Thursday, December 19, 2002
Advent Three: JOY

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

I tried for years to experience ecstasy
free from deadly addictions:
by keeping religious rules -- 'thou shalt not' --
doing love for the poor, the sick -- 'thou shalt' -
making spiritual vows -- how good I am -

All the while, ecstasy waits for me
to see that it is a gift;
time to let go of trying to earn the right;
to trust that each of us
is God's Beloved.

Ecstasy makes friends of silence;
sings in the heart, like the Hallelujah Chorus
of Handel's Messiah, a melisma of fifteen O's
each "O" another joy;
daring to love one's self for God's sake;
facing down tyrannical conscience;
owning up to failed efforts;
trusting enough to be patient;
aware the Spirit ripens by decades
more clearly than by weeks or months.

In fullness of time
one is aware of being at home, quietly celebrating,
"my will and desire impelled by Love,"
at one with all that is,
whether or not
in ecstasy.

In correspondence with the Church at Corinth, Paul spoke of the wisdom that comes with maturity in the spiritual life with Christ (1 Cor. 2:6-7). He celebrates the freedom we enjoy with the Lord who is the Spirit.

-- Edward Thornton

Lord, as we grow in the Spirit, from one degree to another, we behold your glory which is our ecstasy! Amen.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Luke 2:8-14

I love the "gloria" part. On and on it goes. In my case, the "gloria" flows up and down and all around until we finally hit "gloria in excelsis Deo." I can't stand still. My head rolls up, my body sways, and my chest swells as I hold on to the full extent of my lungs. Each time I sing it, I am reminded of the countless generations that have gone before. Some sing in great church choirs, making precision modulations on the all right notes; some, like me, enthusiastic amateurs, make a sloppy exultant slide from qloria to in excelsis Deo. But we all sing "glory to God in highest" in a way that God can recognize.

James 1: 17

My son John gives him a bear hug as he walks up from a side street. I don't recognize him and am not sure he has come to join us. But he jumps in on every song like a natural. I have a pretty good ear for talent, since it is fairly rare in the Choir That Shows Up, and this guy has talent. ON each successive stop, he works himself toward the front of the choir. At Clifton Pizza he is at the head. He takes the microphone on the stage in the upstairs room and begins a self-appointed solo, "Oh, Holy Night," singing like a pro. But I see something else in this young African-American: I see a faith that gives his song meaning, a passion that gives it fire, and a soul that gives it awesome power. All this revealed in his clear, solitary voice.

-- Rowan Claypool

We thank you for all your good gifts to us, especially the gift of music. Amen.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Luke 18:15-17

On October 20 of this year, we celebrated the International Children's Sabbath. The children of our church were very prominent in that service. They prayed, sang, read Scripture, played instruments, and ushered. They were everywhere! Predictably, that Sunday was noisy, ragged, uneven, loud. Did I mention that it was noisy? It was also full of vitality, pulsing with energy. Our sanctuary, that morning, was squirming with life.

Why do you suppose Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is composed of children? There are lots of things he might have meant, but one of the most important is this. Children are naturally curious, full of wonder about the world. They have lots of questions and aren't afraid to ask them. They are, consequently, teachable. Unlike Jesus' adult disciples who never seemed to get it, children want to learn. The most amazing thing is that they want to learn from us (and they will, one way or another). So, what can we teach a little child?

It was very good having our children with us that Sunday morning. I wonder if we're not doing children a disservice (not to mention ourselves) by segregating them from worship until they are "old" enough to join us and "behave properly." What would happen if, from infancy, they worshipped with us and we with them? Since they will learn from us, one way or another, perhaps the best thing we can teach our children is what the worship of God is all about. And maybe the best way to do that is to let them, from the day they are born, see us worship.

-- Bill Thomason

Teach us to become like little children, so that we may become like you. Amen.


In the face of Jesus we see

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Matthew 2:9-10

A call goes out from the Worship Committee: "If you have a special nativity
scene, call Ginger Miller." I smile, because Kevin proposed to me with the gift of a crèche. I had admired it in the Hallmark store where I worked, but even with my employee discount, it was beyond the reach of my seminary student's budget. Seeing Kevin's gift, I protested. It was far too extravagant. "Look carefully," Kevin said. Then, I saw that the glittering star above the infant's cradle was an engagement ring. I believe Joseph winked at one of the shepherds, and Mary's eyes danced when I said, "Yes."

The Star of Bethlehem led Wise Men to Christ and me to my Savior. It still casts light on my path. But the light of that smaller, diamond star connected me to a savior of a different kind. Though I am no Magi, my wisest decision was to follow where it led. In my husband's face I have experienced my closest encounter with God's incarnational love. His words encourage me to be no one but the person God created me to be. His arms have braced me through the deaths of both my parents and countless other times of anguish. Again and again, his hands have prepared warm, moist towels to soothe pain during lupus flare-ups. His lips have brought thousands of kisses to my weary brow. He has given me life's best gift, our daughter, Mera Kathryn.

For all of this I say "Thanks." And for tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, I say "Yes."

-- Mera Cossey Corlett

O God, immeasurable points of light shine before us on our journey. A myriad of decisions, a multitude of choices. Direct our hearts and minds that we may choose the way that draws us nigh to Thee. Amen.

Monday, December 23, 2002

John 1: 14

It was Christmas morning of my third grade year. I had been hoping to get a
spider bike with a banana seat. As I went to the Christmas tree that morning, I was so happy to see the bike there. My Christmas wish had come true.

After checking out everything else under the tree and then going outside and riding my bike, the family gathered in the den for the annual family Christmas photos. With all the pictures taken, I was standing beside my Daddy in front of
the fireplace and without even giving it a thought, I hugged him and thanked him for the bike and told him I loved him and knew who the real Santa was.

Now, I don't remember the Santa Claus thing being an issue for me, but I do
know that I loved my Daddy in a new way that Christmas morning. This moment has always stayed with me, an Advent moment on Christmas Day. Santa Claus had become real to me through my Daddy, and the love acted out through his giving had touched my life in a new and special way.

As I experience Advent here at Crescent Hill this year, I am praying for the same type of moment.

--Brian Williams

God, may we have an Advent moment, turning around hugging you without even giving it a thought. God, may we experience you in a new and deeper way, through the gift of your Christ child. God, may someone in need of an Advent moment experience your love in a new and deeper way through our giving, as you have given to us. Amen.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Jonah 4, Philippians 2:5-11

The Season of Advent signifies the coming of love. What does the declaration of love really mean? A merely passing interest? Or something deeper, perhaps even a life-changing commitment? And, how does God love us? As a trivial, passing fascination? Or because of the service we can render? Or, perhaps, out of our need? One way to look at the varieties of love is to focus on the exchange transaction between the lover and beloved. Here are three possibilities.

Receiving love (child-like): I love you because of what I get from you. The real object of my love is myself. I love you to the extent you serve my wants and needs.

Give-and-take love (adult-like): I love you if you love me back. You scratch my back, and I will scratch yours. Perhaps we both can benefit from a reciprocal arrangement.

Servant-love (parent-like): I love you because I want you to benefit. My own needs and wants do not even enter the transaction. You are no longer an object of love, but have become the subject of love.

God's love is more like servant-love. I would reject, like Jonah, many people that God's love accepts. I do not know how to love as God loves. That God can love me, even in my mistaken, small-minded prejudices only shows the inevitability of God's love for all God's children. The highest expression of love is servanthood, not privilege.

-- Gary Millsap

God, give us increased opportunities to explore the goodness of love in all its varieties. Make us thankful that you have given us the example of Jesus, who though equal with you emptied himself of divine glory to become your servant. Amen.


By the Love of God,
Fully Revealed
In the Face of Jesus . . ."

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Luke 2:25-35

It has been my joy to search for artwork which might appropriately help us as Crescent Hill Baptist Church to contemplate "the love of God fully revealed in the face of Jesus." Busy at work on this commission, I discovered in a friend's home in Cincinnati a large print of Di Gianni's watercolor of "Simeon's Moment." One of the most striking aspects of this artwork is what is not seen. Only a fraction of the profile of the face of the Christ Child is visible as the artist has the front of the Child's face nestled in Simeon's ample white beard. The head of the Child has a thick, black blanket of hair so typical, I'm told, of babies born in Israel. A sudden joy pushes a large tear out of Simeon's closed eye, as his opened mouth rejoices, "for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."

It is in such a face as Di Gianni's Simeon that I see the face of God loving the world. And, it is a map of the world which the artist has spread for a prayer shawl over Simeon's head and shoulders. While the continent of Africa rests on the prophet's shoulder, the whole wide world for which God sent God's only begotten Son watches from the surrounding walls. I am reminded, through such portraitures, that for those of us who came after the time when God's Son was laid on a bed of straw, it may be in our own faces alone that others will see the love of God revealed.

-- C.J. Phipps

Loving Father, help us to be the face of your love to others. Amen.

The artwork motif for this Advent season is by Tom Scott, Sr., and is his interpretation of a woodcut by Brother Lavvrans Nielsen, a monk at Gethsemani.

Advent 2002 Schedule of activities

Advent 2002© 2002 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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