Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Advent Meditations - 1976
About the Author
Nov. 28-Dec. 4--Hope
The writer for this week's Advent worship material is Evelyn Stagg, wife of seminary professor Dr. Frank Stagg. She and her husband have three grown children. Mrs. Stagg leads a busy life, but finds time to pursue her hobbies of sewing and reading.
The Staggs have been members of Crescent Hill for twelve years. They are currently the co-teachers of a couples' class in our church.
Sunday, November 28 (Evelyn Stagg)
Many years before the birth of Jesus, King Ahaz ruled in the land of Judah. He was a stubborn man who refused to remember God's lovingkindness and deliberately disobeyed God's commands. The day came when Ahaz realized his land was surrounded by powerful enemy forces and was in grave danger. He was desperate, but he would not turn to God.
Then the Lord sent his prophet Isaiah with the warning that the nation must repent and turn from their wicked ways. But God also spoke a message of hope--the promise of a son who would be called Immanuel--a sign of God's presence with them in the crisis.
The early Christians remembered that promise spoken by Isaiah and saw in Jesus the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of one who comes to judge and to save. For eternally God comes to his people to cleanse and renew, to make real the hope for life in Him.
Dear Father, May we be open to thy presence with us today. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Monday, November 29 (Evelyn Stagg)
This beautiful poem describes the reign of the messianic king whose wisdom, righteousness, and justice will bring in a new day for all creation, especially the poor and oppressed.
In every age innocent people have been en- slaved, persecuted, imprisoned, and denied opportunity for a full life, sometimes in the wake of war, sometimes by cruel tyrants, sometimes by unjust courts.
The promise of one on whom the spirit of the Lord shall rest comes as a bright hope in a day of uncertainty and inequities. God who created the world and all therein, fashioning each person as a precious individual, purposes a justice that is based on the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of the Lord. The vision also includes all creation living in peace and harmony, each part in nature having found its proper relationship
to each other part and to the Lord.
Dear Father, Thank thee for thy Spirit working the world today and for the hope of thy righteous rule. Amen.
Tuesday, November 30 (Evelyn Stagg)
This passage is part of the Servant Song found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. It is quoted widely in the New Testament and has contributed much to our understanding of Jesus and His ministry.
The Hebrew people looked with pride and joy toward their promised messiah, seeing him as a powerful king who would free them from oppressing nations and restore a brilliant kingdom. They were impressed by the powerful acts of Jesus and drawn to his words of wisdom. Many saw in him their longed for national savior. But they were slow to comprehend the ministry of one who came to liberate from self-centeredness, hatred, and like sins. Neither could they understand a savior crucified!
It was a slow and difficult change of perspective, but in time many did come to see in Jesus the one who "has borne our griefs" and whose life brings hope and deliverance.
Dear Father, May we grow in our understanding of the self-giving ministry of Jesus and grant us the grace to follow him. In thy name, we ask it. Amen.
Wednesday, December 1 (Evelyn Stagg)
When the prophet spoke these words, the land of Judah had been conquered by Babylon. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, and thousands of the nation's strong men were taken captive to Babylon. Those who were left were desolate both physically and spiritually. It was a time of mourning and despair.
Then when it seemed there was no hope, the prophet came with a message of hopes with good tidings of the Lord's favor, of liberty for the captive, of healing, comfort, and gladness.
More than five hundred years later Jesus read these words in the synagogue at Nazareth. He gave a new depth of meaning to this message of liberation, hearing, and comfort. For Jesus came to free not one nation from another nation but all men everywhere from powers more devastating than Babylon and more tyrannical than Rome. He came to liberate persons from the bondage of guilt, fear, hate, envy, and the many sins that enslave.
Dear Father, Thank thee for the hope of liberation which we have in Christ. Amen.
Thursday, December 2 (Evelyn Stagg)
On the first day of creation God called forth light, separating light from darkness. All that we know today as universe followed that first creation; for light plays a part in the ever-changing structure of air and soil, of plant and animal life. With the exception of those creatures that live in the depths of the ocean and under the ground, all life depends directly upon light for survival and growth. Apart from light there is no life.
Many terms are used as we try to grasp what Jesus means both in his person and his work. He is called Shepherd, Water of Life, Truth. Here he is called the true Light. For all who will receive him, Jesus enters into the very heart of life itself to dispel the darkness of self-centeredness, fear, and guilt and to create a new kind of life that is one of love and self-giving. And His continuing presence with us gives light for growth and fulfillment.
Dear Father, We thank thee for thy creation and our place in it. We thank thee for Jesus Christ, our Light and Life. Amen.
Friday, December 3 (Evelyn Stagg)
For hundreds of years the Jews had been looking for the messiah, and now Jesus of Nazareth, baptized by John the Baptist and proclaimed by him as the Son of God, moved among the people with power to heal diseases and control the elements. He spoke with wisdom beyond that of the Scribes and Pharisees. Could he be the one who would drive out the Romans and re-establish the throne of David in Jerusalem?
But as time passed, Jesus did not build an army for conquest; he performed no miracles to place himself on a throne. The messengers from John the Baptist asked a simple question, "Art thou he . . .?"
And Jesus turned to show them the work that ministered to all of human need both physical and spiritual. It was not a statement of one consumed with selfish ambition. It was selfless concern expressed in a profoundly simple manner as Jesus brought healing and hope to individuals.
Dear Father, Grant us the grace to see ministry as Jesus lived it. In thy blessed name we pray. Amen.
Saturday, December 4 (Evelyn Stagg)
Alienation is not a happy word, for it carries a complex burden of separation, prejudice, and hatred. Yet wherever people are living apart from God and in discord with their neighbors there is the hurt and destructive power of alienation.
Paul wrote this letter to some new Christians who had suffered the pain of alienation. They had recently received with joy the good news of reconciliation, of Christ's giving of himself to bring all men into a right relationship to God and to each other. The good news of God's love was intended for gentile as well as Jew. It meant a new life free from alienation, motivated by self-giving love, empowered by the continuing work of grace.
It is impossible for mind and heart to grasp fully all that this means. But Paul gives us one short phrase that we can treasure as it speaks to us in our Christian growth--"Christ in you the hope of glory."
Dear Father, May we hold as precious the reality of Christ in us. Amen.
About the Author
Dr. Paul Debusman, writer of this week's devotionals, is Reference and Serials Librarian at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife have been members of Crescent Hill Baptist Church since 1960, where he regularly serves as a member of the church choir.
Dr. Debusman has prepared some excellent materials on the topic of peace for us to use this week. We thank him for this contribution to our worship during Avent.
Sunday, December 5 (Paul Debusman)
"What is your name?" is a common, but very important question. A person's name provides a convenient way to identify that person, and it is interesting to study the origin of names. Some family names, for example, tell of the work or skill of an early family member--Carpenter, Hunter, Farmer. The verses we have just read give several names which describe the work of a leader, but none of the kings of Israel were truly worthy of all these names. These names can be applied to Jesus, the Messiah sent from God, for they describe his very nature. One of the names is Prince of Peace, a beautiful name describing the victorious One who guarantees and guards peace. As we think of this name, and the other names given to Jesus, we can share the joy of the early Christians as they sang of the "name which Is above every name . . . the name of Jesus"
Lord, we need the gift of peace more than any other gift this Christmas. Forgive us when we search for peace in the wrong ways, and lead us again to the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Monday, December 6 (Paul Debusman)
Beauty is not often associated with feet. While we may have admired the skill and grace of the feet of American skaters such as Shelia Young and Dorothy Hamill as they competed in the 1976 Winter Olympic Games, ordinary feet are seldom described as beautiful. But for the prophet and for Paul as he quoted this passage in Romans 10:15, even the feet of the herald or evangelist are beautiful. This messenger would announce the coming of the king, and notice the thrilling message: peace, good tidings of good news, salvation, God reigns! Those who know the Prince of Peace have the honor of being his messengers and of bringing his peace to other people.
Prayer: May words from the great prayer of St. Francis of Assisi be our words:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace-
For he who gives, receives,
He who forgets himself, finds,
He who forgives, receives forgiveness,
And dying, we rise again to eternal life. Amen.
Tuesday, December 7 (Paul Debusman)
Peace usually brings safety, but as we shall discover this week, the peace of the Bible, and the peace of Christ, mean much more than the security that comes when a war is over. Of course, rest from war is a blessing, for war is so much a part of the history of our world. Erich Fromm has calculated that from 1500 B. C. to 1860 A. D. at least 8,000 treaties ensuring "Permanent Peace" have been signed--each treaty lasting an average of two years. Christ the King from the
line of David, grew as a tender plant or branch. He was able, and is still able through his Spirit to bring restored relationships to every area of our lives. His peace is true and lasting.
Prayer: God of peace--we know so much about hostility in our schools, our homes, our churches, our places of work, and among nations. We pray for your judgment, your justice, and your righteousness which will bring lasting peace and healing to our brokenness. In Christ's name, Amen.
Wednesday, December 8 (Paul Debusman)
The Scripture passage today focuses on the rich history of the little village of Bethlehem, some five miles southwest of Jerusalem. From Bethlehem came David, and Ruth, and now the Messiah would draw upon this heritage. The fact that greatness came from this small village is a reminder of the possible worth of many things in life that may seem to be small or obscure. Beyond this truth is the promise of the Messiah who would bring genuine peace. This peace does not look for an easy escape from responsibility, nor does it shrink back from suffering. The Messiah accepted the responsibility of the redemption of the world, and this was accomplished through great suffering. His gift is the wholeness and completeness of true peace.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sins, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell.
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emanuel!
Thursday, December 9 (Paul Debusman)
Today we have read some of the most familiar of all the Scripture verses used at Christmas. The words come easily to our lips, perhaps from memory, and we may miss the grandeur of the passage. We cannot relive the exciting experience of the shepherds, but we can grow in our appreciation of this amazing event. The shepherds were full of fear, but the angel quieted their hearts with a joyful message for them--a message which would eventually spread throughout the entire world (remember Monday's reading about the messengers). The sign was a new- born child in Bethlehem--not a gruff military conqueror, but a tender baby. The angel was joined by the entire heavenly host for a final statement of peace. Peace on earth follows when God is glorified.
Prayer: Gracious Father, you have given so much to us--dare we ask for one more blessing? Open our hearts and minds anew to the wonder of this season, so that we may be people pleasing to you, people in whom your peace can live. Amen.
Friday, December 10 (Paul Debusman)
This week we have discovered several characteristics of true peace. We have thought about the coming of the Prince of Peace, and we have noticed the security that peace brings. We have found that true peace is not dependent upon outward circumstances, but is an inner quality of completeness and wholeness. Today we see that peace has a gentle quality. This is not the Pax Romana, based upon the military might of Rome and enforced by fear, but the gentle, loving peace of Jesus. The bruised reed in our Bible reading might be thrown away because it could not be used for a flute or any other purpose. Lamps in Jesus' day were small vessels filled with oil which burned with a wick. A lamp with a poor wick would not be useful. Jesus does not case aside those who are broken and bruised. He sees the possibilities in each of us, and helps those possibilities to become realities.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for seeing the possibilities in some fishermen, and a tax collector, and in each of us. It Is good to be loved. Amen.
Saturday, December 11 (Paul Debusman)
Following the death of Howard Hughes in early April of this year, much interest
and mystery developed over the ownership of his vast fortune. Nearly two months have passed at the time these words are being written, and still a genuine "last will and testament" has not been found.
The verse we have just read, and the verses surrounding it, can be thought of as the last will of Jesus. He did not have any property or houses or land to leave to his followers, but he left something far more important than any of these things. Wealth may disappear, and houses may be destroyed, but the peace of Christ is eternal. He does not tell us to search for peace or hope for peace--he gives peace. So the circle is completed--the prophet told of the coming Prince of Peace, angels at his birth sang of peace on earth, and as his earthly ministry came near its close, Jesus gave the precious gift of peace to those he loved.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our striving cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess the beauty of Thy peace.
In Christ's name, Amen.
About the Author
Vera Peterson is the writer of the Advent devotionals for this week. Mrs. Peterson is a retired teacher of the public school system but is now teaching English at Boyce School. She has been an active member of our church for twenty-five years and has served in many capacities during this time. Currently, she is the teacher of the Harmony Class at Crescent Hill and a member of the Education Committee.
We are grateful for the contribution which Dr. and Mrs. Peterson have made to the life of our church and for their many years of service at the seminary.
Sunday, December 12 (Vera Peterson)
At a certain point in a tour of Mammoth Cave, the guide extinguishes all the lights. There, far below the surface of the earth, with no glimmer or reflection of light from any source, the darkness is so deep that it seems almost tangible. To find one's way out of the cave in such darkness would be impossible. But when the lights come on, the way is made plain.
The prophet Isaiah used the imagery of darkness and light as he foretold the coming of a great leader for his people. To those who were stumbling about in darkness, he would come as a glorious burst of light. Their joy at his coming would be indescribable.
The writer of the Gospel of Matthew saw in this passage a foretelling of the coming of Christ, who was to become the Light of the world.
Prayer: Our Father, as light dispels darkness, may the indwelling presence of thy Spirit dispel our every doubt and fear, and fill us with joy this day and every day. Amen.
Monday, December 13 (Vera Peterson)
Was there ever greater contrast than that embodied in this king as Zechariah here describes him? He is triumphant, victorious, coming before the cheering throngs of his people as a mighty conqueror. Yet, instead of being borne by a spirited, prancing horse bedecked in military trappings, this king rides a lowly donkey, symbol of humility and gentleness.
Thus does Zechariah picture for us Christ our King. He is not presented as one who is proud and haughty, so far removed from his people as to be unapproachable by them. Instead, he is seen as one who, through humility and gentleness, so identifies himself with the common people that they need have no fear of him.
Surely this is genuine cause for rejoicing, for shouting aloud our joy in the coming of Christ.
Prayer: Our Father, help us to have a spirit of humility in all our relationships so that we may be true followers of Christ. Amen.
Tuesday, December 14 (Vera Peterson)
The story of the Wise Men is a story of an intense, determined effort to find Jesus.
It is a story of a long and difficult journey, over unfamiliar trails and into unknown territory. It is a story of danger to Jesus and to the Wise Men, danger plotted by a jealous and vengeful king.
But it is also a story of the unswerving faith of the Wise Men in the final outcome of their search as, disregarding all difficulties and dangers, they followed the guidance of a star. Above all, it is a story of their great joy when at last they came into the presence of the one for whom they had been searching. Then came the glad rejoicing, as their worship of Jesus found expression in the joyful giving of their treasures.
Wise men today are still seeking Jesus, rejoicing when they find Him, and offering their gifts in adoration and praise.
Prayer: 0 God, as did the Wise Men of old, help us to find thee anew in this advent season. Amen.
Wednesday, December 15 (Vera Peterson)
One of the most beautiful utterances of praise to be found in the Bible is the passage called the Magnificat of Mary, the first three verses of which form the devotional reading for today. As Mary meditated upon the wondrous honor bestowed upon her in having been chosen to bear the Son of God, she could not contain the joy which welled up within her, causing her to burst forth into a song of fervent thanksgiving and praise.
Conscious of her own humble background, she was awed by the realization that she would be accorded a place of greatness by future generations. The beauty of Mary's character shines through her song of praise, for it speaks to us of her humility her sublime faith in God, and her joyous acceptance of her role in his plan for sending his Son into the world.
Prayer: Our Father, we praise thee for the outpouring of thy love and mercy expressed in the coming of Jesus Christ into the world and into our own lives. Amen.
Thursday, December 16 (Vera Peterson)
I John 1:1-4
In order to give valid testimony, a witness must know from personal experience the facts of which he speaks. In the devotional passage for today the writer of I John attests to the validity of his testimony through a series of verbs emphasizing knowledge of Christ based on personal experience. According to his own statement, he was one of those who heard, saw, touched Jesus Christ, through whom the eternal God entered time and space, thus making himself known to man. He was convinced that, through Christ's coming, two things were made possible to all believers: a quality of life that is eternal, and a joyful fellowship both with other believers and with God the Father.
Prayer: 0 God, we thank thee especially during this Advent season that Jesus Christ has helped us to see thee as a Father, and that through belief in Christ as thy Son we may have true fellowship with thee. Amen.
Friday, December 17 (Vera Peterson)
It is natural for man to fear the unknown. So it was with the shepherds to whom the angel appeared on that long-ago night when Jesus was born. One can imagine how frightened they must have been, dazzled by the brightness of the light and dazed by its strangeness.
But the first words of the heavenly visitor called them from fear to joy in the good news of the Savior's birth. And with the appearance of the angelic host, singing praises to God, the heavens rang with glad songs of celebration for the wondrous thing which had come to pass. God through Christ had offered himself in a new relationship to man.
Joy was the keynote of that first Christmas. Joy is still the keynote of our Advent sea- son today, as we lift our own songs of thanksgiving and praise to God for the glorious gift of his Son.
Prayer: Our Father, we thank thee that Jesus Christ has added a new dimension to joy by his coming-into the world. Amen.
Saturday, December 18 (Vera Peterson)
One of the happiest events in life is a wedding. The carefully chosen garments of the bride and groom and of the attendants, the flowers, the music, the pageantry, the sacred marriage vows--all are expressions of beauty, love and joy. It is a time of rejoicing for everyone present, the bridal party, families, and wedding guests.
The prophet Isaiah used the imagery of a wedding feast to portray the joy of a
people whom the Lord has blessed. His words are a beautiful picture of the joy that is ours as we think upon the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. Through him, God has blessed us by offering salvation, and our response is one of exultant celebration.
Prayer: 0 God, let the joy of our salvation so permeate our lives that in attitude and in deed we may express our devotion to thee. Amen.
About the Author
The Advent worship material for this week was prepared by Keyes Tate. Mrs. Tate is well knows by members of Crescent Hill and to seminarians for her work with Chrismons. She has also served the church in many capacities since joining Crescent Hill in 1952.
The Tates are currently busily preparing to move to Costa Rica. We appreciate her taking time to write these devotionals.
Sunday, December 19 (Keyes Tate)
Jesus said a man reaches the limit of his human love when he lays down his life for his friends. If we asked God how much He loves us, what do you think He would answer? God's love is not blind, but brilliant and includes even those who do not love Him.
Why? What motivates God? Paul says that at least part of God's motivation is seen in Jesus "because he loved the church" and wanted to present it clean and unblemished (Eph. 5:25-27). God wants us to become ultimately like His own clean and beautiful Son, Jesus Christ (Roms. 8:29).
Prayer: O loving, caring Father, help us to clean up our spots, wrinkles and blemishes so that we can become pure and lovely like the baby born to Mary. We want to grow more like Jesus and prepare ourselves for living eternally with you. Amen.
Monday, December 20 (Keyes Tate)
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we read words spoken thirty-three years later, shortly before Jesus died an the cross, about the manner of loving. He showed His love by washing His apostles' feet. Then He commanded them to love each other as He loved them. He spoke as the bringer of a new age of transforming love. God is the source of the commandment to love as a vocation, not spontaneously, but as an act of the will; even when the lovability of the persons involved changes. "Only if love is thought of as an emotion is it meaningless to command love; the command to love shows that love is understood as an attitude of the will." (R. Bultmann). What manner of love He showed US!
Prayer: Help us to understand loving one another not as choice, but as commandment from the Master to His faithful servants. Amen.
Tuesday, December 21 (Keyes Tate)
There is a marvelous difference between man and the rest of God's creation in that man can respond deliberately to the God who created Him. Stars declare His majesty silently, but to that elegant silence man gives a voice. Human response to the love of God is stated with classical simplicity when Jesus asked Peter, "Lovest thou me more than all else?". To Peter's thrice said "Yes," Jesus commands, "Feed my sheep." As love is the sum total of God's feeling for man, so love is the sum total of man's response to God. Caring lovingly for our brothers in Christ closes the gap between the ideal and the real world where we live. Love is Christmas caring every day.
I know not how that Bethlehem's babe could in the Godhead be:
I only know the manger Child has brought God's life to me.
I know not how that Joseph's tomb could solve death's mystery.
I only how a living Christ, our immortality.
Wednesday, December 22 (Keyes Tate)
I John 4:7-12
Loving and giving go together like a smooth fitting glove and your hand. It is no mystery that man and woman leave parents and the homes of their childhood to begin a new home together. But there is mystery that Christ was willing to leave His father's home, not for those who loved Him but for rascals, haters, and sinners (Eph. 5:32).
The Hebrews required a slave to work six years. He could go free the seventh year.
But if he had been given a wife and she bore him children, they must remain with the master. If the slave loved his master and family he could say, "I will not go free." Then the master would pierce his ear with an awl, in public, and the man became his slave for life (Exodus 21:2-6). Is not our Jesus like the perfect Hebrew slave? He took the form of a servant to pay debts we could not pay. Like the pierced ear of the slave, Jesus bears scars in His hands and side as eternal evidence of His great love for us.
Thank you for love so amazing that your perfect Son chose to leave Flis father's house and become a servant for me. Amen.
Thursday, December 23 (Keyes Tate)
I John 3:1
"The first cry of a newborn baby in Chicago or Zamboango, in Amsterdam or Rangoon, has the same pitch and key, each saying, I am! I have come through! I belong! I am a member of the Family'" (Carl Sandburg). John reminds us that we are God's beloved children, born of God, not adopted into the family, but His very own flesh and blood. The magnitude of such a heritage is awesome.
Such love requires of us loving response and great responsibility. John also reminds us that loving the parent means loving the child, so when we love God and obey His commands, we love His children, too (I John 5:12). As children of our Father we are all intertwined in a beautiful family which cares more for each other than for individual interests.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for pink-cheeked babies dependent upon their parents; for children who teach parents while they are being taught. Help us to understand how to be worthy children of God increasing in favor with fellow man and with you, our Father. Amen.
Friday, December 24 (Keyes Tate)
Today's devotional could be shared by your Christmas Tree where packages are accumulating. Use a ruler to measurve a package. You will discover four dimensions: length, breadth, depth and height. But, Paul tells us he could never find any way to measure God's love. It is as wide as the sea and high as the heavens above us, "as far as the East from the West" says David (Psalms 103:12). How long is God's love? Eternal life is without beginning or ending. What depth determines God's love? It could be measured by the distance the Son of God
came to save us. How high is God's love? David speaks of being lifted "from the horrible pit" to the throne (Psalms 40:2).
Prayer: May we have wisdom to comprehend the measurements of the love of Christ and be filled with the fullness of God. Amen.
Saturday, December 25 (Keyes Tate)
All week market baskets of food and gifts have been carried to those in need. It is more blessed to give than to receive, but there is value in learning to be a gracious receiver also. Has not God given us far more than we can ever pass along to others? We can become a market basket ourselves with a cluster of nine fruits from the Spirit that multiply with the giving away. Paul names these fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22,23).
Pick from that cluster one fruit today and give it to someone who lives with you.
Prayer: O giver of perfect gifts, show us how to be unselfish givers seeking anonymity instead of credit. Help as to be gracious gift receivers, letting others know our pleasure. May our Christmas gifting be both blessing and blessed. Amen.
Advent 1976 © 1976 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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