Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Advent Meditations - 1981
Paul Duke, a native of Montgomery, Alabama is a doctoral candidate in the area of New Testament Studies at Southern Seminary. Spare time is spent with his wife Cathy and their five-year-old daughter Stephanie. Following his seminary education, Paul plans to be a pastor.
Wendy Barker, a school teacher in Oldham County, writes our lessons on Peace. She has been an active member in Sunday School and C.H.I.M.E. while a member here at Crescent Hill. Her husband Bill is a student at Southern Seminary.
Nancy Drown Allen divides her time between her occupation as a writer, her teaching duties at the University of Louisville and Indiana University Southeast, and her family. She and her husband Michael have taught single seminary students in Sunday School at Crescent Hill since 1978.
Daniel Aleshire, our Associate Pastor, serves Southern Seminary as a professor in two areas--Denominational Ministry and Developmental Psychology. A native of Grove City, Ohio, Dan and his wife Jo have a daughter named Jennifer.
November 29, 1981 (Paul Duke)
Immanuel, God-with-us. Here is terror, for God-with-us means no hiding place remains. Here is community, for it is henceforth God-with-us, never merely God-with-me. Here is invitation, for the question is raised, who will be We-with-God? Here is the most amazing Grace, for it is us after all, us of all people, that God deigns to be so unreservedly and unconditionally-God-with. Frederick Buechner tells of a dream in which his finger wrote in the wetness on a table a name. He awoke weeping, not remembering the name, but knowing he would die for it. We know the name. It is the wellspring of our tearful dreaming and
of our great hope.
O God, for Thy great Being-with-us, receive our praise and our grateful being-with-Thee.
November 30, 1981 (Paul Duke)
What a gloriously preposterous vision is played out here. The Wild Kingdom upside down! Wolf and lamb are pals, Ox and Lion enjoy small talk over bale- of-hay, the cobra-pit houses the cradle roll. Add to this Marlin Perkins with James Watt, KKK with NAACP, Jerry Falwell with Jane Fonda. It's enough to make you laugh --or cry, this vision of enmity overwhelmed with trust and with God. Laugh or cry because dreams so sweet are perennially cut short by our own fearful hiding. By our own hand, the vision is a ruin. So the Good News: it is precisely from a stump that the shoot shall come forth. Out of the cut-short ruin of our visions springs God's Hope. With or without us, God's vision will come true. Laugh or cry.
Little Lord Child, judge us, teach us, lead us till Thy Kingdom is our home.
December 1, 1981 (Paul Duke)
Here is hope in a minor key. God promises a Savior. We envision the gift in pretty pictures: a young plant redeeming a desert with sudden Spring; a beautiful Babe before whom shepherds bow and choirs softly sing. But pretty pictures of this Savior soon collapse. He is despised and rejected. The Babe's face turns repulsive as we watch. The problem? He has taken on our face, wears openly our hidden, hideous wounds and diseases. This is humiliation! Yes, and this is hope. For a real Savior would never simply bless our lovely posing before his manger. He would weep for us and die for us. He would save us from prettiness and give the deeper, richer gift of sin forgiven.
Overwhelm us, 0 God, with the truth of our sickness and of Thy great Grace.
December 2, 1981 (Paul Duke)
Good news for poor prisoners. Which, spiritually speaking, means all of us. We confess regularly our poverty of spirit, captivity to sin. Here's hope for us! So thought another congregation once. The preacher read this text and they purred in the pews. But the sermon was a surprise. God's poor captives, he suggested, were outside the congregation, were precisely the people they wanted outside, and the Spirit was passing them by again, seeking outsiders instead. They promptly shoved him outside, proving his point (Luke 4:16-30). Some scripture shouldn't be spiritualized. God's gift is for the needy. When we hold more than we need, or fail those who need us, we forfeit hope. Then we are poor prisoners indeed.
God, empty our hands for a hungry world, and so for Thee.
December 3, 1981 (Paul Duke)
Darkness grows on you. If you're not accustomed to light, you generally don't want any. So when Jesus blazed into the world, some covered their eyes and some scrambled to put him out. But others refused to flee his shining. With blinking eyes and faltering steps they faced the light and followed it -- and discovered something amazing. In the light they saw not only his radiant face, but their own faces turning radiant too. They found that in his Light you not only see, you shine. In his dazzling, piercing Presence we are strangely gifted with "power to become God's children." We are graced with Light enough to be born in. Light grows on you too.
Open our poor eyes, dear God, to Light that has found us to bear us unto Thee.
December 4, 1981 (Paul Duke)
What will God do when God gets down to business? When the End begins to dawn and the divine sleeves are rolled up for the final glorious act, what will we see? Governments toppling? Armies clashing? Villains howling and saints ascending while Gabriel plays high C-sharp? Whatever comes, the drama is bound to be high. John thought Jesus would open the drama, so when no fireworks exploded he wanted to know why. Jesus answered by pointing to a crowd of ex-outcasts who had received healing and hope. The point? Here is God's glorious business--transforming wretched people with hope and healing. Whatever else the final act may hold, there is no higher drama or hope for which to work and watch--and see.
God keep us watching for Thy greatest miracle in us, and willing Thy greatest Miracle through us.
December 5, 1981 (Paul Duke)
It is a mystery that a man behind prison wall, with grinning Death staring at him through the bars, could write of rejoicing, riches, glory and hope. It's as if his hope had little to do with his situation. He had seen a vision so gloriously big -- a world free of walls and bars, his own circumstance hardly mattered anymore. Where did he see it? In some people he knew who, with him, had surrendered their private prisons and found themselves wonderfully joined with each other in Christ. What they all saw now was Christ among them, reconciling, changing, sending out, That is a Mystery indeed. And we who have met the Mystery In each other have all the hopes we need.
We thank you, God, for giving in Thy family such pleasant foretaste of Thyself.
December 6, 1981 (Wendy Barker)
CELEBRATION OF PEACE
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Savior's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy tales, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.
Hamlet I, ii
At a superstitious time when many feared the appearance of spirits condemned to walk the night or the loss of a child to a fairy who would leave a fairy-child-- or even a pig --in its place, the celebration of the Lord's birth was a peaceful respite. It was a time so holy, some believed, that no evil thing could exist.
This same celebration can bring us the same peace-- the same escape from our fears.
Father God: Let us hear the bird of dawning singing all night long; let us know your Amen.
December 8, 1981 (Wendy Barker)
LIVING IN PEACE
When my younger sister was in high school, two of her friends were brutally murdered; their bodies were found less than a mile from our home. The damage done to the families of these young people is immeasurable; to my sister, it meant not only sorrow, but intense fear as well. She was so nervous that she couldn't sleep, and when she did sleep, she awoke screaming. These fears gradually abated with the help of God and family.
Many people live in fear of unknown enemies. And because there can be no assurance of safety from man, the assurance that God loves His people is the only answer to the fear of living in a sinful world. That assurance can be enough for us to live in peace; it must be enough.
O God: Grant us the security that you care for us let that security be our peace. Amen.
December 9, 1981 (Wendy Barker)
A PROMISE OF PEACE
These are troubled times,
For Israel is stricken with a rod.
The Great Peace will come.
These are lonely times,
For Israel is abandoned.
The Great Peace will come.
And the Great Peace will be the great paradox:
For he will be called out of the least,
and he will rule the greatest.
He will be called shepherd,
and he will lead the world.
With the strength of the Lord he will lead them.
With the majesty of God he will guide them.
With his unending greatness he will protect them.
And they will be secure.
Lord God, these are troubled times,
For Israel is stricken with a rod.
The Great Peace is come.
Let us anticipate the great peace that our Lord Christ brings, let us be sensitive enough to know it has come, and let us rejoice in this great gift. Amen.
December 10, 1981 (Wendy Barker)
A WHISPER OF PEACE; A CHORUS OF PEACE
In "The Shepherd," Heywood Broun tells of Amos, a young shepherd who heard the angels' news. Amos was different from the other shepherds; he refused to go look for the child. Though the other shepherds tried to persuade him, he would not budge. The loud singing had not put him at peace, and it had frightened his sheep. And his duty, it seemed to him, was to stay and watch and wait-- for that which would give him peace.
When the others returned from seeing the child, they found Amos at peace: he had calmed the sheep; he had seen the miracle of his flock growing from one hundred to one hundred one; and most importantly, he had received a whisper--not a herald angel or a celestial choir--but a still, small voice that spoke just to Amos and gave him peace.
Lord, You may come to us with a crash of cymbals or with the rustling of the wind in the grass. Help us to recognize our own special summons and to be at peace to answer it.
December 11, 1981 (Wendy Barker)
A CHILDHOOD PEACE
When the Father offered salvation to a world of sinful adults, he thought it well not to come to that world as another adult. He sent himself -- his son-- as an infant, a being whose sinlessness and humility no one could question.
As the savior grew, lie retained his child-like qualities. And as when he was a child, he still looked to the Father for his strength.
For us to be able to accept this offering of salvation, we must prepare ourselves to meet the child-like savior; he himself has told us we must become like children again. For who but a child can look at another child and see a king?
O Father, hold us in your lap, and instruct us in your wisdom. Return us to our childhood peace.
December 12, 1981 (Wendy Barker)
John 14: 27
THE ETERNAL LIGHT OF PEACE
"The devil's beating his wife," Mom would say when the rain would come down while the sun was still shining. As a child with confused notions, I turned that expression around, and thought instead, of God and Satan battling with the weather as weapons. Some days Satan couldn't rain out any of God's light. (And even on days when the sun itself wasn't visible, or on the darkest, blackest nights, God always would at least prick a pinhole of light in the darkness.) The victory of the light over the darkness seemed to be reason enough not to be afraid-- at least to my young mind-- for God was in control. I found some of the most peaceful hours of my childhood sitting on the back porch during sun showers.
Our God and Father, give us your light and the vision to see it. Amen.
December 13, 1981 (Nancy Allen)
THE JOY OF UNDERSTANDING
Joy comes to us in many ways.
I find it as I watch my students' faces
while I teach them a new concept.
They look at me expectantly,
and I see in them questions, confusion,
and-- finally-- understanding.
Few things produce any more Joy than
understanding something we have been struggling
to make sense of.
To understand Ls to walk from darkness into light,
to experience a Great Awakening.
God must find special joy as He sees
His children glow
with the light of Understanding
O God of Truth, thank you for the joy of Understanding. May we always journey in the light of your will.
December 14, 1981 (Nancy Allen)
THE JOY OF CELEBRATING
Victory parties are fun.
In a real sense, we celebrate
Christ's victory over the world
each time we come together as Church.
With triumphant voices, stately pipe organ,
and carefully-decorated church,
we could easily forget Christ's own paradoxical
victory march-- riding on a small donkey, wearing no crown or royal robe,
carrying no sceptre or sword.
Jesus' victory party reminds us how to live,
how to celebrate the victory
without forgetting the losers.
O God of Paradox, thank you for the joy of Celebrating. May we remember to invite the world to our victory parties that soon there may be no losers.
December 15, 1981 (Nancy Allen)
THE JOY OF SEEKING
Herod didn't know what he missed.
He sent three men to do his seeking.
Seeing God's star, those three experienced the joy
of seeking the Holy Mystery,
of finding the Holy Answer.
Meanwhile Herod sat home in his palace
content that his servants were doing his bidding.
Too often we let others do our seeking for us.
We pay professional ministers to seek and find.
"Don't bother us," we say "until you find the right answer."
Joy is in the seeking, the asking, the searching.
No one can follow God's star for us.
O God of Direction thank you for the joy of Seeking. May you always lead us as we search, answer us as we ask, and show us as we seek.
December 16, 1981 (Nancy Allen)
THE JOY OF THANKSGIVING
When our eight-year-old Matt prays, he says,
"Thank you, God, for Mom, Dad, Eric,
Did Mary have more than Matt --
or any of us --
to be grateful for?
In our grown-up wisdom
we stop praising God for
I wonder why.
No, we can't all be the mother of Christ.
But each time we share Christ with someone new He is born again in another of God's children.
O God of Prayer, thank you for the joy of Thanksgiving. And thank you, God, for us.
December 17, 1981 (Nancy Allen)
I John 1: 1-4
THE JOY OF WRITING
Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of my favorite poets, was a Catholic priest who wrote poetry in secret, fearing that his superiors in the Church would not approve.
These poems reveal his great desire to express his feelings about--God-- in writing.
So it must have been for the writer of I John. Often, writing our feelings about God
is the best way to express them.
We find something magical happening as we write: a collaboration between God and ourselves as ideas become visible.
This brings joy to the writer;
that it also brings joy to the reader is grace.
O God of Words, thank you for the joy of Writing. May we recognize this human distinction for its power to become your voice made visible.
December 18, 1981 (Nancy Allen)
THE JOY OF TELLING
We are always a tiny bit afraid of messengers.
Never faring well in history, they were often held responsible for the bad tidings they brought.
Angels didn't fare much better.
Surely they grew tired of humans cowering before them, of having always to begin with "Fear not. . . . "
Why are we so afraid of telling?
Because once the Good News is told,
life is never the same again.
It can't be.
If we hear God's word, we become the messenger,
compelled to tell the Good news
to those who may not want to hear.
O God of Good News, thank you for the joy of Telling.
May we overcome our fear of hearing so we can experience this joy of sharing your word.
December 19, 1981 (Nancy Allen)
John 14: 3
THE JOY OF KNOWING
Pisgah Presbyterian Church in Versailles, Ky., dates back to 1784. On a recent fall afternoon, we walked around its adjacent cemetery reading moss-covered tombstones.
Twelve Revolutionary soldiers lie buried there, and a new gravestone bears a 1975 date.
Across the centuries there is a promise that unites in death these people who didn't know each other in life: the joy of knowing that Jesus has gone "to prepare a place" where his followers-- from any age--can be with him. We have the joy of knowing that he's doing the same for us.
O God of Mystery, thank you for the joy of Knowing Your Promise, of knowing you. In a world of few absolutes, it is comforting to know that you are with us-- and always will be.
December 20, 1981 (Daniel Aleshire)
It was 13 years ago, I think, after my wife and I had been dating for a while, when I first told her "I love you." Since then, that phrase has been exchanged between us regularly. Sometimes in tenderness, sometimes in silliness, sometimes I in repentance--but it has never lost its impact, it has never grown old.
"I love you" is a phrase that wears well-- not out. "God so loved the world" is like that, too. It is God's once-and-for-all-but-always-new affirmation that we are loved, and that love is genuinely given only at great cost.
O Lord, as we celebrate the Advent of your Word, let us hear him again. Thank you for your love. Amen.
December 21, 1981 (Daniel Aleshire)
You awakened this morning knowing that it is one day closer to Christmas. Jewish believers woke up this day to celebrate Hanukkah -- a feast invented to commemorate the cleansing of the ancient Jerusalem Temple "from the pollution of pagan worship." Maybe our Christian Christmas needs a good Jewish Hanukkah. Maybe the most precious of
gifts this year would be cleansing our Christmas celebration of the paganizing pollution of an unbelieving, self-centered world. Maybe the best of gifts that could come to any of us is to exchange our Christmas lists of things most wanted for the gospel list of things most needed: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness.
Give us, O God, the gifts that will honor Your coming and make your presence felt in this groping, weary world. Amen.
December 22, 1981 (Daniel Aleshire)
I John 3:1
It was Wednesday night at Crescent Hill, and our Jenny's first appearance with the three year old choir. Of course, when the other children sang, Jenny didn't. When the other children banged their instruments for the rhythm number, Jenny hit her sticks too, always at the wrong time. And, of course, I was overwhelmingly, if not overbearingly, proud of her. You see, she is my child.
God wants us to be his children. Even though we are no better at righteousness than Jenny was at songs or rhythm sticks -- God seeks to claim us as his children. Being his children makes each of us special to him as Jenny is special to me.
"See, what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God."
Keep us as your children, we pray. Even though we are wayward and inept. Forgive us, and remind us of your love. Amen.
December 23, 1981
A more theological concept would have been better, no doubt. A more sophisticated system would have made the whole thing more reputable. But the bottom line of the Christian faith is love. God loves us. We love God. Love one another.
Love--with all of its indefensible potential for excess; with its glaring disregard of intellectual refinement; with its frightening absence of laws --love is the one command of Christians. If we do not love, we do not know the Christmas story. If we cannot accept love, we can never appreciate the Christ-gift.
Love--scandalous to hard-nosed thinkers who want to win in a wicked world; burdensome to bureaucrats who want to regulate and legislate -- love comes splashing through the Christmas story freeing us, opening us, creating us and making all things new.
Keep us, O God, from being afraid or embarrassed that you have made love the absolute demand of our faith. Amen.
December 24, 1981 (Daniel Aleshire)
The busyness that has been pushing aside the meaning of this season will finally come to rest today. It may be very late tonight, but the pace will slacken.
You will finally have a chance ...
--to see twinkling lights and wonder about a God who would send his only-one-of-a-kind Son to a questionable world;
--to hear a song and wonder why God is so given to understanding things glorious;
--to feel cold air and wonder if this God and his Christmas are for real at all.
The night will bring no magic, the lights will uncover no new revelation, the sounds will produce no new evidence. But in your wondering, the Silent Presence will tarry with you.
You affirm that faith hangs on belief. You believe that the Son has come from the Father, and love the Son in whom you believe. And the Father loves and cradles anyone who loves his Son.
Give us the gift of belief this day, Lord. It is a gift we need anew. Amen.
December 25, 1981 (Daniel Aleshire)
If words on paper could leap in praise, if ink could, just once, shout in joy--
This is a celebration day. The Only-Hope-for-the-World has come. God, who had every reason not to, chose to love us and seeks to save us.
This is a tear-the-paper, hug-and-kiss, lavish- the-love kind of day.
Christ is born, and so are we, for "he who loves is born of God."
We celebrate this day the Christ who was born. We celebrate also our birthing into the Kingdom coming.
It is a day when word and tear and pulse and breath unite to birth yet new praise and love unto this wintry world.
For your coming, for your love, for icicle alleluia's, 0 God, we give praise and thanks. Amen.
December 26, 1981 (Daniel Aleshire)
Celebrations always come to an end. Faith that is good only for the parties is not the faith that comes from God. Oh, he does give parties and the faith to relish them. Parties on earth, parties in heaven, parties for anyone who will come. But this Father of Jesus Christ gives gifts that start when the celebration stops.
The Christ who came stays to dwell among his people. We are rooted people. Grounded in love. We are beckoned by God to soar in celebration, and nurtured by love to come down to a place. And there, back on the ground, down in our roots, we come to understand the breadth and height and length of love and to know the unknowable Christ.
We give thanks, O God, for the celebration of this season and for grounding our lives in roots of love. Amen.
Advent 1981 © 1981 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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