Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Advent Meditations - 1975
About the Author:
Dr. James W. Cox is the writer of the Advent devotionals for this week. Dr. Cox holds the position of Associate Professor of Preaching at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is frequently a guest speaker in churches throughout the SBC, as well as being a writer of adult curriculum for the Baptist Sunday School Board.
Dr. and Mrs. Cox have two sons, David and Kenneth. We are grateful for the material Dr. Cox prepared for us.
Sunday, November 30 (James W. Cox)
All of us are encouraged by little tokens-signs-of each other's approval, friendship or love. These signs are especially helpful when things are going badly for us. The days of Isaiah and Ahaz were though times, but God promised a sign of his unfailing nearness and mercy in the birth of a child, who would be named Immanuel, meaning "God is with us." The secondary and perfect fulfillment came in Jesus Christ who was and is in actual fact God with us, or as someone put it-"the near end of God." With such a token of God's caring presence, we can dare believe that the worst of times may become the best of times.
Prayer: O God, help me to treasure every gesture of your unfailing mercies. Strengthen me in my confidence that you are working out your loving purpose even when my vision of your presence grows dim. Amen.
Monday, December 1 (James W. Cox)
Despite disappointment with national leaders [e.g. Watergate 1974], we have again dreamed "the impossible dream." We dub certain periods of history with names like "the nuclear age" or "the science age." We could subdivide one of them and speak of "the decade of clay feet." Our idols have fallen and the faith of some of us has been crushed.
In Isaiah's time, all that was good and glorious during David's reign, plus everything else humanly desirable, was projected on the screen of the future. The ideal king would come and call nations and all nature would resonate with his wisdom and justice. This hope, which finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus the Christ, is God's promise to those who stumble amid the ruins of their fallen idols. Many recent personal tragedies have underscored the blunt protest of a lauded king: "Only God is great!"
Prayer: Help, O God, to put my ultimate faith in what you are doing and will do to make all things right. Amen.
Tuesday, December 2 (James W. Cox)
God often works incognito. We survey all the signs of human greatness and say to him, "Can you top this?" And he does. But not in the way we expect.
He appears in the suffering servant-in weakness and with the disfigurements of a thousand failures. Israel had no power and was the butt of a thousand jokes. Yet God's blessing and use of Israel was out of all proportion to its size and worthiness. Jeremiah and others personified the suffering and style of success in God's servant. Of Jesus Christ it was said, "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not." Such, also, is the way of the church, which completes "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions."
The world does not know what is good for it and rejects it. Yet God wins through: "With his (God's suffering servant's) stripes we are healed.
Prayer: As you hide yourself, O God, in garments of weakness and plainness, may I not reject you by rejecting the least of those that are yours. Amen.
Wednesday, December 3 (James W. Cox)
These are the words on which Jesus based his sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth. What he came to do was good news. Physically, psychologically and spiritually things were to be different for God's people because he had come. Just as the exiles needed encouragement in the prophet's time, so the masses of Jesus' day needed a good word of hope. Human ills of many descriptions would be alleviated in "the year of the Lord's favor," for God would deal with causes through his servant.
God continues to come to us when "gloom and doom" hold sway, summoning us to rejoice as he makes it possible for us to rejoice. Even the apostle Paul could say from prison, "Rejoice in the Lord always." This was not empty pep talk: it was based on the conviction that "the Lord is at hand."
Prayer: Grant me, O God, faith in your nearness that I may be comforted by it and an instrument of it. Amen.
Thursday, December 4 (James W. Cox)
The interplay of light and darkness is bold and repeated in the Fourth Gospel. Darkness represents what is wild and unformed, or what is evil. Light represents God in his creative, saving action. So the struggle between light and darkness goes on.
In Jesus Christ human beings--in their spiritual darkness--were confronted by the true, un-derived light of God. When what is dark within us yields to the light that Christ brings, we too become light. We become recipients of his salvation and, and like John the Baptist, witnesses to it.
Furthermore, it is gift from first to last. God takes the initiative in making us his children. Racial descent, social status or human instinct does not determine salvation: it is the will and work of God. Even so, we may oppose and reject what he desires for us; we may shut out the light.
Prayer: Create within me, O God, the desire to see and love the light that is you, that I may be and remain light and hope for others. Amen.
Friday, December 5 (James W. Cox)
Is Jesus really the Christ? If not, what different kind of Christ are we looking for? What more and better could a messiah do than what Jesus has done?
No human concern has been omitted from his agenda. He addressed himself to all of the problems of our human life as they appeared before him.
He did not satisfy all expectations. He rewrote the order of priorities. Human suffering moved him with compassion, but human sin and unbelief pained him most. However, it was often his healing touch that conveyed the deeper message.
We do not look for some different figure to appear as the Christ. We only look into the future for wonder upon wonder from the one who has already come with blessing.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I believe in you. Help me to look not for another, but for you as you come with your blessings again and again. Amen.
Saturday, December 6 (James W. Cox)
When the final purpose of God for all his people begins to be fulfilled in an individual or in a group, a magnificent hope is born. "Christ in you, the hope of glory"-this is how Paul put it. Something of the character of Christ takes over and lives within us. This does not have to be an ecstatic communion belonging to the mystics. It can be a down-to-earth ethical feeling for the kind of life our Lord showed us how to live and a sensitive, informed concern for people of all kinds.
The hope of glory? This is anticipation of sharing in the final triumph of all that God began to do in ages past, that he revealed in Jesus Christ, and that he will bring to completion. Every impulse of genuine Christian love and every act of genuine Christian action indicate the presence of Christ within us now and the promise of our celebration with him in the Father's victory hereafter.
Prayer: O living Christ, live within me now, that I may rejoice with you forever. Amen.
About the Author
The Advent worship material for this week was prepared by Miss Mary Julia Augenstein. Miss Augenstein has been a member of Crescent Hill Baptist Church for twenty-three years. She was a graduate of the W.M.U. Training School, later serving as field representative of Carver School. She is a faculty member of the New Albany High School.
Miss Augenstein has many outside interests, but particularly enjoys music and sports events. We thank her for taking time in her busy schedule to write the devotional material.
Sunday, December 7 (Mary J. Augenstein)
Jesus came as the Prince of Peace when there really was no peace among men. Fear of Rome's power to conquer and destroy was rampant. Dissent was deadly dangerous. Yet in the midst of such turmoil, Jesus came to proclaim peace, that peace which passes all understanding. And He was prepared to pay the ultimate price for the peace He proclaimed.
Governments must work so hard to keep peace, or freedom from war, because man's sense of judgement and justice so easily becomes warped by false ideals. His imperfections lead toward easy, temporary solutions that dissolve. Greed for power leads him to gamble with peace, as the Japanese did on this day thirty-four years ago. But the justice of the Prince of Peace is based on His perfect character and is therefore dependable.
Prayer: O Savior, Who offered Yourself as the Prince of Peace so available to us, help us at this season of Your birth to dedicated ourselves anew to discovering the deepest meanings of Your peace. Amen.
Monday, December 8 (Mary J. Augenstein)
How desperately our world needs messengers of peace who recognize that God does reign-messengers who can speak with the assurance that conquers doubt, of salvation that dispels fear. While from every press release and news broadcast come horrors of violence and degradation, these messengers speak of the good tidings that lift man's spirit above the muck. They urge us, "Look about you and find ways of showing God's love and grace to your neighbors and the strangers around you. Tell them of the peace that knowing the Savior brings."
Thus each of us can become one of the people of God as Isaiah describes in this verse, each proclaiming that God is in charge and He will triumph over all circumstances.
Prayer: Dear Father, forgive us for reticence when we have a message to shout, for timidity when all Your power and assurance are as near to us as our very breath. Give us courage to be Your spokesmen of Peace. Amen.
Tuesday, December 9 (Mary J. Augenstein)
So often the Messianic prophecies speak of righteousness in judgement and justice when Jesus should come. And in this context Israel, or God's children, would dwell safely and peacefully. This foretells the words of Luke when he speaks of Jesus as a gift of "peace and good will among men."
Dwelling in peace as individuals cannot mean that we are free from grief and tribulation, for Jesus and all God's servants knew troubles. Nor surely can it be a sort of permanent peace-of-mind syndrome which sees an escape from harsh realities. But, indeed, it is a constant reassurance that God's Presence with us in the mire of suffering is sufficient for our needs. He goes down with us and gently leads us to the stable ground where we can praise Him for His abundant gifts in the midst of life's trials. How does anyone live without this kind of peace, I wonder?
Prayer: Oh Redeemer, we confess our sometimes weak faith in your promises and ask forgiveness. In humble and profound gratitude we claim now your generous gifts. Amen.
Wednesday, December 10 (Mary J. Augenstein)
God confounds us by choosing the insignificant, the unknown to become mighty and majestic. How inconsequential was Bethlehem, a manger, a poor Mary and Joseph! Because this way of God's is so averse to our way, we tend to misunderstand the nature of His Gift of Peace. We continue to judge a man's contribution by his background, his heritage, his name.
Then we sometimes overlook the fact that God sent His Son to demonstrate that peace comes from giving of oneself, as this Scripture shows. His Servant "feeds man in the strength and majesty of the name of the Lord." Where need showed its face, Jesus responded. Probably the most anxious person in crisis is the one who wrings his hands in despair rather than offers them in service. Perhaps none of us will learn the true meaning of peace until we discover the joy of sharing ourselves in meeting the needs of others.
Prayer: Our Father, help us to redirect our priorities so that we may fulfill Your mission by sharing our gifts. Amen.
Thursday, December 11 (Mary J. Augenstein)
An event scarcely recognized but by a few men was proclaimed by angels as a gift of peace and good will to mankind. As Jesus clearly exemplified, these cherished gifts associated with His coming to earth can be understood only through both vertical and horizontal relationships. We receive from God His redeeming grace, and with loving concern born of His love we must reach out to share with our fellow man.
Idealists and reformers promote all sorts of solutions to society's problems. But they blossom only to decline because of the frustration that comes from human effort alone. They have not learned that the change of the inner man is the key to redeeming society. Indeed, peace on earth can come only by following the plan of God laid down in creation. Why are we so reluctant to accept His ways when they were given us for our peace and joy?
Prayer: Our Father, open our eyes so that we may see our blindness and Your eternal plan for peace. Amen.
Friday, December 12 (Mary J. Augenstein)
From Genesis 3:15 on through the Old Testament, the prophecies proclaim Jesus as God's Chosen Servant, His instrument of justice and peace. These verses in Matthew show Him fulfilling His role, as the Father desired. This unity between prophecy and fulfillment can only add to our confidence about who He is.
Here the manner in which He fulfills His ministry is so inspiring and refreshing. He does not over whelm His hearers by shouting and screaming His message, becoming obnoxious to the man in the street. Nor does He ever smash hope, for He will not break the reed already bent nor quench the little man's spirit when no one else can see anything but a hopeless little dying ember. Jesus, fulfilling His prophetic role, offers His tender smile of encouragement wherever Hope fades and Peace flees.
Prayer: O Savior of Mine, thank you for never giving up. Help me to be more patient and wise and persistent for Your sake. Amen.
Saturday, December 13 (Mary J. Augenstein)
This great chapter of John's Gospel probably has as many favorite verses as any other in the Bible. Just prior to the agony of the crucifixion events, Jesus tries to reassure and comfort the disciples. He promises the coming of the Holy Spirit to guide them after He is gone, in various translations called the Comforter, the Helper and the Advocate. It would take Pentecost for them to further understand this. And furthermore, He promises that anyone loving and obeying Him would have the Father and Him to "come and live with him." (vs. 23) What promises - almost too great for our puny minds to comprehend!
Then there comes the promise of Jesus' own peace being given to us, "not as the world gives." Therefore, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." Words fail us in the presence of such loving promises!
Prayer: Oh God, we tremble with the knowledge of Your great trust in us. Forgive us for not fully believing, and help us to begin to day to live up to the measure of Your promises of Peace, our everlasting legacy. Amen.
About the Author
Mr. Arnold Epley, writer of this week's devotionals, has the official position of Director of Choral Music at University of Louisville School of Music. He is presently a candidate for Doctor of Musical Arts at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to the fine contribution he makes in the church choir, he works with preschoolers in the church school.
The Epleys are the parents of two sons, Eric and Allen. They are valued members of our church.
Sunday, December 14 (Arnold Epley)
The sunshine of every day is beautiful and welcome, but few things are as wonderful as the dawn after the long darkness of a fear-ridden night. When that night is the inner darkness of hopelessness, depression and directionless living. The dawn of hope, joy and purpose is doubly bright. God promises us this kind of light in our darkness, bringing light to our darkness, driving away our darkness. Hope! Peace! Purpose! Life! What wonderful news! Joy!
Prayer: O Thou Light of the world, help us to turn to the true light of your presence for relief from our darkness, safe and joyful; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Monday, December 15 (Arnold Epley)
Part of the significance of kingship lies in the reality of those people and ideologies that would be kingly and assertive in place of the one who occupies the throne. Can the rejoicing of the followers of the King of kings be fully joyful over his advent if they have not agonized over the consequences of life not dominated by his gracious will? For the Christian the humble, yet victorious coming of Christ is our sign that the seemingly overwhelming difficulties of this world are not the last word, after all. "... though the wrong be oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet." Rejoice!
Prayer: O God of all our world, awaken us to the shame of vice, wretchedness and squalor, that we may not rest until the world reflects your holiness and we all are filled with your joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Tuesday, December 16 (Arnold Epley)
A favorite story lead-in line these days is "I have some good news and some bad news." Just such is the case written about here concerning the star which led the Oriental astrologers to Bethlehem and Jesus (and Herod.) As T. S. Eliot was to write of the Magi, "... were we led all that way for Birth or Death?"
In, a way, both. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." And this life means death to the other alternatives.
Again, Eliot: "We returned to our places. . .but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with all alien people clutching their gods."
Prayer: Glory be to you, O God, for your most mighty act whereby our lives are redeemed:
For sending forth your Son in the fullness of time
To be born, to live and work,
To seek and bring to fullness those who could not find their way,
To suffer and die, and rise victorious over death.
Glory be to you, O God, for the good news, which enables us to be alive, fully rejoicing, in spite of the bad news of life's story. Amen.
Wednesday, December 17 (Arnold Epley)
The Magnificat has stood through the centuries as one of the most breathtakingly beautiful passages in all of literature. How odd, that the words of a young, unlearned peasant would be so inspired as to become thus admired. But even more that she would be that partner of God in the act of Jesus' physical gestation and birth!
Mary's beautifully simple joy, profound in its implication, is a joy available to every person who says "Let it, no, let me be so, as you have wished." We all have in us the seeds of God's completeness, waiting for our willingness to be.
Prayer: O you, in whom all things live, who commands us to seek you and are ready to be found: to know you is life, to serve you is freedom, to praise you is our souls' joy. Enrich our common life with the realizations of your continuing gifts of the true and lovely through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thursday, December 18 (Arnold Epley)
I John 1:1-4
One of the resounding lessons of parenthood is the realization that we didn't recognize how much our own parents loved us, because we had not yet experienced the wonder of parental love from that vantagepoint. But we still try to talk of it, hopeless though it will be for anyone else to know the realness we feel.
Even so with John. "What we have experienced we share with you with words, so you can be full of joy, too." And this "transferred experience" will serve as a beginning point for joyfulness. But soon, the relationship must be experienced for ourselves, seen, touched, handled, if the Life available is to become the Joy in us all. . . complete.
Prayer: Almighty God, giver of life and joy: give us we pray you, diligence to see you, patience to wait for you, understanding to know you, and a life to show forth your praise; through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Friday, December 19 (Arnold Epley)
One mark of maturity is the ability to wait for a desired object or experience. Many people, quite advanced in years, have learned little of this self-discipline, while some children practice it with ease. For one it is denial-for the other, anticipation.
The joyful anticipation of what is to come, even of the unknown quantities which sometime cause us uneasiness, fills every day with a little bit of that experience, a "foretaste." When life is lived under the confidence of God's presence, then every experience has something good to be seen, learned, experimented with, shared.
Prayer: Almighty God, in whose presence is the fullness of joy, and whose power is made perfect in our weakness:
We pray that beyond the beauty of the world we may see your beauty; that in the goodness of men we may see your grace; that above the sin of man we may see your salvation; and beneath all human suffering we may know your love; so that all our life may be lived in you: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, December, 20 (Arnold Epley)
For some, the running of the race is its own reward, but for many, at one time or another, the knowledge of what response will be made at the end of the race gives the courage to keep moving, at the very least to "walk, and faint not."
The great God of creation and of history, unknowable and surpassing in awesomeness and power, has given us in the person of Jesus Christ a "foretaste" of the joyful and full life which John says is the theme: life, eternal and shared in common with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.
This is our hope, experienced now and held in anticipation.
Prayer: O Lord, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, who was with us at our birth, be with us through our life; you who are always with us through our life, be with us at our death; and because your love and mercy will not leave us then, grant that we will not end there, but remain ever present in the ongoing fabric of life, everlasting, with you and in you; who reigns in the glory of the eternal, one God, world without end. Amen.
About the Author
The writer for this week's Advent family worship material is Mrs. Bobbye Shipp. Mrs. Shipp is the mother of four daughters. She is an active member of our church, having placed her membership here in 1961. She is beginning her sixth year as a church secretary on our staff, currently serving as Dr. Howell's secretary.
We appreciate the contribution Mrs. Shipp makes to the life of Crescent Hill Baptist Church.
Sunday, December 21 (Bobbye Shipp)
A Christmas gift for a whole family to enjoy can have a special place on the shopping list of a friend. Anticipated good times of sharing and playing together come to mind as the gift is purchased.
But before the package is even opened, just the opposite can happen, as the family must decide on the one person who will unwrap the gift and get the first glimpse.
God's gift of His son is a gift for each one of His children. "God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love." (Augustine)
Prayer: Our Father God, open our hearts to receive your gift of Love. Enable us to live in the freedom that comes with the acceptance that it is by your Grace and not of our doing that we have this gift. With the assurance that nothing can separate us from your love, help us to live joyfully as your children. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.
Monday, December 22 (Bobbye Shipp)
Christmas may be the special time for the entrustment of a cherished heirloom by an older member in a family to a younger relative. With the entrustment and the acceptance of the gift, the response of love in faithfulness will mean that the heirloom will again be passed on to another generation.
Jesus entrusted His followers to love one another with a self-giving love like His own!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are glad to be a part of your family, and we are grateful for the committed ones through the years who have passed on your love to us. As we rejoice in being loved, help us to respond with your kind of love and bring a new joy to the heart of another one of your children. For Jesus' sake, we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, December 23 (Bobbye Shipp)
A friend's hand extended with a beautifully wrapped package or a brown paper bag can brighten any day with the warmth and joy of Christmas. One could just dwell on the beauty of the wrapped package or the mystery of the brown bag and never extend a hand to receive the package. But when two hands meet to give and to receive, a gift of love is born.
Jesus brought to mankind the love of God. Those who reach out to receive the Son's love and believe in Him find a Father loving them for their love of His Son.
Prayer: Dear Lord, with the excitement of a child who has a new gift, we thank you anew for the gift of Jesus. In the joy and beauty of this season, may we not forget that your Love for us also meant a cross for your Son. When we find it hard to have your Spirit of Christmas, may we look again at Calvary and remember anew how much you really do love us. In his name, we pray. Amen.
Wednesday, December 24 (Bobbye Shipp)
I John 4:7-12
God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son. And as His children, our echoing response is shown in love for one another.
To show another person in visible acts of caring that "I love you for who you are"-not for the gift of praise or money or pride I can get from you-is a priceless gift to give or to receive on Christmas Eve and each day of the year.
Prayer: Father, we can love because we are loved by you. Help us to respond to your love each day by caring for some of your other children. While the shepherds were in the fields with their sheep, they saw your star and followed it. As we go about our daily tasks, enable us to see those who need your love and care through us. And as the wise men traveled afar to find the Christ Child, may we be willing to go "out of our way" to give your love and care. Amen.
Thursday, December 25 (Bobbye Shipp)
I John 3:1
"See what I got for Christmas!" can be a child's way of expressing his great delight with a gift he has been given.
While all are children of God in that we owe our lives to Him, we only become children of God in the personal and loving sense of the term by God's initiating Grace, and the response of our own heart. To bear the name of the family of God is a gift to cause us to live with such gratitude and joy that those who see us will know that we not only are called His children, but we are!
A Christmas Blessing:
May the grace of Christ our Savior
And the Father's boundless love,
With the Holy Spirit's favor,
Rest upon us from above.
Thus may we abide in union
With each other and the Lord,
And possess, in sweet communion,
Joys which earth cannot afford. Amen.
Advent 1975 © 1975 by Crescent Hill Baptist Church, 2800 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher.
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CRESCENT HILL BAPTIST CHURCH
2800 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
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