Crescent Hill Baptist Church

Darkness into the Light of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love
Advent 2004

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful
beyond measure,
It is our Light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own Light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission
to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fears,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Nelson Mandela

And God said, "Let there be light,"
and there was light. And God saw
that the light was good. Genesis 1:3

Darkness into light --
the story of our lives.
With our own advent from
womb’s wet blackness
into first day’s sun,
the cycle is begun.

We go from day to night
to day ad infinitum;
and bounce from
gloom to gladness,
despair to hope,
disappointment to joy,
depending not just on circumstance
but our own inner currents.

We walk through green pastures
and shadowed valleys,
forever fearing evil until we hear
the song the shepherds heard
and know that light is the final word.

Dear Lord: When we lift up our prayers in darkness,
help us to realize that light is indeed the final word.

Elaine Parker Akin, 1986 *

A Word About Advent

Advent is the season of preparation for the celebration of Christmas; and although the time overlaps with our culture’s commercial and secular preparations for Christmas, the two should not be confused as being the same. Advent, as observed by the church through history, has had a specific threefold focus. During the four weeks (28 days) that precede Christmas Day, in their community, family and personal devotions Christians are encouraged (1) to prepare for a celebration of the Incarnation; (2) to prepare for the celebrations of Christ’s coming anew into their hearts and lives; and (3) to prepare themselves for the consummation of their hope in Christ’s second coming to earth.

The observance of Advent in the Crescent Hill congregation began in the mid-1960’s when a Swedish family came to the Seminary in Louisville, joined the Crescent Hill fellowship and brought with them their custom of the Advent wreath. Since that time, Crescent Hill has incorporated many treasured Christian traditions into its celebration of Advent and has thus joined Christians around the world and down through history in remembering this important time in the Christian year.

An Advent wreath is made of greenery, which is the symbol of Christian growth. The circular form represents eternity. Traditionally, there are five candles: three purple, one pink, and one white. The purple candles represent solemness and royalty and stand for Hope, Peace and Love. The pink candle represents Joy. And the white candle, placed in the center of the wreath, is the Christ candle which is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

The editors of this booklet, along with the Worship Planning Team, urge you to make a wreath for your own devotional use. Gather some greenery and candles (any color will do), and enjoy the symbolism of the growing light as you light an additional candle during each week of the Advent season. It is our hope and prayer that this devotional booklet will be of help to you in your preparations for a Christ-centered Christmas and that it will assist us all in strengthening our relationships, in this congregation and beyond, as we prepare to celebrate together the Light who came into our darkness to bring us hope, peace, joy and love "on earth as it is in heaven."

These symbols are used throughout the book to denote:
current member # .......former member * ...........deceased <

From Darkness into the Light of HOPE

(Edward Thornton)

Psalm 103:1-4

"Bless the Lord, O my soul
and all that is within me". . .

Does the psalmist know
that "all" includes my darkness,
opens the mine shafts within
to whirlwinds of ego
and slavery to my addictions?

The psalmist’s heartbeat
in rhythmic rescue
sings of forgiveness;
of One who heals,
blessing us with love.

A whole new code!
Not based on virtue or merit.
"For he knows how we were made.
He remembers that we are dust."

All that is within me? Yes!

Edward Thornton, 2002 #

Sunday, November 28, 2004
(Nancy Foil)

A Shining Hope
John 1:9-13:
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him;
yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own,
and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him,
he gave power to become children of God, who were born,
not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

Throughout the season of Advent, the wreath of four candles is an important symbol. Each week as an additional candle is lit, we are reminded that light has come and is coming into the world. Our fears of darkness are gradually calmed as our hope is strengthened and the light become brighter. The words of Thomas Helmore based on ancient plainsong phrases become ours:

O come, thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here,
And drive away the shades of night,
And pierce the clouds and bring us light!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

The Gospel according to John promises that we will be given power to become children of God if we receive the light. It is offered freely in the midst of our own darkness, cynicism and confusion.

Father, help us to see hope shining in the darkness. Since you have kindled your light in us, may we be alive to all that is good and human. Amen.

Nancy Foil, 1979 <

Monday, November 29, 2004
(Sharleen Birkimer)

A Future with Hope
Isaiah 43:10a:
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

This passage was written about Israel’s liberation from Babylonian exile. God wanted them to view it as an act of God’s redemptive grace. The Israelites should forget the past and look for a new beginning – a Future with Hope.

The Interpreter’s Bible has an excellent comment on this passage. "The prophet is calling upon Israel to turn from memory to hope. . .from the epochal events of the past to the. . .redemptive events of the future."

(Note: I want to thank Mary Frances Owens for her gracious help in interpreting this Bible passage.)

Crescent Hill is not in exile, but we have been through days of uncertainty, confusion and soul-searching. We have recently completed 18 months with Dr. Hendrix as our intentional interim minister, and we are currently seeking a new minister. This is an excellent time to expect God to show us how to bring forth new things in our church and community. We need to let memories of the past fade and turn our thoughts to making new exciting memories for ourselves and the people who will become a part of our church community in the future.

The Advent season reminds us of the changes God brought forth in the world when Jesus was born. Some people in the world then perceived the new beginning God was bringing forth. Other people did not see the new beginning springing forth. This is an opportunity for the Crescent Hill Baptist community to perceive the new beginning God is bringing forth.

God of Surprises, Help us to perceive the new things you are bringing forth in our church. Thank you for what you are about to do in the future. Amen.

Sharleen Birkimer, 2004 #

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
(Laura Lea Duckworth)

Psalm 63:5b-7
. . and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you
on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

When I was small and often afraid, my mother told me a secret: When you are frightened or feeling alone, sing. The song will give you courage and hope. And so, it became a habit to sing when I was afraid.

Our family visited Yellowstone Park when I was seven. Something else impressed me even more than Old Faithful, though. Mennonites.

There were orthodox Mennonites in the cabin next to ours, in black, full-length costume with veils, funny shoes, hats and BEARDS! I had seldom seen a beard and had never seen so many people in black.

Despite reassurance from my parents, I was terrified of these people. So, when I ventured out to the camp lavatory one morning, I decided on a route which would not take me past their cabin. [Guess what? Yep. I got lost.]

As the minutes passed I started to panic. Then, I remembered the secret. "Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine,. . ." I started singing in a shaky little voice. The music came automatically as the prayer ascended. Find me, God. I want my Daddy.

When she found me, I think I must’ve had tears running down my cheeks, but I was still singing. She bent over me and kindly placed her arm, covered in a long black sleeve, around me. She said some reassuring words and, as my father rounded the corner, I thought how silly I had been. She was very kind.

As a grown-up, I have had nights so dark that I couldn’t find a song. Sometimes my song has been my despair. But when I wait for my God, and sometimes the wait has been long, God comes as a song, transforming despair to hope, fear to courage.

During the night of Advent, come to us as a song, oh God, as we wait for the Hope of the world. Amen.

Laura Lea Duckworth, 1989 #

Wednesday, December 1, 2004
(Brittani Massey)

Answers from Advent
John 1:4-5: . . in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Without Advent on my mind at all, I was listing in my journal, the four evils I’ve been tempted to surrender to in this, my time of woe. I listed pain, anger, fear and hate. Attempting to put these aside, I tried to think of the antithesis to each. To hate, there is of course, love. I’d been saying "I hate it here," almost every Sunday since Jenny and Sam died. I realized that the only way out of that hate is love so I turned to Stephen and said, "I love you."

Antithetical to fear is hope. It is that which lingers in my darkness, not the fear of the dark, but the hope for the light. Hope is all that challenges my fear these days. Fear tells me that this is a cruel world that kills my friends; and it is. But that is not the end of anything. Hope tells me that death is dead and not to fear it. Hope allows me to wait for some new beginning.

To anger, there is the alternative, joy. And it takes some wonderful kind of joy to exist in spite of the terrible anger we all feel about losing something as cherished as a friend. When we buried Sam’s ashes, we sang through our angry tears, Joyful, joyful, we adore thee. The words reminded me there is an immortal gladness in the human heart, a spirit of divine joy that cannot fully be driven out. When I think of that, I realize that my gloominess is a complaint that I have to live. How ridiculous of me. I get to live; that is joy enough.

In the midst of my pain, I can acutely see what I cry for; that soothing peace, something to calm the crashing waves in the ocean of my soul. And I call on that peace that endureth, the peace of a tingling in my heart that even in this darkness there is God. He finds his way into this seemingly forsaken world and stands before us to say, "Peace be with you." He breathes on us with candle light and comforts us with each other’s arms.

Today, pray for these things: Lord, teach me through your presence, not to be consumed with hate, but to love the world for you. Keep alive in me, the hope for a brighter day, even in the valley of the shadow of death. Remind me of the joy that life holds in that it is not death. Ease my pain. Send me a peace that brings peace to others. Bring me from darkness into light; from pain, anger, fear and hate to peace, joy, hope and love. Amen.

Brittani Massey, 2004 #

Thursday, December 2, 2004
(Jackie Pendergraph)

Matthew 5:16
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

One evening, just after dark, my mother, my brother and I were sitting on the back porch of our country home. My brother and I noticed a tiny speck of light in the meadow below our home. It was smaller than the reflection of the tiniest star on the surface of the water in the spring creek. The light would disappear for a moment, then another would reappear immediately.

Mother explained to us that the lights came from glow-worms. My brother ran down and picked up one for inspection. It was a small insect that gave off a light so dim it would only be noticed after dark.

Mother also explained to us that in the great “meadow of life” there are people of whose presence we are not conscious until some hour of darkness comes to us – then we see from those quiet individuals an unexpected glow of courage, devotion and love.


I thank God every day for those tiny lights in Crescent Hill Baptist Church that glow the brightest when the hour is the darkest!

Jackie Pendergraph, 1988 <

Friday, December 3, 2004
(Brian Williams)
John 1:4-5
. . .in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

I grew up on a farm in Ohatchee, Alabama. When I was about twelve years old, my friend and I were walking on the back 20, close to where the new highway cut through the farm. We saw a cedar tree and I told my friend, Little Bill, that it would be a perfect Christmas tree some day. I loved that tree for ten years, pruning it and keeping everything cleared out from around it, giving it room to grow.

After ten years of caring for that tree, I decided it was time for it to become the perfect Christmas tree. Ready to help my Mama decorate for Christmas, I got the saw and started out toward my tree. I had checked on it just a few days earlier and I knew it was ready, but when I got to the top of the hill in the pasture where I could see my tree. . .it was gone. Someone had cut it down and taken my perfect Christmas tree.

Not every memory we have about Christmas has a wonderful ending. I still get mad when I think about my Christmas tree. For many of us this year, we have had some stories develop in our lives with bad endings. Some of us feel we are living in a dark time. There have been endings that have taken away our hope for a better world, our ability to love others and show grace and goodwill. And that is why the Christmas Story of Advent is important to me. I need the joy, the hope, the love, the peace and the good will, grace and truth that only the Christ Child can bring.

Dear Jesus, I need your light of joy and peace; take away the dark. Amen.

Brian Williams, 2004 #

Saturday, December 4, 2004
(Janet Tharpe)

An Uneven Exchange
Luke 1:50-53
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown
strength with his arm; he as scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

It was an extremely uneven exchange. I’m sure he had no idea that what he gave to me exceeded, by far, what I gave to him. He looked like dozens of other homeless, stranded panhandlers I had seen on other street corners and interstate exit ramps: holding a roughly lettered cardboard sign asking for help. He was thin, and his age was indiscernible, though he appeared to be ancient. His eyes were vacant and his cheeks were hollow and days-gone unshaven.

I drove around the block so that I could pass by him again and pulled into the parking lot that bordered the street corner on which he stood. As he approached my car, I extended my arm with a ten dollar bill in my hand, all the while thinking, "This is not what I am supposed to do; he will just use the money to buy booze. I should be giving him a gift voucher for food or buying a meal."

"Thank you; bless you," he said. "I’ve been standing here so long. . .I am tired." I could smell alcohol on his breath and I met his eyes with mine. However, the sign he had been holding had read, "Veteran. Anything will help." And I knew that I had absolutely no right to make the decision about how he would use the money. He had already been sent some place in the world where he probably did not want to go and where he was expected to do things that no one had the right to ask him to do.

His sign read, "Veteran. Anything will help."

"My nephew is in Iraq," I told him. "This is the least that I can do."

"I will pray for him," he said, as he took the money and walked away.

Compassionate God, grant us the courage to see Your light in the eyes of everyone that we encounter, so that we "may see you more clearly, follow You more nearly, love You more dearly day by day." Amen.

Janet Tharpe, 2004 #

From Darkness into the Light of PEACE

(Edward Thornton)

The Unknowable One

I cursed God in years past, praying for answers,
waiting a voice that never came; deaf to the obvious,
that God’s language is silence.

I no longer wait for answers.
I am silent. Mindful of a Presence.
I let go of thoughts, welcome the One
who comes as a ray of light, the scent of love.

In awe…wondering about the One managing
the affairs of the universe. Aware
of needs of every race, all ages,
every circumstance in every galaxy.
In nebulae scattered thousands of light-years
away. Stars dying, stars being born anew.
Yet fully in touch. Present always for
peoples, animals, insects, growing things;
for every gender, preference,
world religion or none.

I drop deep into silence,
joyful with soul mates, just being me.
Listening for guidance, cleansing, consolation.
Melting my doubts and sadness,
freed by trusting the One
for strength in struggle to self surrender.
Repose in peace in the depth of my soul.

Listening to silence within,
enwrapped by Light and Love,
I am close to the ineffable One.

Edward Thornton, 2004 #

Sunday, December 5, 2004
(Pat Scott)

A Light Touch
I John 1:5
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you
that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

I am not a writer. Music is my form of creative expression and witness to the love of God, so it was unexpected when a poem came as a gift during a special moment at our little log cabin on Taylorsville Lake. That moment was seven years ago as I sat under a lovely maple tree seeking rest and relief from mind-body-soul sickness due to chemotherapy. It reminds me of the hymn that says, “I found in Him a resting place and he has made me glad.” In that moment His Spirit touched me and my darkness was eclipsed by the light of His love.

More Than a Touch

Warm and yellow…cool and green,
No smog to hide a peaceful scene
Of gentle field and river crest
Calling us to pause and rest
Where mind and body can unite
And be refreshed with Spirit light
That tells our anxious souls forthwith,
Earth’s Paradise is not a myth.

Oh Lord and Giver of Christmas light,
Fill our minds with awe and wonder and our hearts with joy and gladness, until each restless soul finds a resting place in Thee. Amen.

Pat Scott, 2004 #

Monday, December 6, 2004
(Marv Knox)
A Worldwide Family
Isaiah 60:1
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

Don’t you love Christmas surprises? Cards and calls from long-lost friends. Your favorite pie, baked in Mom’s own oven. (She still remembers.) Lights on grouchy Mr. Williams’ house; you never thought the old Scrooge would go for Christmas cheer.

Surprises make Christ memorable, even in church. that’s where we were, on the first Sunday of the season. Tradition demands that a family light the advent candle. You know: a four-generation clan. Mom and dad and kids. Maybe a single parent and child. But on this Lord’s Day, symbolism glowed with surprise. Instead of a biological family, our pastor invited a spiritual family to spark the flame. "Will the children of Southern Baptist missionaries please come light the candle?" he asked.

From all parts of the sanctuary – as if from all regions of the earth – they approached the wreath. Nine Christians joined for a common purpose, just as their parents journeyed with a unified goal. I say there were nine, but don’t bet on it. My eyes were too misty to see.

My tears flowed with joy -- thrilled to be part of the family of God, and a church that loves the Lord and a waiting world. They flowed with gratitude -- for being blessed to help send these friends and their parents into mission fields. And they flowed with sadness -- because all Christians won’t stand in unity to light a candle.

As the "missionary kids" went back to their seats, that flame glowed, reminding us our hope is not in good deeds, nor in compromise, nor even right beliefs.

Our hope, of course, is in the One whose birth we celebrate. Jesus. Emmanuel. God-with-us.

Dear God of surprises, nurture within us the flame of wonder that brightens our lives, reminding us of your Holy Gift.

Marv Knox, 1992 *

Tuesday, December 7, 2004
(Chris Conver)

John 1:6-9
He came as a witness to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him. (v. 7)

The apartment had one room that doubled for both living and sleeping. The days had grown shorter and the weather was colder, and now it was time to celebrate the season in this new arrangement. Because of the divorce, we would have Christmas as two households instead of one.

The boys and I played holiday music, set decorations around the room and hung a strand of twinkling lights on our tree. We were a few ornaments short and didn’t have anything to adorn the top. I saw one of their toys lying nearby. It was a plastic Batman figurine that was hollowed out so that it could be used either as a puppet or attached to the end of a flashlight. The Caped Crusader matched the needed specs, so I perched him on top.

James, just elementary age, was troubled by this. "We can’t have Batman on the Christmas tree." Not wanting to admit a misstep in preparedness for our festivities, I launched into an explanation, "Sure we can. Many cultures do this. Batman is a symbol of truth and justice and peace, for goodness sake. And it is perfectly appropriate to have Batman grace our tree."

Unconvinced, James came home from school the next day with a substitute he had made. Its body was shaped like a cone, and it had bright colors and wings that sparkled. He balanced himself on the couch and replaced Batman. In exchange sat an angel, surrounded by tinsel and lights, heralding the truer message of peace throughout the room.

I still have that angel packed away in a box somewhere. For all I know, Batman has gone to the land of lost toys. This year, I think I’ll look deeper to see if I can find that angel again.

Loving God, help us to tell others about your light and love in what we say and how we live. Amen.

Chris Conver, 2004 #

Wednesday, December 8, 2004
(Chuck Leach)

Matthew 5:14
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.

Some years ago I was leading a group that was discussing conflict and conflict resolution. We had talked about fighting fair versus fighting dirty: that is, in a "good" fight the purpose is to solve a problem, not to defeat someone. There needs to be a good exchange of information, with a free and healthy expression of feelings done in such a way as to clear the air and not damage anyone or any thing. We had fairly thoroughly covered the subject several times when a woman spoke with something approaching amazement in her voice. She said, "Do you mean when we fight I’m not supposed to call names and say mean things? That’s the only way my family ever fought. The way to win was to say the meanest things and call the ugliest names. And we did it all the time!"

We consider ourselves to be one of the most advanced cultures in the world, and yet our nation has just gone through months of the same kind of dysfunction as that family practiced. One writer observed that by the time the candidates finished fighting for the privilege of being President neither would be fit to serve. In one poignant scene in Jesus’ life he sat and wept over Jerusalem. We have come a great distance in many ways, but still--like Jerusalem--surely are occasion for further weeping.

Many years ago in a comic strip Alley Oop, the cave man, concluded that if others could carry around a flashlight to generate light he would be different. He invented a flashdark to counteract light, and to spread some darkness wherever he went. He appears to have many followers to this day.

Our job, however, is to be light that can’t be hid, and to love one another, including our enemies. We have a big job ahead of us!

Light of the world, help me to be a bright spot.

Chuck Leach, 2004 #

Thursday, December 9, 2004
(Glen Skaggs)
Annunciation to the Shepherds
Luke 2:8
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch
over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

One of the many religious scenes Rembrandt painted was the annunciation to the shepherds in Luke 2. It is a pen and brush drawing done in about 1640-42. It shows a single angel elevated on the left central side of the drawing. Coming down from behind the angel are shafts of light, which fill a circular space around the out-stretched arms of the angel. Beyond the circle of light the rest of the drawing is shaded in darker tones. Emerging out of the darkness in the lower right corner of the drawing, the shafts of light illuminate two shepherds, kneeling in prayer.

This drawing is a great example of chiaroscuro, which is an Italian term meaning ‘light -- dark’. The passage in Luke and this drawing dramatically portray the theme of this year Advent booklet, "From Darkness to Light." The shepherds worked in the darkness of night. They were considered to be outcast and unrespectable. They might be considered the kind of sinners whom Jesus came to save. In addition to this, they could represent a connection to David the shepherd since they are outside the city of Bethlehem which was the home of David.

The shepherds were brought out of the darkness and into the light by the “glory of the Lord” and the "heavenly host" bringing them the good news of the birth of Jesus. Jesus went on to become the light of the world. He brings joy and peace to those who will accept his light.

Gracious Lord, thank you for your light that shines on all people.

Glen Skaggs, 2004 #

Friday, December 10, 2004
(Mera Cossey Corlett)

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, "Let the light shine out of darkness,"
made the light shine in our hearts to give us the light
of the knowledge of the glory of Got in the face of Christ.

Behind every great person, there is at least one great friend who serves as confidant, comforter, listener, encourager. For Dietrich Bonhoeffer that person was Eberhard Bethge. In 1978, I was blessed to meet this man whose name appears in the salutation of so many of Bonhoeffer’s letters. That meeting opened the pages of Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison for me. Since then, those pages have been opened time and again, in my own search for meaning and hope.

On Christmas Eve, 1943, at half past nine in the evening from his prison cell in Berlin, Bonhoeffer wrote these words: Dear Eberhard, Dear Renate: . . .I’ve had a few lovely hours of peace and quiet. . .I wish I could say something to help you in this time of separation. . .I have learned something about it myself during the last nine month, having been separated during that time from all those I love. . .Nothing can fill the gap when we are away from those we love. And it would be wrong to try to find anything. We must simply hold on and win through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time, it is a great consolation, since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bonds between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap: God does not fill it, but keeps it empty, so that our communication with one another may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain.

Since Advent last year, eight people that I love have died. Of all the letters and cards that I may receive this season, it is this one written by a young German pastor who was hanged by the Nazis in a concentration camp more than fifty years ago that shines Light into darkness.

Console us so that your love permeates our hearts and lives even as we dwell in shadow. And standing on the precipice, O Most Gracious God, if we fall, may it be into Your arms of love. Amen.

Mera Cossey Corlett, 2004 #

Saturday, December 11, 2004
(E. Glenn Hinson)
The True Light Which Enlightens Every Person
Coming into the World

John 1:9
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

The Johannine writings sometimes sound pretty exclusive. For instance, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). If you interpret those statements without paying attention to the fact that Jesus speaks as the Universal Christ, the I AM, throughout John’s Gospel, John 1:9 may knock your socks off: The Word who was with God in the beginning "was the true light which enlightens every person coming into the world." Every person! No exclusivism there! What a relief to hear words like those in this age when tensions between Muslims and Christians have reached fever pitch! Since September 11, 2001, I’ve tried to fathom what could incite such Islamic rage. One factor recurs repeatedly not just from speeches of Osama bin Laden but from may Muslim leaders: "We are terrified that your western secular technological culture is engulfing, nay, in places has already engulfed, our culture in which we subordinate everything to God. We do not want your culture. We like ours." Thus far, our country has not listened to this plea or sought to answer. We’ve responded instead with overwhelming force. Does this Advent not challenge us to “do the things that make for peace” (Luke 19:42)? What would that entail? If we pay attention to John 1:9, would it not require a recognition that the light of the Universal Christ is found in Islam as well as in Christianity, in Islamic culture as well as in Christian culture? Surely the God of a universe of 150 plus billion galaxies does not have such limited candle power that God’s light shines only through our culture which, as Thomas Merton wrote years ago, is not yet livable for humankind as a whole.

Dear God, may we let ourselves be irradiated by your light in other peoples.

E. Glenn Hinson, 2004 #

From Darkness into the Light of JOY

(Edward Thornton)
The Cosmic Coalition

The Cosmic Coalition
Father, son and Holy Spirit
invites us all to call
the Lord of the Universe


In Awe. .

We welcome the Mystery
and sing
in the darkest of nights
"Be Not Afraid"
"Good News!"

John 15:14-15
Luke 2:10-11

Edward Thornton, 2003 #

Sunday, December 12, 2004
(Fay Leach)

What Is Darkness? What Is Light?
Genesis 1:1-5
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep,
while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said,
"Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good;
and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

What is darkness? What is light? Numerous sources (Star Wars for example) paint the face of evil on darkness and assign the good smiley face to light. Life is not all just clear-cut black and white. There is good even in the darkness. Plants like poinsettia and Christmas cactus need 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness to put on their blossoms and radiant colors. Darkness helps us sleep. Long winter nights promote the hibernation of the earth and some animals. Without special night vision aids, we can not see in the darkness but sometimes it is the light that blinds us.

I would not wish on anyone pain or stress or discouragement. In my experiences I have often found that it takes both the darkness and the light to find new perceptions and purpose. During the past 2 years and 3 months, as my family, friends and I have fought cancer, God has taken this and brought new joys, new friends, new appreciation for each day, each person and all those everyday miracles which are so easily taken for granted. The darkness has given new meaning to the light.

Thank you, God, for the blessings of life. Keep us open to truth however it comes. Keep us focused on what is important for each day and each season.

Fay Leach, 2004 #

Monday, December 13, 2004
(Mildred Burch)

II Corinthians 4:6
For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness,"
who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The beginning of 1986 brought about quite a change in my life when I sold my home and moved into an apartment. From the eighth floor I can look over the tree tops and directly into the eastern sky. Many mornings I watch the sunrise. What a joy! I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of the flaming, morning sky or the glorious afternoon sun creeping over the western horizon. Each time, I am reminded of God’s majesty and glory, and most of all, of God’s faithfulness. Since the first day of creation that sunrise has taken place, and without that light there could be no life upon the earth.

I think back, however, to the darkness before the dawn ----a time when I feel God’s nearness – and realize one has to experience the darkness to truly appreciate the light.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, in his book entitled Aging: The Fulfillment of Life, deals with two different views of aging: "Again as a way to the Darkness" and "Aging as a way to the Light." How good it is for all of us, especially those of us who are older, to realize that we can continue to grow and look joyfully toward the light.

Dear God, the assurance that You have been and always will be there brings us great joy. Thank you for the gift of Your Son, the "light of the world" through whom we have life eternal.

Mildred Burch, 1986 #

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
(Judy Johnson)

Micah 5:2
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathath, who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Once upon a time -- nine years ago to be exact -- the Christmas season crept silently around me. Amidst the joy of the holiday, hospital walls offered little warmth. My most precious gift, my sweet baby girl, was going through her first of two major operations to correct a birth defect. If only I could have taken her place, if only I could share her pain. In a strange, empty moment I was somehow filled with a feeling that someone else knew what it was like to birth a child into a world of imperfection. All I could do was trust in God to guide the surgeon’s hands and to trust in his healing power for Jennifer.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie --
Bethlehem can be anywhere in December, and offer hope.

Above that deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by --
not much sleep that week, but we made it through with faith.

Yet in thy dark street shineth the Everlasting Light --
the cold streets of Roanoke glistened from December rain, and love warmed us.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight --
the days that followed are a blur; the gift of repression, I suppose. Seasons come and seasons go, but each Christmas I remember what I’ve shared with you and thank God for the gift of birth, for children, and for families.

This Christmas, take the time to enjoy "family." A few extra hugs can go a long way. So do the words, "I love you."

Is there anyone nearby you’d like to hug?

Judy Johnson, 1984 #

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
(Peggy Schmidt)

"Our prayer is one of thanks!
Oh, God! --"

"It’s been a long road and a tough day.
But we’ve shared the uncertainty of the journey
and the birth of ‘this new life.’

For the strength to withstand the journey --
For the blessing of today --
And as we anticipate a great future --
hard work, but wonderful --

Thank you, God!"

This could have been Joseph’s prayer of thanks after the trip
with his beloved Mary and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

This was the prayer offered by a grateful father, when the
surgeon completed his part of ‘the healing’ -- a quadruple
bypass on this father’s youngest son.

A prayer of thanks --
-- for the strength of all to withstand the journey
-- for the blessing of the day
-- And for the anticipated future of difficult, but wonderful,
life-changing work.

Thank you, God!

Peggy Schmidt, 2004 #

Thursday, December 16, 2004
(Mary Frances Owens)

Light in the Darkness
2 Corinthians 4:8
And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone,
for my needs were supplied by the friends who came from Macedonia.
So I refrained and will continue to refrain from burdening you in any way. (v. 9)

Paul’s words in verses 6-9 are not ones we usually connect with Christmas. They are Paul’s testimony of faith about how God can change the dark times of life into light. Paul faced many troubling experiences, yet he never felt crushed by them. Why? Because God strengthened him to cope with whatever he faced in life. Christ -- the heart of Christmas -- had filled his own heart with light.

Psalm 23:4 carried a similar testimony. The words translated “valley of the shadow of death” (KJV) carry the idea of "deep darkness." Like the psalmist, Paul could have been overwhelmed by his experiences, but was not. Paul suffered like most of us would, but he had God’s sustaining grace to help him through times of "deep darkness."

Christmas can be a difficult day for families who have lost a loved one during the past year. One way we can help these grieving families is to let them know we love them and are supporting them in prayer.

Two years ago when my husband died, I learned firsthand what it means to go through the "valley of deep darkness." My experience was that in God’s infinite grace, He led me through the darkness of grief into the light that lay beyond it. God’s grace was greater than my grief. His light was greater than my time of darkness.

Christmas is a season of joy most of the time. However, we can take comfort in knowing that even in the "valley of deep darkness" God can still provide light and hope. In this season of gladness, let us give thanks that God is with us in both the good times and troubled times of life.

Thank you, Lord, for the light and hope you give us. Amen.

Mary Frances Owens, 2004 #

Friday, December 17, 2004
(Kevin Corlett)

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.

It’s 1980. I am studying for my statistics final exam. "Stats" is the "weed out" course for Business majors at Furman University. My roommate has already flunked this course once and is auditing the class this semester. I have worked my heart out all semester and now am faced with a final exam worth 40% of my grade. My roommate tells me the final will be brutal. My stress level is so high that I can’t even remember what I studied an hour earlier. As a young Christian, I wonder where the peace I have heard about from ministers and fellow Christians is. I have no peace. Instead I am flailing in darkness while going to pieces. Exhausted, with the darkness of the 11:00 night sky surrounding my dorm, I enter a deeper darkness by closing my eyes and going to God in prayer. "God, help me. . .help me to put my trust in you and not just in my own works. . .grant me peace. . .I have done my best to prepare, Lord be with me. . .calm my thoughts and fears. . .thank you, Lord, for saving me. . .Amen.

I open my eyes to the light of my fluorescent study lamp. I turn to the next section. Somehow the room seems brighter, my mind clearer, and pieces of me more put together. Words fill my mind as I study: "I can do all things through Christ . . .the peace of God which surpasses all understanding;. . ." I study for one more hour and go to sleep calmly, peacefully with a sense that everything will be alright if I just trust in a most dynamic team: God and me!

God, in times of darkness and struggle, let me not rely only on myself. You are Light and will lead me home if I but trust in you. Together we are a powerful force for good in this world; help me trust you as much as you trust me.

Kevin Corlett, 2004 #

Saturday, December 18, 2004
(Betty Cook)

John 16:20
You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.

It was a small but loud cow bell. We placed it on the table beside my husband’s bed as he lay dying. We knew he would feel more secure to have the means to summon help should we be in another part of the house. I don’t remember hearing it ring. He was never out of earshot of his loving family.

After my husband’s death the bell rested in the bottom drawer of my desk, a silent reminder of a sad and difficult time.

When I read the invitation for adults to bring their bells on Easter Sunday morning to add to the Alleluias of the children’s bells, I thought, "What a wonderful opportunity to endow our bell with a new task!"

Easter Sunday found our family passing the bell from mother to son to grandson. We added our loud Alleluias to the Hymn to Joy. Our bell became a tangible resurrection message from death to life, from sadness to joy; and it said to me in clear notes, "He is Risen Indeed!" Our bell now rests back in the desk drawer surrounded with new memories.

Betty Cook, 1993 <

Note: David Cook is now the keeper of the bell and carries on Betty’s tradition each Easter morn.

From Darkness into the Light of LOVE

(Edward Thornton)
Being Sought

Just as I see myself to be in prime
I awake in a dark wood.

I strain my eyes for clues to find the way
but see only letters spelling words
so blurry not a word comes clear.
A cruciform image appears
only to slip away into chaos.
My strength wilts.
Despair closes in like a valley fog.

Suddenly. Unexpected. Light
bursts around me. A Presence possesses me
in a moment of access to my inmost truth.

A passion flares in me at once
to find the secret for switching on the light.
I’m ready to pay any price,
master any discipline
to feed this holy longing.

The passion does not face
but burns in calm endurance,
waiting for the break of dawn,
seeing all of us being sought in love.

Edward Thornton, 2003 #

Sunday, December 19, 2004
(Jane Tynan)

No one could ever REALLY love me. . .My parents never said, "I love you." My parents never hugged me. I grew up knowing with an inner surety that no one could ever really LOVE me.

"But, Jane, don’t you think God loves you?" a counselor once asked me.
"God loves ROCKS," I replied. "It’s God’s job to love. . .I am no different than a rock!"

Decades later, a young man special to me struggles with his own life, with a self-image so low that he finds it difficult to be with people. He has 43 cats, at last count.

43 CATS! 43 reasons that I would pull my hair out!

But one day I finally recognized that this young man LOVES EVERY ONE OF HIS CATS!! He loves them unconditionally. He knows their individual personalities. He hovers over them, loving offering them comfort and food, even though comfort and food are often in short supply for him. HE CALLS THEM BY NAME!

Like sunlight breaking through a dark cloud, a realization dawned. Surely God must love me in the same manner, unconditionally and as an individual.

From darkness to light. . .

Jane Tynan, 2004 #

Monday, December 20, 2004
(Laura Adams Henderson)
Song Magic
Luke 2:7
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth,
and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The lights went out.
A reverent silence filled the room.
Pencils quit their scribbling,.
Seats quit their shifting,
Bulletins quit their rustling.
And all the sniffles, tears and sighs held themselves in.
Then the candles began to break the darkness,
Light gliding down the aisle, pew after pew,
Until the whole room was ablaze,
Filled with the incredible heat of the flames,
To the congregation it all seemed too much to bear…

Then the song came to them.
Sweet melody poured from his guitar,
Like a gentle rain.
Cooling the burning fires of their emotions.
And his voice sang out a rich and tender harmony..
It understood,
It knew,
It shared,
It loved,
And its healing tone intertwined ‘round them and haunted their souls
And though questions and pain remained,
They knew there were answers and endings.
And knowing made them able to believe.

The voice, a humble man’s,
The song, Silent Night,
The night, Christmas Eve.
And the magic?
One that loves so purely,
that the rich man may sit by the poor,
the poor give the rich a Kleenex,
and the two cry together –
finally able to hear the beauty of the simple song.

Laura Adams Henderson, 1997 #

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
(William M. Johnson)

Darkness and Light: A Rhythm for Life
Genesis 1:3-5
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw
that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.
And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Seems it all began in darkness. God’s first creative act and first recorded words are: "Let there be light." From this moment on, the light is called day and the darkness is called night. And God called this good. And it is.

In this meditation, I want to affirm both darkness and light. Together, they give a rhythm to life. It is compelling to sit in a night-dark room and watch the darkness give way to dawn and the light of a new day. By the same token, to experience the fading of light toward dusk and the silent fall of darkness into night is awesome. There is deep reason why we are so taken by sunrise and sunset. The birth of a new day and the birth of a new night give holy rhythm to our time keeping. They give measure to our life and being.

Each day of light has its gifts and goodness and each night of darkness has its gifts and goodness. Together they offer a sense of completeness and rhythm to "our going out and our coming in." In unique fashion, darkness gives meaning to light and light gives meaning to darkness.

This Advent season I invite you to the special space that only darkness can offer as we wait for the Christ Child. After all, Christ came to earth in the stillness and mystery of that "O Holy Night." And I invite you to the special space that only light can offer as we wait for the Christ Child. For you, will it be the light of a star, the face of a baby, a candle glowing in the darkness, or. . .?

Wondrous God, we give you thanks for the gifts of night and day, for grace in the midst of darkness and grace in the midst of the light. As we wait the coming of the Light of the world, be near us, Lord Jesus. Amen.

William M. Johnson, 2004 #

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
(Greg Robertson)

From Darkness into "Light"
Matthew 2:10
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

It was a very cold Christmas morning in 1979. My grandmother and I arose to snow, and the wind blowing hard. I had spent Christmas Eve with her and had a wonderful visit. I was due to be on call Christmas Day, so I had to say my good bye and leave for my job in Lexington.

I had made arrangements for some very dear friends of mine to pick grandmother up, so she could spend the day with them, and not be home alone. Early in the afternoon I received a phone call from the Red Cross informing me that my grandmother’s home was on fire. I called my friends to tell them the news but asked them not to tell my grandmother. I wanted to check out the situation myself first.

When I arrived back home, I found many volunteer firefighters trying to save our family possessions. I started to cry as I viewed the shell of our family home; it had been our family home since 1904. My great grandfather build the home, and there were so many memories.

Over the next few days, as I looked back on that cold Christmas day, I thanked God for all that he had given to us. I thanked him for saving us from the fire, too. With time we realized that possessions could be replaced, but our lives could not. It was truly a blessing in disguise. You see, my grandmother’s health was declining, and she really didn’t need to be in this big home on the farm any more. She needed to be in town, with less to maintain.

God, thank you for the gift of memory, and how we can reminisce about our past. Thank you so much for family, and how friends can be family to us too. May we always remember that it’s not the tangible things we own, but it’s the Love of family and friends that is our greatest gift.

Greg Robertson, 2004 #

Thursday, December 23, 2004
(Martha Lytle)

Light in a Dark Galilee Night
John 12:46
Jesus said, "I have come as light in the world
that everyone who believe in me may not remain in darkness."

We drive from Nazareth to Tiberias, passing through the village of Cana where Jesus’ first miracle took place. A simple Baptist church building sits beside the road, home to a congregation of faithful Arab believers. The road curves around and down, giving us a view of Tur’an Village and its silhouetted olive trees in the darkening night. It is a Christian/Moslem village where an Arab Baptist pastor and his family preach and minister daily from the building which is their home, church and daycare center. These two congregations are "lights" dispelling the spiritual darkness in their communities.

Leaving the village behind, we continue our journey in the darkness of this night. Far away in the hills, we see the lights of Safed as if suspended in the night air. It is said that this city in the Galilee mountains is the one which Jesus referred to in His Sermon on the Mount when he spoke to the gathered crowd, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid." The beauty is in the contrast of night’s blackness and twinkling lights on the hills which seem to reflect the bright stars in the sky.

Our Father, I bow before you, desiring to be one of your lights in this world. The only way I can do that is to reflect the light which you shine on me. I thank you for your love gift to me – salvation through your son whose birth we celebrate this season. May your great light shine forth through each of us at Crescent Hill. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Martha Lytle, 2004 #

Friday, December 24, 2004
(Janet Tharpe)

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin that clings so closely,
and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

Morbid. That was the word the theatre critic used to describe the ghost-spirits woven into the fabric of the Broadway play, The Secret Garden, which I had seen the previous evening on its opening night in Louisville. My response to the ghost-spirits, who mingled among the "living cast members" who grieved for them, was quite different. Silently, yet actively, the angel-like beings maintained a watchful presence among the living, sometimes prompting, sometimes guiding, sometimes comforting them in invisible but real ways.

Perhaps the reason I did not find the angel-like beings in The Secret Garden a morbid presence was because of my own similar experiences with that "great cloud of witnesses," those beloved persons who have passed through death to life eternal.

One such experience has been a recurrent one. It happens almost every Christmas Eve, at the conclusion of worship, in the darkened CHBC sanctuary, when the hush is stirred only by a solo voice singing, "Silent night, holy night. . ." The warm glow of candle light spreads from the face of one worshipper to another until the room is bathed in soft candle light. It is then that I “see” them with clarity, their ranks having grown larger every year. They are crowded, faces shining, into the balcony above. Many I do not recognize, some I do: there is Wayne. . .Dale. . .John. . .Sue. . .Grady. . .Aunt Ruth. . .Les. . .Jack. . .Amy. . .Helen. . .Ellie. . .Betty. . .Kathryn. . .J.J. . ..Sam. . .Jenny. . .Henlee. . .and many, many others, united with us for a few moments, visible yet invisible, signs that the God of the Christmas candle is the Tie that binds us, eternally.

And when they vanish, do I feel morbid? Hardly! For I experience the vision of that "cloud of witnesses" as gift and blessing.

Gracious God -- Give us the eyes of faith to see visions of angels in Broadway plays and church balconies and may our grateful hearts join their chorus, "Gloria in excelsis deo!" Amen.

Janet G. Tharpe, 1994, 2004 #

Saturday, December 25, 2004
(Hilda Dean)

Isaiah 2:5
". . .Come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord."

Darkness comes in different forms. One can see varying shades of darkness as the sun gradually slips beyond the horizon in the evenings. At these times one automatically reaches for the light switch for immediate relief of the darkness.

I ride the bus to work. In the early morning darkness I take the 10-minutes walk to the bus stop. This darkness is dispelled by the waxing or waning of the moon, the stars, streetlights, car headlights, and an occasional firefly. I am armed with a prayer to God for his guardian angels to light the way.

There are times when the soul, too, seems to plunge into darkness as s result of changes in external or internal surroundings. Examples of this unsettling darkness include the overwhelming grief when a loved one dies, a move from one house to another, job stress or deep depression -- seemingly with no specific cause. At times like these we can feel cut off from God, unable to pray or to reach out to him or to our community. Healing from these griefs -- finding light in the midst of our darkness -- requires time and persistence.

Many years ago in the middle of the night, in the darkness of a stable a child was born. And suddenly there was light --
-- a great light
-- a light from God
-- God’s son and his gift to all the world
-- to every man, woman and child who will open
their hearts to receive this wonderful love --
the best light of all.

Jesus Christ, who became the light of the world, even now breaks the darkness of our lives to bring us hope.

Dear God, give to us this day the strength and courage to walk in the light of your love.

Hilda Dean, 1998 *

Christmastide and Epiphany:
The Light Goes Forth

Darkness and Light and Love
(Tom Sherwood)

The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned.
Matthew 4:16

Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me.
Micah 7:8c

And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you,
that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
I John 1:5

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord;
walk as children of light.
Ephesians 5:8

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
I John 1:7

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
I John 4:7-8

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

Thank you, merciful God, for being light and love to me. May I this day reflect Thy light, and in that light show forth Thy love in what I do for, and say to, all with whom I may come in contact. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Tom Sherwood, 2004 #

Sunday, December 26, 2004
(Marjorie Ash)

Isaiah 60:1
Arise, shine; for thy light is come,
and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

As I walked across the tarmac in the early morning grayness, I thought how small was the express jet awaiting me.

I was the last passenger aboard, and the door behind me quickly closed. I edged my way along the narrow aisle, took my seat, and soon we were airborne.

For a few minutes I did not look out the little window for fear of my old nemesis motion sickness, but the pattern of bright lights was too tempting to forego -- long snakelike rows and small clusters of twinkling lights made a beautiful pattern and above were clouds, not soft like cotton but dark and rolling like plumes of black smoke above the line of the horizon.

Suddenly we were in the clouds and darkness covered my window; I could see nothing. In a few moments we were out of the darkness but into a thick, impenetrable bank of clouds. The turbulence was jarring; my stomach became a bit queasy and a headache threatened behind my eyes. Fifty minutes of turbulence seemed endless. Thank goodness, I thought, the pilot is flying by instruments -- he doesn’t need to see. Then, just as abruptly as we entered the cloud bank, we emerged to see a bright horizon.

A thought engulfed me -- you, Lord, are our instruments when the darkness overwhelms us, when the darkness hides even the bright lights of Christmas. Your love, love that gave us the Christchild, becomes our instrument panel, our guide through the unknown. There may be turbulence, but with your guidance the light of heaven is just on the other side. Thank you, God, for your overwhelming love.

Marjorie Ash, 2004 #

Monday, December 27, 2004

Availing Ourselves of the Light
I John 1:5-7
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

One of my childhood memories was of a dark night in December. We were sleeping soundly when the phone rang at 2 AM. Fearing the call might be an emergency, my father climbed out of bed quickly and stumbled across the room to try to reach the phone. Unfortunately, he thought he could find his way without turning on a light. As a result, he tripped and broke his toe. I’m not sure which made him most angry -- the fact that someone dialed the wrong number at 2 AM, or his own folly in trying to find his way in the dark. The irony was that light was easily available; my father just thought he didn’t need it.

In I John 1:5-7, John pointed his readers to the need for people to avail themselves of the light provided for them. Apparently some persons claimed to be living in the light of the gospel, yet they were sinning as though they were still in the dark. We might compare their actions to stumbling through a dark house and risking a fall when light was available. They needed to live in closer fellowship with the Lord and with each other so that they would be more open to God’s leading and could also help one another.

These verses teach that God is light (v. 5). He is a symbol of purity and goodness in a world darkened by sin. Today, as in John’s day, we need to avail ourselves of the light God has provided. The lights on the Christmas tree can remind us of God’s good gift of the light of the world, Christ Jesus.

Thank you, Lord, for the light you provide. Guide us as we try to reflect your goodness by the way we live on Christmas and always. Amen.

Mary Frances Owens, 2004, #

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Isaiah 9:2
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness -- on them light has shined.

Matthew 6:19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I sleep under the same petrified sky that Caroline sleeps under,
But, I lay in the comfort of my blanket while she has nothing.
But that pale green dress lined with lace.
Why do I sleep here in warmth when she has nothing,
But hope?
Not a day that starts or ends without the thought of Caroline.
And then I weep and hate my material blanket.
She is better than I will ever be.
But, she only lives in her pale green dress
And I live under my ugly material blanket.

(Caroline was a child that Jenny befriended on her trip to Kenya in the summer of 2003.)

Oh Lord, This blanket that once comforted me along with my other material possessions now brings me discomfort. Your light shines on my own darkened condition. Save me from my self, Oh Lord. Save me from the darkness that I once perceived as light, that I may walk in the truth of Your light. Amen.

Jenny Goodhue, early 2004 <

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Psalm 139:9-12
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,"
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you. For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Many Christmas celebrations are traditions or rituals--things we have done many times but which still have importance for our lives. Family gatherings, church services, ways of decorating houses and giving gifts can become meaningful Christmas traditions. A recent addition to Crescent Hill's Christmas traditions is "The Choir That Shows Up". This group gathers on specified nights around Christmas, and without advance rehearsals, sings Christmas songs in various business establishments on Frankfort Avenue. Reactions of patrons and staffs in the places we visit are interesting and include puzzlement, irritation and even hostility. The predominant responses, however, are enjoyment and appreciation--some people even sing along with us!

When I was chairperson of the Deacon Council at Crescent Hill, we were preparing to enter a bar-type establishment when someone asked (in jest?) if the Deacon Council chairperson should enter such a place. My answer was probably not very good at the time, but I might have said, "It depends on how many people in there I will know". At another level, the reply could be, "It's o.k., because Jesus may be in there already". Surprising? Not really. Jesus had little concern for the Scribes and Pharisees List of Approved Places and People--S.A.P.L.O.A.P.A.P. for short. How wonderful that in the dark places of our lives and the dark places on Frankfort Avenue we may have meaningful encounters with Jesus. We even need caution in labeling places "dark" because Jesus "shows up" in some dark, unexpected places--in a cattle trough as Sweet Little Jesus Boy, on a cross as Suffering Savior, or outside an empty tomb as Resurrected Lord.

God of all creation, thank you for searching for us with an eternal love that is not overcome by darkness or light. Amen

Paul Debusman, 2004 #

Thursday, December 30, 2004

I Corinthians 13:11-12
When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I grew up, I put childish ways behind me.
For now we see in a mirror darkly,
but then face to face.

I once told my mom that I was scared to grow up; I wanted to remain, as Peter Pan did, a child forever. My mom said that growing up was hard, but the alternative was worse. I had only a vague sense of what she meant.

On April 5th, my favorite cousin, Lindsey, was killed in a car accident. Fifteen years old, still a girl in so many ways, she slipped away on that springtime morning. Lindsey will never grow up. She will never to go prom with her boyfriend. She will never go to college. She will never live to see what adulthood has to offer.

I remember Lindsey when I look in the mirror. We always said that we were twins because we looked so much alike. When I look in the mirror, over time, age will carve lines and wear wrinkles into what used to be smooth. Lindsey will always be fresh-faced and smiling in my mind. I can only imagine her face shining as she spends this Christmas basking in the light of Eternity.

I truly comprehend now what my mom meant. The alternative is worse. Even though I may have a little anxiety about growing up, I know that life is precious. Lindsey’s pastor told us at her funeral that we were called to "stand in the gap." He called us to continue to be disciples of the faith that Lindsey held so dear. That is the light in this darkness. I want to grow and mature and finish what Lindsey and I started together.

God of all ages, in this walk through darkness and light, show us that every age and season is a part of the journey. Amen.

Mera Kathryn Corlett, 2004 #

Friday, December 31, 2004
(Janet Tharpe)

Genesis 37:34
Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins,
and mourned for his son many days.

Luke 23:45
. . .while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Splendid, I was, and beautiful:
The finest hand-woven wool,
Dyed a deep and royal purple,
Embroidered with scarlet thread.
Worthy, was I, to clothe a Deity.
Between the Temple’s Holy of Holies and
The massive throng’s wide, common gate,
My fifty clasps, gold and gleaming,
Held me in my sacred space;
For it was I who veiled for them
God shining, blinding Face.

Until the day that darkness fell
Across the earth at noon; when
God’s beloved hung on a cross
Bloodied, broken, bruised.
Then, wild with grief the Father-God
(Like Jacob learning of Joseph’s death)
Tore me, His garment, top to bottom
As His Son drew His last breath.

*Pronounced kaw-rah. It is the Jewish custom of tearing
one’s garments when mourning

Oh God, please continue to reveal to us Your “shining, blinding Face” until that day when we reflect perfectly the light of Your Imageo Dei and recognize the same Light in the eyes of our neighbors. Amen.

Janet Tharpe, 2004 #

Saturday, January 1, 2005
(Samuel Adams)

Into Eternity

The cool night air
Runs through my body,
Refreshing me.
Preparing me for the journey.
I looked towards the east.
The first rays of the sun
Peak out over the trees
Through the morning air and into eternity.

The stars mourn
As they disappear into the west.
Once they laughed so
And now they are gone
To the place of which they dream.
Though a tragedy it may seem,
The last glimmer of the moon is disappearing
into the eyes of the sun.

I turn North
Where I see the last rays of the moon,
And the first rays of the sun
Give birth to a star, that will not die,
But will give life to all others
And become more beautiful than any before it,
And all the others will sing with it
When all things else fade into dusk.

Finally, I turn West towards the falling stars,
Away from the glorious sunrise
To look towards the still, quiet darkness,
And I smile
Because I am comforted by the thought
That the view can only get better from here.

Samuel Johnson Adams, Memories in Stereo, 2004 <

Sunday, January 2, 2005
(John Arnett)

"Ah Ha!"
Acts 10 and 11
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,
but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34-35)

Like Peter, after his dream and meeting with Cornelius, we’ve each had moments of "enlightenment." I can recall specific "ah ha!" moments when I learned that it was OK to dance, to play cards, to drink alcohol (moderately), and even to smoke (in the old days). And I learned that Catholics were Christian, blacks were fully human, gays were OK as they are and women could be pastors.

Other "ah ha!" experiences have motivated me to "keep on." One Sunday afternoon in 1990 (during the oil painting period of my life) I woke recalling a dream about being overwhelmed by a backlog of medical charts and reports. The dream I painted shows an impressionistic man with a hoe working in a canyon of charts. In the distance beckons open sky and the road to a simpler life. The laborer may choose to put down his hoe and walk out. That itself is a freeing thought. But he also may choose to stay and "enjoy the toil" [Eccl. 5:18].

Flying freely over the worker in the canyon is a bird symbolizing the spirit of God who -- we are reminded during this season of Advent and Epiphany -- comes to us both as spirit and the person of Jesus Christ to encourage us on in the tasks that need to be done. When we come to hang up our hoe at the end of life, we walk out of the valley of death and continue in God’s presence. God continues to give to us "the repentance that leads to life." [Acts 11:18].

Lord, thank you for the "ah ha!" experiences of our lives and for showing us your love for all creation. Help us to honor you by loving all peoples and using our gifts to bring understanding and hope to others.

John Arnett, 2004 #

Monday, January 3, 2004
(Margaret Graves)

Relief Kits

In the early months of 2003 our nation stood once again on the brink of war. Far away from Washington, DC, where decisions about the war were being made, a group of 10-15 persons here at our church started meeting weekly to pray. We prayed for peace, for the safety of our troops and for the innocent people in Iraq who would suffer because of our nation’s military actions. We stood in solidarity with others in the community at the Douglas Loop and several Sundays held candlelight vigils on the steps of our own church. We stood with candles in front of a worship banner with the words of Isaiah:

". . .they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more."

Out of our feelings of sadness and despair for the world situation our group sponsored a drive to collect items needed for Relief Health Kits to be sent to victims of the war in Iraq. The items needed were simple: bars of bath soap, shampoo, laundry soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, combs and hairbrushes, fingernail clippers and bath towels. Our church folks were generous in their giving. We also collected from the Presbyterian, Methodist, Unitarian and Catholic churches in Crescent Hill. When we met to assemble the Relief Kits we were amazed. Enough items had been given to make us 39 kits!

We sent the kits to Iraq through the Emergency and Material Assistance Program (EMAP) of the American Friends Service Committee, which provides crucial assistance to people struggling for survival in the wake of natural or human-made disasters. We donated to what became a total of 19,000 kits collected nationally and sent to Iraq by the AFSC.

God of Peace: Help us find ways to shine as your light in the world. Amen.

Margaret Graves, 2004 #

Tuesday, January 4, 2005
(Gaga Woodward)
Modern Christmas Angels
Philippians 1:3-5
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying
with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of
your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.

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 sulpha 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 the 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 pm 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.

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

Gaga Woodward, 2002 #

Wednesday, January 5, 2005
(Mary Neal Clarke)

Eternal Light
Genesis 1:3; Luke 2:10-11; John 1:4
. . .in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. (John 1:4)

In the beginning when God created
The heavens and the earth
Darkness covered the surface of the deep,
Until God said, "Let there be light,"
So light first spread across all the earth.

Yet down through the ages,
For many thousands of years,
People remained in darkness,
Seeking only their selfish desires.
Then Christ came into the world.
Once again light filled the land.

An angel announced, "I bring good news
Of great joy for ALL PEOPLE" of the world.
Just as John said, ‘In him is life and
That life is the light of the WORLD”
Which shines through the darkness
Into the souls of people everywhere.

Still millions live each day
Not knowing that Light.
They cannot know until someone
Walks boldly into the darkness
Sharing God’s love with those who wait.

Dear Father, God, help me to take my light into the world of my
neighbors, the shopkeepers, and all whom I meet, by letting
God’s love live through me.

Mary Neal Clarke, 2004 #

Thursday, January 6, 2005
(Tom Scott, Sr.)

Center of Light
Genesis 1:3
The God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw
that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

In a painting, the center of interest is where the darkest dark appears next to the lightest light. This seems significant when we consider that God created light on the very first day.

My passion is painting watercolors. I am excited and motivated by sky, water, trees, rocks and the world of nature. Landscape painting is my joys; and when I look at my paintings, I see that capturing light is my primary objective.

In a brief devotional I recently shared with our Art Spirit team, the subject was light, and I talked about light: light in painting. . . light as spoken of in the Bible…
light and darkness in our lives. With God as the Ultimate Inspiration, I believe that our witness is to tell our story of the darkness that lies within and to share the light that is the Creator’s gift to each of us.

In Matthew 5:14, Jesus says, "You are the light of the world."

Lord God,
I pray that each of us will share the light we have been given with our neighbors and community acknowledging that without the darkness we cannot see the light. So help us, Lord, to be like Jesus. . . a light in our darkened world. Amen

Tom Scott, Sr., 2004 #

Friday, January 7, 2005
(Kathryn Chapman)
When the Bills Came. . .
Isaiah 9:2
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness -- on them light has shined.

It was the loneliest Christ I could ever remember. Too sick from chemotherapy to attend church or receive company, I lay in bed on Christmas Eve and waited alone for healing. But then the Bills came. . .

No sooner had the request for blood donations gone out than Bill Johnson and his son, Chad, stepped in line. They truly gave the gift of life.

As the word "cancer" struck terror in my heart, Bill Chapman, beloved brother, appeared armed with greetings and support from home. Grief for the pain of an older sister flooded his face. His gift of love sustains my spirit even now.

Bill Rogers came early Monday morning after the crucial weekend diagnosis. Swiftly he moved to my bedside and embraced me. We cried while the silence surrounded us. No words – just the gift of presence.

My close colleague, Bill Cromer, worked overtime in our team-taught classes to cover my job. The gift of his faithfulness helped me tolerate baldness with humor and good grace.

Bill and Lois Hendricks, learning how I dreaded the onset of nightfall, helped relieve my fears by visiting at dusk. Their ministry of turning on lights to dispel the darkness offered a much needed gift of peace.

A year has passed. Complete remission. No more chemotherapy. No more fever, pain and shots. The darkness of disease has lifted. The light has come.

Nothing is more personal than waiting for the birth of a child. I’ve waited, too, but for the advent of healing, hope, hair and home. God bless the "Bills" who sustain us with gifts of life, love, presence, faithfulness and peace.

O God, who lights our daily path, accompany us through corridors of waiting. Claim us unto Yourself for healing, hope and home.

Kathryn Chapman, 1995 <

Saturday, January 8, 2005
(Paul Duke)
John 1:9-13
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him;
yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own,
and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him,
who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,
who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh
or of the will of man, but of God.

Darkness grows on you. If you’re not accustomed to light, you generally don’t want any. So when Jesus blazed into the world, some covered their eyes and some scrambled to put him out. But others refused to flee his shining. With blinking eyes and faltering steps they faced the light and followed it -- and discovered something amazing. In the Light they saw not only his radiant face, but their own faces turning radiant too. They found that in his Light you not only see, you shine. In his dazzling, piercing Presence we are strangely gifted with "power to become God’s children." We are graced with Light enough to be born in. Light grows on you too.

Open our poor eyes, dear God, to Light that has found us to bear us unto thee.

Paul Duke, 1981 *

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