Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Crescent Hill Baptist Church
2008 Advent Meditations
Re-Gifting God’s Gifts
Janet Tharpe – editor’s note
Glen Skaggs – The Feast Day of St. Andrew
Norma Ruble – Waiting for Bread
Mary Neal Clarke – The Hope of Being Freed From Fences That Bind Us
Mary Neal Clarke – Eternal Hope
Katherine Williams – Waiting for the Right Time
Beth Wade – The Necessity of Hope
Betty Schnur – Mama was a Survivor
Corinne Pondell Holt – “Meditative Tree”
Bill Ratliff – Making Room for Hunger
Pat Scott – Sanctuary
Pat Scott – Heaven’s Gifts
Janet Tharpe – A Legacy
Louie and June Bailey – A Child Was Born in Bethlehem
Debbie Brashear – The Light of Peace Started Small
Lewis Miller – A Spirit of Joy
Dorothy Spurr – Amo, Amas, Amat
Mary Neal Clarke – True Joy
Brent Williams – Thunder in the Desert
Claude Drouet and Rusty Henle – Christmas: The Restoration of Joy to the World
John Arnett – Hope in a Creator God
Peggy Schmidt – The Celebration on Wentworth
Glen Skaggs – The Feast Day of St. Thomas the Apostle
David Cook – Unfolding Grace
Melinda Stricklen – Advent Reflection
Kim Leach – A Labyrinth Walk
Bobbie Thomason – An Unexpected Gift
editor: Janet Tharpe
typist: Janet Cole
It is already that time of year again where seasonal activities begin to squeeze themselves onto our already over-crowded schedules, where the phrase “peace on earth” is elevated to high profile in stark contrast to the escalation of wars all around us, and where we find ourselves longing for a chance to stop and ponder the events of that long ago “silent night.” Yes, welcome to another season of Advent and Christmas.
Advent begins this year on November 30th, the first of four Sundays that comes before Christmas Day. In this Advent Book you will find a collection of short meditations, one for each day of Advent as well as a reading for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The meditations have been written by fellow church members. Their purpose is to offer us a way to prepare our hearts in this hectic-happy-harried-holy-holiday, season so that, once again, we may stand beside that humble manger and marvel at the unfathomable and mysterious incarnation of God.
In addition to the investment of time and the thoughtful reflections on the part of those who wrote for this collection, there are others who deserve credit for making this year’s book a reality. They include Ginger Miller who helped with the Christmas Party held back in July to kick-off the project and who proofed the final copy; and Janet Cole who took the book from cyberspace and along with office staff created the hard copy you now hold in your hands.
You will find the four traditional themes of Advent reflected across the four sections of this book: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. You will also find the lectionary references for Year A listed on each section’s cover page for your convenience and further reflection.
And now, I wish you and yours, in this holy season, a Hopeful confidence for the New Year, a Peace that passes understanding, Joy that lights up your faces, and Love in a world now too small for anything else.
Peace be the Journey,
Sunday, November 30
The Feast Day of St. Andrew
Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8, NRSV
The first Sunday in Advent this year is November 30th, which is the feast day of St. Andrew. He was one of the first persons called by Jesus to be a disciple. After hearing John the Baptist exclaim about Jesus, Andrew followed Jesus, then went to get his brother, Simon Peter (John 1:35-42).
In addition to being the patron saint of Scotland, St. Andrew also is the patron to maidens and unmarried women (http://saints.sqpn.com/sainta12.htm ). Many customs in various countries developed that would attract or predict a husband or indicate the date of the marriage. These were done on the eve of the feast day of St. Andrew. They included throwing a shoe over your shoulder, putting grains of wheat under your pillow and praying at midnight at a fountain lit by a candle from an Easter service (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Andrew). These customs probably were performed with the hope of finding a husband.
Mary the mother of Jesus must have wondered how her betrothed would treat her after the Annunciation about the birth of Jesus. She probably hoped he would be a good husband.
Both Andrew and Mary were compliant to the leadings of the Holy Spirit and became vessels of God’s service. Mary’s acceptance is familiar, found in Luke 1:38: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word (NRSV).”
Prayer: “Have Thine own way Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter; I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.”
Monday, December 1
Waiting for Bread
And Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Luke 4:4, NRSV
The letter brought a smile to my face with its “Christmas in July” theme. It was an invitation to write an Advent meditation. It reminded me of all those “Christmas In July” sales ads I had seen in the past enticing me to do some shopping I might otherwise not do. I was never very interested in them, that is, until this past year.
Last December, I discovered that Breadworks had the most delicious Lemon Cranberry Almond Bread! A slice of this scrumptious bread with a cup of hot tea was heavenly!
“Is this bread seasonal?” I asked the lady. “Yes,” she replied, “but we will bring it back in July for a “Christmas in July” treat.”
I was elated and looked forward to July with great anticipation. Early in the month, not wanting to miss out, I called.
“When will your Holiday Bread be coming out?” I asked. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she replied, “We decided not to bring it back this July, but we will have it again this coming Christmas.” I thanked her, trying to hide my disappointment. I will just have to wait again, I thought, but that’s O.K. Is the smell and taste of freshly baked bread an experience worth waiting for? You bet. And so I wait.
That’s it! An Advent meditation. Waiting for the coming of Christ, the Bread of Heaven. Christ came to us at an exact moment in time. He continues to come to us by faith every moment of every day in ways that we can taste, feel, and experience, and He will come again one day – one appointed day – in glory. Bread of Heaven. Nothing, nothing else compares. Taste and see!
Prayer: Lord, help us to always remember and to ponder in our hearts that you came once, you continually come and you will come again. Linger with us like the smell and taste of fresh-baked bread, but sustain us as only you, Bread of Heaven, can do. Amen.
Tuesday, December 2
The Hope of Being Freed From Fences That Bind Us
(Mary Neal Clarke)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you might prove what is the will of God…. Romans 12:2, NRSV
Shiny white fences surround the horse farms
Along the highway to Lexington,
Zigzag rail fences still struggle to stand
After many years of use, and
Roughly hewn rock fences shaped long ago
Line the country roads.
All of these give pleasure to travelers
On the byways of beautiful Kentucky.
It’s the fences in our minds that bind us,
That take away our freedom to love and care,
Causing us to fear and withdraw from others
When what we want most is to reach out,
To share with all the people who pass our way.
Prayer: Dear God, loving Father, we know that you are our only hope. Please help us to find ways through the fences of fear and prejudices in our minds so that we might be transformed by the renewing of our mind and be able to love all the peoples of the world as you love them. During this Christmas season give us joy as we remember the coming of Christ into the world. Thank you, Father, for sending Jesus. Amen.
Mary Neal Clarke
Wednesday, December 3
(Mary Neal Clarke)
We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God…and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit… . . . Romans 5:1-5, NRSV
All my future days are in God’s hands.
Whether I travel to faraway lands
Or am bound to home like many friends,
I will gladly receive what God sends.
I’ll face each day without fear
Knowing that God is always near.
Trying to make the world a better place,
I’ll keep learning about my space.
I’ll take up each task as it comes my way
Always finding meaning in each new day.
Whether at home or joining the world’s race,
I’ll accept each day as a gift of God’s grace.
For this I will ever show grateful praise,
Even in the midst of the world’s maze,
Always thankful for God’s eternal love,
As onward I go, ever looking above,
Waiting for God’s last call for me,
Knowing that life will go on eternally,
While praying for those left behind
That their lives will be meaningful as mine.
Prayer: Thank you, Heavenly Father, that you are
always with us, even through all of eternity. Amen.
Mary Neal Clarke
Thursday, December 4
Waiting for the Right Time
“But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father….Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come.” Mark 13:32-33, New Jerusalem Bible
8:00 PM June 21 our cat Rachel, dearly loved companion of the past 15 years, came out from behind the sofa gasping for air. She came to me for contact in her last breaths of life. Brent and I both held her as she let go of this life into death.
For the prior 6 months we had nursed her as she began the slow journey from this life to the next. We watched the rallies and declines. The night before she died, she was very present to us as if she was taking all her experiences in for the last time. After she died we buried her in a pet cemetery in a good friend’s yard. The earth cradled her in. A large halcyon hosta grows over her body. The fireflies began to rise in the trees as we spent time listening to the quiet of the night.
A month later, I was called to the home of my friend, Rebekah, in labor with her daughter, also named Rachel. I massaged Rebekah (and Rachel) through 9 months of pregnancy and experienced with them the ebb and flow as they moved towards the moment of birth.
Experiencing birth and death in their fullness awakened me to the sacredness of timing.
God and Spirit know the right time. There is a path to follow through grief or joy. Stay awake. Experience fully. This advent I hear the story of Jesus’ coming and birth with new eyes and ears – a little more willing to stay awake.
Prayer: God, Slow down my mind and my need to rush ahead.
Help me to stay awake to your timing in my life and in your world around me. Amen.
Friday, December 5
The Necessity of Hope
Therefore my heart is glad… and my flesh rests in hope. Psalm 16:9, KJV
Without hope there is despair and giving up. Medically it is recognized that without hope, patients, no matter what the diagnosis or severity of the illness, do not do well. But with hope even the sickest do unexpectedly well.
What is hope? How do we get hope? How do we give hope? It would be great if we could just give a pill of hope to those who have none!
What gives me hope? Sometimes, it is the beginning of a new day with the sun, just barely rising in the sky and the air, crisp and cool. Sometimes, it is the beginning of a new friendship and new discoveries about myself and my new friend. Sometimes, it is just a smile saying everything is okay. And I can’t forget the night sky lit up by a bright, full moon, its light out-lining the clouds in the sky. And then there are rainbows; God’s promise of hope around our shoulders giving us hope for now and for the future.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your rainbow of hope around my shoulders.
Saturday, December 6
Mama was a Survivor
Just think—you don’t need a thing; you’ve got it all.! All God’s gifts are right in front of you……and not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track……He will never give up on you……Never forget that! I Corinthians 1:7-9, The Message
My Mama was a survivor!
When my sister and I were 6 and 8, my birth father abandoned the three of us to pursue a new life with someone else.
So suddenly, at 25, my Mama, who had only an eighth grade education became a single parent and sole provider for our family. She had never worked outside the home, but she got a job in a factory until she decided to go to beauty school. While she was in beauty school, she was introduced to my Daddy and they married when I was 12. Daddy then adopted my sister and me.
Under the G.I. Bill, Daddy went to engineering school and worked part-time and Mama continued to work as well. Daddy graduated from U of L a year after I graduated from high school and the family soon moved to Alton, IL for his new job. Two more moves followed to Bloomington, IN and then Indianapolis before they moved to Louisville in 2003.
In 1967 Mama struggled with deep depression and was hospitalized for 2 months. Those days were difficult for all of us, but with the help of shock treatments, therapy and medication she returned to us!
For years after that she led an active life in her church and neighborhood. She and Daddy were devoted to one another for 56 years!
Mama struggled with many health issues, but she never gave up until she knew it was time. As I remember the struggles Mama overcame, I also remember her many years of vitality, happiness and accomplishments. My memories fill me with hope as I pursue the rest of my life’s journey.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for the dawn that breaks after every darkness and brings us hope anew. Amen.
Sunday, December 7
(Corinne Pondell Holt)
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:1-2, NRSV
A meditative tree
Whose branches are so high they reach past the sky
Strength is found in its ability to be alone
To ponder its beautiful branches
The silhouette against the backdrop
Of a multitude of colors
Depending on mood or moment
Day or season
What an awesome phenomenon
When the lone tree is met by a flock of birds
Congregating on the peak of every branch
As though the naked tree
Were clothed with birds deceived as leaves
Although strong and mighty
It provides a humble abode
For the grand gathering
A flurry of commotion
Entertaining has been fun
but Peace is in
Prayer: Dear God, we are all one, one single seed. This Christmas let us find peace within us,
so the strength of your love can grow, blossom, and be spread to all.
Corinne Pondell Holt
Monday, December 8
Making Room for Hunger
[Jesus said,] “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. [God is] food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” Matthew 5:6, The Message
How do you intend to celebrate this Christmas season? The way of fullness attempts to fill to the maximum our schedule, our spending on gifts, decorations and food. For example, how many of us end up gaining a few pounds during this season?
Celebrating Christmas season this way leaves us no appetite for God. Space must be left in our lives – including in our calendar and in our eating – for this spiritual appetite to emerge. In our secular culture, our subtle yearning for spiritual food easily gets swamped by the food we buy at the supermarket, even the organic kind!
The Beatitude above points us to the best meal we’ll ever eat, even better than Christmas dinner with our family and friends. First, we need to work up a good appetite for God. In order to do that, we have to make space and listen to our spirit with its hungers. The Good News of Christmas is that God through God’s son is closer than our breathing. God is with us. We need only to listen to our true hunger, then turn to the best meal we’ll ever eat.
As we keep nourishing our spirits with this God-food, our spirits flourish; we start to live to a different beat than our culture gives; we become Christ-like. It can begin with the way we choose to prepare for the coming of the birth of Christ.
Prayer: God, if we are honest with ourselves, we are hungry for something more
than the usual holiday fare. Help us find food that will nourish our spirits and make us robust followers of your way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Tuesday, December 9
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life. Psalm 23:6, The Message
One rainy Sunday July morning, Tom and I chose The Cabin over Sunday School and Church. I sat on the porch enjoying the rain, the beauty of the mist, etc. and feeling a little bit guilty.
Peace, beauty, freedom and joy enfolded me and I cried with the fullness of it. This poem came almost instantly. I had to put it down on paper.
To Love a Porch
Seated where there is no screen…
Only a rail to guard between
My solid seat and the wind and rain
That beckons me to risk and rest,
To trust the joy within my breast
And sweetest tears my freedom claim.
Prayer: Creator God, the gift of Your Presence often comes to us intimately
through the splendor of Your creation. May we in this season of bright lights
and frantic schedules, make some time to slow down for a few moments and to experience You through Your creation. Amen.
Wednesday, December 10
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof! Psalm 24:1a, NRSV
On a beautiful morning at our Cabin, I was sitting quietly on the porch, I was overwhelmed by the loveliness and spiritual oneness with God’s creation. The rising mist and the dancing sunlight just said YES to me and the Cabin world. I wrote this poem trying to capture in words, at least in part, some of that experience.
The Great Yes breathes and sparkles perfect in
Whole peace and joy, gentle in the surprise of
Dawn’s soaring affirmation caressing and calling clear.
My spirit breathes – sparkles – soars and sings a
Perfect song wholly owned by Heaven’s Gifts.
Prayer: Heaven’s Gift, You do, indeed own our hearts. We pray that we may find ways to say, “yes,” to You in this holy season as we prepare once again to celebrate the gift of Your incarnation Amen.
Thursday, December 11
…make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Raise every valley! Level every mountain and hill! Make the rough places plain…and the glory of the Lord will be revealed.” Isaiah 40:4, NRSV
In late July of this year I got an e-mail from Debbie Brashear and Debbie Williams. They were inviting members of the congregation to provide school supplies for about 75 school age Karen children whose families did not have the resources to provide their basic back to school supplies.
I thought that the project was a “nice idea” and I thought casually about what I might contribute. But the end of the e-mail reminded readers, with the compassion and passion known only to veteran school teachers, of the “pride and joy and excitement of school children when they come on that first day of school with their own brand new school supplies.” And that reminder took me back……..way back……..to those late August mornings and the sultry heat of a dimly lit gymnasium at Ft. Sanders Elementary School in Knoxville, Tennessee. The memory was almost visceral. I was transported back there to stand beside my mom who moved from one table to another: paying my fees for the year; buying my workbooks; purchasing those “fat” pencils and crayons when I had the chubby hands of a first grader and in later grades the more “lean” varieties of each. I loved that day each year when my mom took me to that gym! And I loved the first day of school with all of my new things! I remembered and re-experienced the pride and joy and excitement of a child with their own brand new school supplies on the first day of school. And suddenly, providing school supplies for Karen children was not just a “nice idea”; it was my mom’s legacy. It was one of hundreds of ways that she faithfully made roads straight for me….made “rough places plain” for me. It also gave me a few moments of precious connection with her in my remembering and my shopping. Thank you, Debbie and Debbie!
Prayer: Dear God: may we “straighten roads…make the rough places plain” for the “least” among us, because Jesus promised that when we do that, we do it for You. Amen.
Friday, December 12
A Child Was Born in Bethlehem
(Louie and June Bailey)
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6, NRSV
A child was born in Bethlehem,
The One who came to be our Light.
He came to earth to show God’s way
That wonderful holy night.
“Alleluia!” The angels sang
Their joyful praise to God’s own son.
Born for us at Christmastide,
He came, the Promised One.
The child we honor this time of year
Was born to bring God’s hope and joy.
He came to earth, the Prince of Peace,
God’s son, a baby boy.
Jesus Christ, we bring you love
For you were sent from God above.
Word made flesh, your love is the key
That saves us and sets us free.
Prayer: Loving God, Creator of us all, at this sacred time of year, our hearts are made tender and supple as we reflect upon your incredible love in sending a vulnerable baby to bring us life. Help us to show the love of that Holy One to everyone we come in contact with each day. Soften our hearts with love for those who need your care and the strength that only you can give and help us to reach out to them as you have reached out to us. In the name of Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem, the Carpenter of Nazareth, the Redeemer of the World. Amen.
Louie and June Bailey
Saturday, December 13
The Light of Peace Started Small
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. John 14:27, NRSV
One Sunday morning in December 2006, I was touched by a father lifting his small son to light the Advent candle of Peace. When first lit, it appeared to the congregation that it really hadn’t caught, and that it would not ignite. At our seats it seemed that each us felt that we could will it to come to life. Then, second after second, it glimmered stronger and stronger. Several seconds later it glowed as brightly as the candle of Hope beside it.
This is my image and desire for peace. Too often it appears as an improbable flicker within our lives and the world. But we must remember that as peace begins small, even with tentative thoughts that it cannot or will not ignite, we must will peace to envelop us. As Jesus taught that peace and justice are basic ideologies of his teachings, may we catch the fire to bring peace to our world. It too often seems to be quivering so precariously, and there are too few people who are actively working toward the peace that Jesus intends. As our world becomes filled with peace, may we see the big picture so that the true world issues, including poverty, hunger, health, conservationism, acceptance and education, may become prioritized. As we pray and work toward peace, may it glow brighter and brighter until it consumes each of us and ultimately, our entire world.
Prayer: God our protector, teach us to care for our world and all of its inhabitants. Let us seek peace as you have taught us. We love you, and we know your love of all of people. Teach us to treat all with your uncompromising love and to promote your desire of peace for all. Amen.
Sunday, December 14
A Spirit of Joy
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NRSV
I was not joyful. Out of town on business, I had gone to the mall of necessity, to resolve computer issues that seemed overwhelming. Oh, woe was me.
I entered at street level, almost a full floor below the stores. A wide, inclined ramp led up from the entryway. As I began my ascent I saw, off to my right, the woman in the wheelchair starting down from the top. White-haired and small, she was ten or twelve years older than I. (So not old at all!) And she was picking up speed.
As she rolled down, she would brush her soles intermittently against the tiled floor, braking cautiously to maintain control. Instinctively I moved to my right, thinking -- I guess -- that I could intercept her headlong descent and prevent a disastrous crash.
She noticed my movement, her eyes met mine and she understood my intent. Letting a wide smile break across her face, she threw both arms straight up into the air, tossed her head back and shouted, “Wheee!”
Surprised by my own laughter I tried to explain myself. “I can catch you!” Now almost at the end of her thrill ride, she laughed with me. “Oh, no you don’t!” She had put me in my place.
More accurately, she had put me in hers – a place that anticipates and welcomes joy anywhere, and in spite of anything.
Prayer: God of Joy, keep us always inclined to help, and to laugh. Amen.
Monday, December 15
AMO, AMAS, AMAT
Every good and perfect gift is from above……James 1:17a, KJV
It was not for my birthday, or anniversary, or Christmas. It was a spontaneous gift from a professor I had known for a mere half-hour. The little yellowed paperback book, Amo, Amas, Amat (I love, You love, He/She loves) is a compilation of Latin phrases one could use or sprinkle about in conversation, “to the astonishment of others,” simply a light-hearted, fun book. Yet today it a reminder of a gracious scholar who helped me because a colleague, Professor Charles Breslin, asked him.
I was writing a paper about Michelangelo’s iconography for the Medici Chapel. My argument was that the artist based it primarily on the Resurrection. Research had led to the Medici Psalter with its intercessory prayers in Latin, perhaps a key to its function as a funerary chapel. However, I had been unable to find a Catholic priest in Louisville who could translate the prayers.
Dr. Thomas Maloney greeted me with a warm smile and listened carefully as I explained my project. Then I handed him a copy of the prayers which he easily translated one by one, as I wrote down the words. The prayers were short and profound. I couldn’t help commenting on their beauty, expressing my joy as they confirmed my intuitions.
Dr. Maloney concluded the translation. I thanked him and stood to go. At the door I told him I had only studied Latin in junior high, but since had loved it and especially liked hearing it sung in sacred song. “Somehow it seems more holy.” At that word Dr. Maloney reached up into his bookcase, pulled out the paperback, and handed it to me saying, “Here, this is for you.”
Spontaneous giving, a moment of recognition, of kinship. Sudden, unreasoned, unexpected, undeserved giving. A grace. Amo, amas, amat.
Prayer: Father, help us to learn and practice spontaneous giving as your Inexpressible Gift leads us daily. Amen.
Tuesday, December 16
(Mary Neal Clarke)
God, my Shepherd! I don’t need a thing! . . .Psalm 23:1, The Message
Like spring rains falling on a thirsty land
Or a deer finding the brook for which he searched,
Like ocean waves splashing gently on the shore,
Or a bubbling creek flowing leisurely toward the ocean,
Like floating on a quiet lake underneath a blue sky,
Or greeting a good friend who has long been absent,
So it is with the peaceful joy that comes to those
Who worship together in love and harmony.
As we listen to the organ notes filling the empty spaces
And join with others lifting our voices in songs or praise,
Or with open hearts hear God’s word read or proclaimed,
And silently wait before God with grateful thanksgiving
As the cup and the bread are passed in memory of Christ,
Our hearts are filled with joy, for our cups overflow, and
Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days
Of our lives, and we will dwell with our Lord forever.
Prayer: Dear Father, help us always to remember that our joy
and strength come from You.
Mary Neal Clarke
Wednesday, December 17
Thunder in the Desert
When Jews from Jerusalem sent a group of priests and officials to ask John who he was, he was completely honest. He didn’t evade the question. He told the plain truth: ”I am not the Messiah.”…Exasperated, they said, “Who then? We need an answer for those who sent us. Tell us something – anything -- about yourself.” “I’m thunder in the desert: ‘Make the road straight for God!’”… John 1:19-23, The Message
“Thunder in the desert.” What an evocative phrase!
When we hear thunder we know a storm is coming.
Rainstorms in the desert are rare and unpredictable. Their coming is dramatic. Storms in Israel may be violent and localized, characterized by torrential downpours with flash floods. These storms sometimes produce very large hail, perhaps even tornadoes.
And then, after the storm, flowers burst forth, new life emerges.
Everything changes radically in but an instant.
If John was the Thunder,
Jesus is the Storm.
And during Advent we await His coming.
It is easy to get lost in the manger, to see only ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild.’
We tend to forget the Christ who calls us to repentance and radical transformation.
“Old things pass away, everything becomes new.”
This year let us consider,
Are we ready for the Storm?
Prayer: Oh God, may the fierce wind of your Spirit storm through our lives and transform us. You are Immanuel, you are with us…and that changes everything. May it be so.
Thursday, December 18
Christmas: The Restoration of Joy to the World
(Claude Drouet and Rusty Henle)
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion…our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with shouts of joy…. Psalm 126:1, NRSV
God fulfilled His promise, with humility, splendor and utter surprise – His grand sense of humor, dispatching Himself as an impoverished child. The Lord has done great, unexpected things for us.
Help us to give up our tired, cynical ways at Christmas, O Lord. Help us to reach out to those who grieve. That reaching will help heal our hurts. Help us to look beyond any disappointments at Christmas, so that we may once again experience Your joyful advent amongst Your beloved human race.
Prayer: May laughter and music fill all hearts with joy and peace throughout our world. May Jesus transform you to find restored meaning through His birth.
Claude Drouet and Rusty Henle
Friday, December 19
Hope in a Creator God
Everything was created through him; nothing----not one thing!----came into being without him. . .John 1:3, The Message
During these past two years Bob Hieb, Woody Ford, Tom Scott, Jr., Tim and Beverly Baker and others renovated Fellowship Hall and constructed the new Youth Room. The work took not only physical energy but imagination, vision and clear goals. In addition to these projects the 3rd and 4th annual Expressions exhibits displayed the creative work of many in our congregation. Tom Scott, Sr. has continued to fan this creative spark in his Art Spirit group. The community has embraced labyrinth meditations and celebrated the church’s centennial with various happenings, merchandise and Andy Rawls’ outstanding video. For the apathetic and minimalist, none of these ventures was essential to existence, but the spark of creativity found good soil in the minds and lives of those who initiated and followed through on these projects. Similarly, the keepers of the grounds and building could have done nothing but watch the weeds grow and the heating and cooling bills rise, but they, too, determinedly replaced windows and landscaped the grounds and fought back the forces of entropy.
The how-ever and who-ever God we worship supports all these creative efforts and counter-balances this entropy. [Entropy in the 2nd law of thermodynamics describes how organized systems without external energy tend to become disorganized over time.] Creative acts are one of the hopeful aspects of our God, and we celebrate these, especially at this time of year when we remember how God became a baby and traversed creatively all the stages of life until manifest in the adulthood of Jesus. To prove the point, God, as this creative force, triumphed even over death, the ultimate expression of entropy.
As we reflect the creative spark of this God-given life, the parties, gift making-shopping-wrapping, music making, card sending, and yes, even the pottery making, reaffirm our hope and trust in a creator God.
Prayer: God give us the energy and inspiration to be co-creators with you in this complex and wonderful world.
Saturday, December 20
The Celebration on Wentworth
Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with shouts of joy……
Psalm 126:1, The Message
Christmas Eve, 53 years ago, in the house at 3019 Wentworth Avenue, Margaret “Tink” and Bill Besser decided to have a gathering. The house was decorated, the food planned and neighbors and friends invited.
Starting as a get together for those whose families were at a distance too far to travel, the event became a Tradition. Year after year, the same friends gathered and new ones were added. We laughed, we ate, we talked and we laughed some more. Over the years the Tradition became a much anticipated event everyone that everyone talked about throughout the year. We all assumed the gathering would always be a part of our holiday—because the Celebration always went on!
The year after Bill died in November—the Celebration went on! The December after Tink was diagnosed with lung cancer in November—the Celebration went on! Tink used the party as a way to tell friends and then she led us to celebrate! The following year Tink decided the party was more than she could manage. Everyone offered to help out if she would host the Celebration, and so Irwin put up the tree, Jackie and Martin did the shopping, Kay, Amy, Nancy and many others assisted Mar Jo with food, DeeDee and Kristen helped cook and serve, Elizabeth and Addison did “set-up” and stayed to help clean up…and the Celebration went on!
This year, on Christmas Eve there will be no Celebration at the house of Wentworth. Tink lost her battle to breathe on July 19. However, the Celebration will go on as we remember the gifts this great, tiny woman, with her big, big heart gave to all us…the gift of laughter, friendship and a peaceful respite during a hectic season. Yes, the celebration will go on – just not at the house on Wentworth.
Prayer: As we have been blessed with heavenly love and the birth of your son, so let us share our love with those around us.
Sunday, December 21
The Feast Day of St. Thomas the Apostle
I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 89:1, NRSV
The fourth Sunday in Advent this year is December 21st. It was the traditional feast day of St Thomas the Apostle. Thomas is best known for his disbelief in the resurrection of Jesus which earned him the name doubting Thomas (John 20:24-29). An old tradition claims that after the resurrection he went as a missionary to southern India. A group there is known as the Christians of St. Thomas of India.
Thomas’ final acceptance of the resurrection provides a connection to another meaning of Advent related to the Second Coming of Christ. The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus which means a coming, an approach, arrival (Lewis and Short, p.45). This word is a translation of the Greek word transliterated as parousia. This word also means a presence. Parousia has become a technical term for the future, eschatological coming of Christ.
Eduard Schweizer in his commentary on the Gospel of Mark discusses the parousia in chapter thirteen. In the last four verses Jesus gives a parable about a man going on a journey and commands the doorkeeper to be on watch. In verses 35 and 36 we are warned to “keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come …or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly (TEV).” Schweizer comments “the salient point here is the faithfulness with which the servants carry out their tasks during the long period of the man’s absence (p. 280).”
Prayer: Gracious Lord, we are overjoyed with the birth of your Son, keep us faithful to the tasks that are set before us so we may rejoice with you at the end of time.
Monday, December 22
Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.
II Corinthians 4:16, The Message
I have no memory of Christmas, 1968. Christmas ended – or began, depending on how you look at it, the afternoon of December 25th when my parents told the three Cook sons at home that Dad had lung cancer. He was to become a patient later that day.
I remember how somber we all were. How Mother asked my older brother, Richard, a divinity student at Union Theological Seminary, to read from the Bible just before Dad’s surgery. (He selected II Corinthians 4:7-16.) Mother and Richard prayed. Dad was determined to watch the Rose Bowl two days after his surgery.
Dad lost his left lung and a few vocal chords that December. I lost an innocence that things would continue as they were: healthy parents in the mix of what had gone before, through my first twenty years. Our family was confronted with pain and uncertainty that came with Dad’s chemotherapy and radiation treatments, three months after the move from Louisville to Worthington, OH.
It’s clear to me now that without knowing it, I was upheld by the faith of my family. I don’t remember praying for Dad’s recovery. I didn’t pray for Mother or for myself. But I was bolstered by the love of my family, as we were confronted with tremendous challenges. The faith of my parents and Richard was my Christmas blessing forty years ago. Love divine, all loves excelling.
Prayer: Dear God, help us remember that when life’s challenges all but
overwhelm us, we can look to others for faith and hope.
Tuesday, December 23
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence-- . . .Isaiah 64:1, NRSV
From my childhood I was taught to seek the will of God for my life. Often it felt like looking for a fabulous prize or the golden egg……….that one true thing I am to do that enables me to be peaceful and enjoy my life. God, if you would just come down and show me what to do, give me a word when I pray or a sign like handwriting on the wall, You know I would do it.
In hard times, I often find silence and waiting patiently only invites me to create fearful head dramas and possible outcomes that scare me.
“Just give me some kind of sign, Girl…” as the song goes. When I reflect on it perhaps I do have signs that heaven has been torn open and God came down: the love of my family and friends, the life and example of Jesus that we celebrate at this time of year, and meaningful work. When this does not feel like enough, perhaps the feeling is not trustworthy…….legitimate but not reliable.
So I yearn in this holy season for faith that overshadows fear; stillness that speaks and eyes that see.
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of God’s heaven. No ear may hear God’s coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive God still, the dear Christ enters in.
Wednesday, December 24
A Labyrinth Walk
God sent me to announce the year of his grace…….to comfort all who mourn…..to give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes….. Isaiah 61:1-3a, The Message
Having never walked a Labyrinth before, I didn’t really ‘get it’. But a time had been scheduled for a walk to focus on healing for Mom, so I went to check it.
When I arrived I looked around the room and saw so many people: people that that I had known all my life and grew up with; people who knew my parents since before I was born. In fact, the room was filled with people I love dearly, and when I looked around I saw how much they loved me, my family and my Mom.
We said a prayer: “Spirit of the Living God, present with us now, enter us body, mind and spirit and heal us of all that harms us.”
Then Mom walked to the center of the Labyrinth. When others started to walk the Labyrinth, I decided to give it a try. As I walked, I began to relax; I focused on releasing my tension and busy thoughts. When I got to the center I sat down beside Mom, to enjoy being near her as people greeted her. I could feel their love and the calming presence of God.
When I got up to leave, I spoke briefly to Mom. She responded to me with only a few words, but they are words that I will remember forever. (I wrote them down so I will be able to read them all my life.)
As I started walking from the center of the Labyrinth, I realized that I was walking away from Mom and I felt panic and pain. I wanted to stay and sit with her forever. I felt like I was losing her, like I was leaving her behind with God. But I chose to keep walking, moving ahead, one step at a time. As I walked and cried I became aware of others walking with me. And though I knew that one day I would have to walk my path without Mom, I could see that I would never walk alone. Walking the Labyrinth with others gave me new confidence and strength.
Prayer: Spirit of the Living God, present with us now, enter us body, mind and spirit and heal us of all that harms us. Amen.
Thursday, December 25
An Unexpected Gift
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. James 1:17, NKJV
It was late December, 2004. Our dear young friends were expecting their first child with anticipation, as were we all. The occasion was bittersweet in that Susan’s Dad had recently died of cancer at age 57 and would never see any of his grandchildren, but we were all excited. Then suddenly, a few days before Christmas, Erich’s mother died from injuries suffered in a freak car accident. Susan was due in January, but the night after the funeral she went into labor, and before we knew it, sweet Mary Amelia, our God-daughter was born. Finally we had some good news. A few hours later the doctor had a serious talk with Susan and Erich. It was clear that Mary had Down’s Syndrome. After the recent family losses, it was an especially hard blow, but the young parents, exhausted from grief, rose to the occasion. From the first day of Mary’s life, they read everything they could get their hands on, joined an amazing group of parents called Down’s Syndrome of Louisville, immediately started Mary in the First Steps program and spent hours talking, singing and working with her speech, physical and cognitive therapies. Mary’s every accomplishment has been greeted with great cheers and great joy. The worry and concern of her diagnosis gradually began to fade because Mary has turned out to be one of the happiest, most charming, funniest and smartest little girls that we know. She loves books and music and animals. Experts say that she is excelling cognitively. We all have hope for her future where at her birth we felt grief and despair. Sometimes the unexpected gift turns out to the be best gift of all. Just take a look at a soon-to-be-four-year-old named Mary.
Prayer: Thank you for your unexpected gifts of joy, especially the gift of the baby born in a lowly manager who has become the joy of our lives, a foil for our dark foes.
© 2008 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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2008 Advent Schedule
Re-Gifting God’s Gifts
November 30 / Advent 1
Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm: 80:1-7, 17-19; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37
W. Gregory Pope Preaching
December 7 / Advent 2
Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; II Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8
Jason W. Crosby Preaching
Hanging of the Green
December 14 / Advent 3
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-ll; Psalm 126 or Luke: 1:47-55; I Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
W. Gregory Pope Preaching
Service of Hope for Bereaved Persons
December 21 / Advent 4
Savior of the Nations, Come
A Service of Carols
Readings from Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Chancel Choir, Children’s Choir, Instrumentalists
II Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Psalm: 89:1-4, 19-26 or Luke 1:46-55; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
W. Gregory Pope
December 24 / Christmas Eve
The Gift of God’s Self / Your Self
W. Gregory Pope Preaching
CRESCENT HILL BAPTIST CHURCH
2800 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
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