Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Advent Devotional Booklet - 1983
(Jerry Keyes x 2, Janet Tharpe, Roger Murchison, Denise George x 2, Margaret Graves x 2, John Joseph Owens x 2, Wesley Edwards x 2, Helen Barnette, Keyes Tate x 2, Marjorie Powers, Michael Willett, Sara Jo Hooper x 2, Marcia Hemingway, Mary Zimmer, Mary Frances Owens, Jackie Pendergraph, Paul Debusman, Randall Powers, Cherrie Williams, Amy Keys, Bill Leonard)
November 27, 1983 (Jerry Keyes)
The evangelist John frequently talked about Christ as the Light of the World. This name was not new to him. Isaiah, many years before, looking ahead to our world said, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light."
Christmas is all about this light of the world. Advent reminds us that there is still much darkness. It is a darkness made up of sin, ignorance, hate, and pride. To remind themselves of the growing power of Christ, the Light, Christians have long made and used the Advent wreaths.
The wreath is covered with evergreens. Just as this particular species of tree is always green, so our hope for eternity is always sure because it is based on Christ. Green is the color of life and growth.
The wreath is also in the form of a circle, which has no beginning and no end. Our life with God is everlasting - beginning, always, now.
The candles are significant both is their color and in their light. Three candles are violet - a color for repentance, solemnness, and royalty, and one is pink - a color for joy. The joy we celebrate is that Christ has come, and in repentance and solemnness we prepare for His coming again as we make ready for that Holy Night.
On Christmas Eve, a large white candle called the "Christ Candle" is placed in the center of the wreath to represent the coming of the Long Expected.
O Lord of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, the creator of that first Christmas day, come to our hearts and prepare us for this Advent season. O come to our hearts, Lord Jesus, for there is room in our hearts for thee. Amen.
November 28, 1983 (Janet Tharpe)
Over the past year I have experienced the most difficult days of my life, including many personal losses, unemployment, career reversals and death. More than once my despair nearly shut out my hope. From those hours I learned that the gift of hope is grown in relationships.
I read somewhere that "to love someone is to know the song (hopes and dreams) in their heart and sing it to them when their memory fails." In my recent pilgrimage I have been blessed by persons who were singers of my hope, extending to me God's arms, hands and feet. Often they nudged my hope to recovery when my memory was f ailing.
The birth event for which Advent prepares us is God's way of reaching to us in His most loving relationship ---- the arms and hands and feet of His Son Jesus. Because of His birth we may be sure that One who values us highly knows our hearts' song. If we wait and watch for Him, we will hear His singing to us. And out of that knowledge we may draw courage to continue to hope and strength to sing for others whose memories fail.
Activity: Think of someone you know whose hope is dim this season and extend to them an extra measure of friendship.
Abba God: As we light the candle of Hope this day, make us aware that it is the candle that bears the longest burning in anticipation of Your birth. Make us as faithful to wait with hope in longing love for Your coming. Amen.
Janet G. Tharpe
November 29, 1983 (Rodger Murchison)
A new baby to be born not long after Christmas! The doctor examined Margaret and announced that she looked fine and all should go well, even though she was over 35 years of age. My mind held the words, "All should go well."
This will be our second child, and we are very excited. So many questions: what color will be the eyes, what color will be the hair, how much will it weigh, how long will it be? But, the big question -- will it be all right? We can only hope -- hope that all is well, as it should be.
Life is that way -- we hope for what we do not know for certain. No one is sure about today or tomorrow, so why should I expect to know for a fact that this new baby will be okay? All we do is done in hope.
The Baby of Christmas came that way. He was hoped for and he came as a covenant to the people. He was to be:
-Light to the nations
-Open eyes to the blind
-Freedom for the prisoners.
The people of God prayed for a Savior, a Messiah to rescue them; they hoped for a miracle. The miracle came, but not as some expected. It came in the peaceful, innocent strength of a child.
Hope -- it calls us to believe in something or someone not yet seen. A hope for the world calls us to believe in the Babe of Christmas as Savior and Lord.
Dear God, Bathe our lives in Hope and wash away the stains of unbelief, that we, with our soul and body pure, may live more like your Son, the Hope of all the World.
November 30, 1983 (Denise George)
I Corinthians 13:7, 13a
As a child, I loved the Christmas Day dinners at my grandparents' home. "Mama" made the turkey and ham and pound cake. "Papa" entertained the grandchildren with new songs he wrote and played on his guitar. By early afternoon, aunts and uncles and cousins had gathered in the dining room, each bearing great bowls of fried corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, and fresh-snapped green beans.
We ate, we laughed, we played, we sang. We truly loved every moment in our times of family celebration.
Those celebrations are a thing of the past now. My grandparents are in their eighties. Mama is very ill. The Christmas Day dinners stopped long ago. But we will long remember those festive days. For Mama and Papa gave each family member a precious gift on Christmas--a gift of love, of faith, and of hope--one that will live as long as each of us lives. They gave us a memory--one that will journey with us throughout all life's years.
Dear Father: Thank you those special memory-makers who bring gifts of hope in a world that holds so little hope.
December 1, 1983 (Margaret Graves)
The prophets spoke to the people of their day of what it would be like when God sent a Messiah, a Deliverer, into their hurting world. Although the expectations of different prophets were varied, they all believed that whoever he was he would do a great job of setting straight the wrongs.
Like the world in the time of the prophets, the world we live in also experiences pain, hunger, poverty and oppression. Where do you see a Messiah needed today? Is there any way that, like the prophets, we can "prepare the way" for the coming of God into our world today? What concrete action can we take to make a difference?
In lighting the first advent candle we are reminded of the light of hope that the prophets had in their expectation of a Messiah who would bring peace and love to the world.
Dear God, our world is hurting and in darkness. Help us prepare a way for your coming in Christ Jesus, our Deliverer. Amen.
December 2, 1983 (J. J. Owens)
In Petach Tiqvah, Israel, two of our Southern Baptist missionaries live by the name of Martha and Norman Lytle. The name "Petach,Tiqvah" is Hebrew for "Door of Hope." It is an important basis for hope due to its location and function. Martha and Norman are giving their lives in order to give hope to the people of Israel, for without the blood of the Messiah there is no hope at all for lasting peace in the Middle East.
An important aspect of HOPE is the belief that there is a possibility that the wish can become a reality. God has places and persons as evidence of His presence and our Hope. God sent His Son to be born in Israel as a sign of His presence. We can celebrate Christmas each year as the reminder of what God has done and is doing in a world which needs redemption. The Lytles have gone to Israel as a "door of hope" in Christ's name.
Psalm 71:5 reads, "For thou, O Lord, art my hope." Our hope today is based on the fact that God came in the presence of His Son and that God calls per- sons today to be His Light in all the world. So as Psalm 71:14 says, "I will hope continually, and will praise thee yet more and more."
Thank you, Lord, for sending Your Son to be our hope and for sending missionaries into the far-reaches of the world to bring knowledge of Christ to all nations. Amen.
John Joseph Owens
December 3, 1983 (J. J. Owens)
Psalm 71:5, 14
Do you ever wish that someone would step up to you and give you a million dollars tax-free? Even though there was a radio/TV program with that for- mat, such a wish is only daydreaming. There is a difference between day- dreaming and HOPE. Hope is a "desire accompanied with ... belief that it is obtainable." Back of any real hope, there must be a good reason for thinking that your desire can be fulfilled.
In Psalm 71:5, we read "For thou, 0 Lord, art my hope." Because of who our God is, we have basis for great hopes.
On that first Christmas, God sent His own Son into the world as His sign. As we celebrate that historical event, we see the birth of Jesus as historical basis for Hope. Our hope is not just daydreaming. God is alive and is still active in redemption.
Psalm 71:14 looks forward, "But I will hope continually, and will praise thee yet more and more." Again this year, we celebrate Christmas because of the birth of our Savior Jesus. We can hope continually. Our God is coming to us all of the time, so we have real reasons for hope for a better life, eternal salvation, and a life of lasting peace.
Dear Lord, we thank thee for each of your gifts to mankind. We thank thee that Jesus is continually our Hope. Use each one of us to be an extension of your love to those who live in need and despair. Amen.
John Joseph Owens
December 4, 1983 (Denise George)
Numbers 6:26; John 14:27
In a world that knows no peace,
only hate and hurt
only violence and war
We can be peacemakers.
There are no magic wands to wave for
But like the popular song says:
Let there be peace on earth - the wish
And let it begin with me - the reality.
So, you see, we can bring peace
and joy and hope
To our own lives
and to our families
and to our friends
and to all those around us.
Blessed are you, peacemaker,
Dear Lord, we Pray for the peace only Jesus can give us. May it begin in us May we hold it in out hearts and, at the same time, share it with others.
December 5, 1983 (Wesley Edwards)
Worldly calm is often interrupted. A young child sometimes feels displaced by a new baby. Changes at school or work disrupt us. A broken air conditioner or dishwasher alters our domestic lifestyle. Both farmers and resort operators depend upon favorable weather. We are anxious when a fledgling bird is learning to hop about, and hope its wings will mature before it is caught by a predator. Our peace of mind is disturbed by political and economic turmoil in Central America and the Middle East.
Peace comes in knowing that God sent His Son Jesus to reassure us of the newness of life. He grew to manhood to help us to understand the trials and tribulations of this world, while offering us God's peace that lasts and sustains us in facing all our concerns, fears, and anxieties. Peace: an inner serenity amidst the storms of life.
Just as you gave Mary and Joseph peace to sustain them during Jesus' childhood, make us aware of your presence wherever we are. Amen.
December 6, 1983 (Helen Barnette)
Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:14; Ephesians 2:14
Have you ever awakened early on a wintry morning to find your world white with a blanket of soft snow? Remember your sense of wonder, how you once again marveled at the peacefulness of the moment? Behind that sense of peace was the knowledge that, yes, this is what occurs sometimes during the winter season; for God in His Infinite Wisdom has established the natural world. Our peace is in knowing that He is the Ultimate Designer, thus we can have assurance and peace of mind. That silent snow, the majestic mountains, a splendid sunset, the vast ocean, even a child's laughter are all reminders that God is truly "in charge." We who trust our Heavenly Father can possess that peaceful assurance even when snow causes inconvenience, mountains are steep to climb, storm clouds hide the sun, big waves crash, or when tears come instead of laughter.
In olden days people honored a prince because he was a visible reminder of the order of royalty which told them that the king was "in charge." In a much more profound way,, Jesus was sent to be for humanity a genuine reminder of "Who is in charge" of our universe.
Thus we celebrate again the coming to us of the Prince of Peace - God with us - to those people back there in Bethlehem, to us this very day, and with us all forever. Wonder of wonders!
Welcome again, O Prince of Peace!
We marvel again, O Heavenly Father, that you could care so much about all of Your creation that You actually came to us in Christ Jesus and continue to be with us through Your Holy Spirit. Help us this day to share with others that joyous peace. Amen.
December 7, 1983 (Margaret Keyes Tate)
Once upon an Advent time four small children and their parents decided to make their Christmas celebration different. Early in December they promised to memorize the story of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:1-20) and read or say it together each day until Christmas. The youngest child was just beginning to read, but he learned some verses quite well.
For several years they had shared Christmas Eve gatherings with another four-child family. In each group some could play musical instruments. Everyone could sing carols. There were always Christmas goodies to share.
This year when the time came for Bible readings, this family spoke their memorized surprise. By candlelight, in hushed voices, they recited the sweet, old story of the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Sometimes one of them spoke, sometimes altogether, "And it came to pass in those days---"
Do you know that many years later members of that family can still recite the story, not perfectly, but pretty well! Do you think your family might like to make your Christmas different in that same way?
Dear Father God. We thank you for loving us enough to send your Son down from heaven in the person of a baby, who is born again each Christmas Eve in the hearts of those who believe in Him.
Margaret Keyes Tate
December 8, 1983 (Marjorie Powers)
Activity: Using a Bible Concordance, see how many references to PEACE are in the Bible.
Does Jesus promise peace among individuals? In 'Luke 12:51,'he tells us He does not tome to bring peace on earth.
Does He promise the absence of wars? Not until Jesus comes, for He warns us that there will be "wars and rumors of wars" until that day: Matthew 24:6.
But in today's scripture He promises peace! Then what kind of PEACE is it that Jesus offers us?
The Lord refers to PEACE within us, which all of us can experience as we live, walk, and work with the Christ. This means doing everything as unto Him (if we cannot do a thing as unto the Lord, then we know we should not do it). This means giving Him our selves to pilot, to use in His service.
If we do this, God will send the Holy Spirit to live in us, and with Him will come PEACE. PEACE is one of the fruits of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit: Galatians 5:22. PEACE is a state of being of the individual promised to everyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord of Life. With PEACE within, no matter what happens outside of us, it cannot touch us to destroy us. God's Word is full of promises of PEACE in the midst of turmoil. Have you found many?
Shall we reach out for Jesus' promise today?
Jesus, Lord of Life, send your Holy Spirit to live within us that we
may know your PEACE. May we trust your promises. Amen.
December 9, 1983 (Michael Willett)
What a strange word on that first Christmas night: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace! Undoubtedly the shepherds thought, "There is precious little peace in our corner of the world." The nation was occupied by an oppressive foreign power. The people were divided over how to respond. Some advocated violent overthrow, others cooperated with the government, and still others withdrew into the countryside. Peace indeed! What could bring peace in the midst of violence, wholeness midst fragmentation, reconciliation in the face of alienation! The shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened."
In our own day, the angels' proclamation of peace too sounds strange. War rages
in many parts of the globe. Large numbers are deprived of basic human rights. Others are malnourished and live in abject poverty. And life itself is threatened by the prospect of nuclear war. Peace indeed! We too crave peace, wholeness reconciliation. Let us go with the shepherds to the manger to behold the Prince of Peace.
O God of peace, in this world filled with violence, make us instruments of Your peace. Amen.
December 10, 1983 (Sara Jo Hooper)
Isaiah 11:6-9; Luke 10:38-42; Philippians 4:6-7
I was trying to "have it all" long before that phrase became a popular slogan. I began ambitious projects full of energy and finished exhausted, angry at myself for taking on too much and guilty because I'd failed to meet my impossibly high standards. The Christmas season was the most frantic time of the year.
Contrast this anxious, fragmented mode with the gospel writers' picture of Jesus: he never assumed that he could have it all; he knew the alternatives, he made his choice and he never deviated from that course. Jesus didn't waste energy on numerous causes; yet he threw himself recklessly into the work that was his, spending his energy with abandon. He set aside time for physical and spiritual renewal; he spent time with those closest to him, away from the crowds; he spent time alone, fasting and praying. His was a focused life.
Peace requires that I decide what's most important and focus on that goal. Peace means that I am really "present" wherever I am, not mentally preparing for my next task of worrying about choices I might have made. Today, our family will look again at our Christmas calendar and try to eliminate hurry but will also make it possible for us to savor each experience.
Oh God, help us to create quiet times and spaces so that our celebration of the coming of the Prince of Peace may indeed be peace-full. Amen.
(1) Survey the family to determine which of your traditional Christmas activities mean the most. (Prepare to be surprised.) Eliminate un-favorites.
(2) Help children learn to make hard choices by asking them to narrow voluminous wish lists to a few most wanted items.
(3) Read on focusing and simplifying; see One Minute Manger and The Hurried Child; they're in the CHBC library.
Sara Jo Hooper
December 11, 1983 (Marcia Hemingway)
On this Sunday, the first day of the week of Joy, the favorite carol "Joy to the World" comes to mind.
"Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her king:"
With triumph in our voice we sing those words proclaiming our Savior's birth. The hymn says more to us than to tell us of the birth of a baby. This hymn takes us beyond birth into the salvation story itself. We should rejoice not only that Christ Jesus was born, but that He arose, conquering death to reign over the earth. He provides a remittance for our sin each and every day. This is the greatest gift to us every Christmas - salvation. The joy of salvation provides a gift more beautiful than the brightest package, more precious than expensive jewels, and more lasting than the most durable steel.
This Christmas share the joy that Christ has given to each of us. Isaac Watts wrote "Joy to the World" in 1719. In 1983 write your own hymn and sing (or play) it as a family throughout this Advent season.
Father, this day as we come before you, let us give thanks for the Gift that you give us every day. Forgive us for taking for granted this Gift and the gifts of our her- itage. Renew us with the joy of our salvation this Christmas season. Help us to share this Joy with those around us so that they may also know your wondrous love. In the name of Christ Jesus, Amen.
December 12, 1983 (Mary Zimmer)
We're taught this psalm early in our church experience, and it must be because it's easy for children to follow the psalmist's idea. We'll have a four-year-old in our family this Christmas and like most children he's talented at making a joyful noise. Children love to sing, and one of the delights of parenthood during this season is over-hearing endless verses of "Jingle Bells" and "Away In a Manger" sung with complete enthusiasm. Somehow as we grow older, many of us become more self-conscious and less willing to sing spontaneously as we go through our days.
Advent is a time we can recapture that special form of gladness. For many of us, one of the best parts of the Christmas celebration is the tradition of carols which we sing each year. One of the special things about carols is that most of us have our favorites memorized. We don't have to wait for a church service nor do we need a trained voice to praise God for the joys of Advent--to make a joyful noise, to serve with gladness and to come before His presence with singing.
Dear God, This Christmas season let us recapture the four-year-old inside us who makes a joyful noise without embarrassment. Help us to be open to the joy of singing. Let us remember that whatever brings us joy is a gift from you; that you have, with infinite mercy, given us lives with times of joy and that our best act of praise is to be open to your gifts and to respond in joy. Amen.
December 13, 1983 (Mary Frances Owens)
It was still almost two weeks before Christmas, but we were waiting anxiously for word of a special gift we were to receive. We had never received that kind of gift before, so we were especially excited. Every time we heard the doorbell or telephone ring, we almost fell over each other trying to answer it. We kept hoping to hear something about our gift.
At last the long awaited call came. Our hearts pounded as we each grabbed a phone. A voice on the other end of the line called out, "Your gift has finally arrived. Congratulations, you have twin grandsons!" No other gift could have given us more joy that the news of our grandchildren's birth.
Long ago the angels brought good news of a wondrous gift in the form of the Christ-child. Many people had waited for a long time for this "Special gift" to arrive. The shepherds (and eventually lots of other people) rejoiced at the birth of this baby. Today we still feel great joy as we listen to the story of Christ's birth.
Thank you, Lord, for a gift that has brought great joy to so many persons the birth of Jesus. In His name we pray. Amen.
Mary Frances Owen
December 14, 1983 (Margaret Graves)
The Lord is coming soon...
Meanwhile the endless preparations for the holidays have begun. The pace is becoming hurried and the lists of things to do or buy are getting longer and longer.
The Lord is coming soon ...
So let's slow the hurrying and take time to look gently at those around us. Let's look for ways to give of ourselves and to lovingly accept that which others have to offer to us.
The Lord is coming soon...
Rejoice! Because of His coming, hope, love and joy grow in each of us.
Dear Lord: Help us to prepare for your coming in Christ. May He find us waiting eagerly in joyful prayer. Amen.
Children's activity: Make a picture of baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph, Send the picture to someone you know that lives alone. Remember that person in the time of family prayer.
December 15, 1983 (Wesley Edwards)
One of our family joys is feeding the birds, especially the cardinals.
Even in the summer I put out small amounts of sunflower seeds, often on demand. The cardinals have learned that I am the dispenser of these delicacies. During early summer, upon seeing me leave the house or come home via the garage they follow and chirp at a close distance in the tree branches above, often being only a few feet away. Once they were eating, they would sometimes continue to chirp as if to express gratitude.
In the same way, we need to express our special gratitude to God, who knows we have special needs and are possessed of an inner hunger. Jesus came to fill that need. Among other ways, we express our joy at His coming with hymns of praise and thanksgiving. Somehow, I like to think there were birds present at His birth. Are they not still singing His praise?
O God; as we take joy in Christmas and nature around us, help us to know You are the provider.
December 16, 1983 (Margaret Keyes Tate)
Matthew 25:35-40; Hebrews 13:1,2
It was December 24 "I'm calling from the Baptist Student Union at U of L.
We need hospitality for an Italian couple tonight and tomorrow. Could you, help?" The mother panicked. She wasn't ready for Christmas, plus unexpected company? Strangers? Foreigners? She wasn't sure she had enough sheets and towels.
Then she remembered, "I was a stranger and ye took me in" (Matt. 25:35). She said, "I'll call my husband and call you right back". He agreed that Christmas Eve was a poor time to turn away strangers. The invitation was extended.
The Italians did not arrive 'till 10 p.m. She knew no English and he spoke very little. As soon as they entered, they were included in dressing baby dolls and wrapping gifts. They slept through Christmas morning excitement. He wore an ornament corsage from his breakfast tray and she quickly learned a marble maze game and beat everyone else. The family experienced rich joy in sharing with strangers in the name of Jesus, whose parents were turned - away from an Inn the night he was born.
In his ministry Jesus said, "And the King will answer, I tell you this: any- thing you did for one of my brothers here, however humble, you did for me" (Matt. 25:40). So you see, Jesus told us one way to celebrate Christmas now and all year long.
Thanks God, for reminding us of the joy of hospitality and telling us that in sharing this way "Some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Heb. 12.2 NEB).
Margaret Keyes Tate
December 17, 1983 (Jerry Keyes)
This past July we celebrated a ninth birthday in our family. As with most ninth birthdays, there was much excitement and preparation that surrounded the occasion. At times the birthday list seemed to be as long as the list for Christmas. It included such items as pierced eats and earrings, dolls, games, swimming suits, not to mention the request for a rainbow-decorated Christmas velvet cake! and this list changed almost daily.
The big day finally Arrived, but not until there had been a countdown for each preceding day. A family dinner with grandparents, aunts and uncles was planned and a few neighbors dropped by for ice cream and of course rainbow Christmas velvet cake! We unwrapped the presents with great excitement and joy and gratitude to each gift giver. The birthday child saved the smallest and largest gifts to be opened last. The smallest gift contained a tiny pair of earrings for newly pierced ears and the largest gift box held fireworks to climax the celebration for all.
The Advent and Christmas season is much like a nine-year-old birthday. There is much preparation for the event and great celebration when it arrives. God long prepared the world for the arrival of His most precious gift, His Son, who came as a tiny baby called Jesus and grew to manhood to become the greatest gift God gave to His World.
The joy of Christmas is that Christ has come and it is through Him that we have Peace, Hope, Love and Joy.
Father, may the excitement and anticipation of a nine-year-old for his birthday be our experience this Advent season, as we receive your gift on Christmas Eve, the Christ Child. Amen.
December 18, 1983 (Jackie Pendergraph)
With His own hands God planted a special garden called Eden to be the home of His first man and woman, Adam and Eve. The tree of knowledge of good and evil was planted nearby, with instructions "Don't eat of it!" But a villain entered that beautiful place with words enticing Eve to disobey God. The fruit looked good, and she urged Adam to share it with her. How they were in Satan's power!
God looked down on this pitiable sight and knew there was no intercession. The villain must be overcome! At the striking of God's clock, Prince Immanuel would come down to those held captives of Adam and Eve's disobedience. He would come as a little babe in the little town of Bethlehem, where his parents had been forced to go to be counted and taxed. Those eighty miles from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem were hard ones for Mary and Joseph on a donkey.
Then on arriving, there was no room for them to stay in comfortably. The innkeeper sent them to a stable where the cattle were kept. That night God sent His promised Son Jesus, and Mary wrapped the baby in soft clothes and laid Him in a manger. Some shepherds, watching their flocks in the fields, were frightened by a bright light, and they followed it to Bethlehem. There they found Jesus lying in a manger. Kneeling down and worshiping Him, they knew Jesus had come to help all people everywhere to live and work for Him.
This is a true story, and we are called to tell it to the whole world.
When love is spelled with letters,
It is not hard to spell,
But let us try to spell it
In loving deeds as well;
Each little deed of kindness
That we may try to do
Is spelling love to others
And love to Jesus too!
December 19, 1983 (Paul Debusman)
Matt. 1:21; John 3:16
LOVE is everywhere! Bumper stickers and T-shirts with red hearts tell of love for a favorite radio station, state, athletic team, or some other person, place, or thing. In ordinary conversation we may hear people speak of love for family, friends, a new item of clothing, E.T., the first snowfall, or a favorite food, to list a few examples. (For an interesting activity, count the number of times you use, "see" or hear the word "love" today.) Love is everywhere, or so it seems, and the Christmas story of God's great love for each of us may not seem surprising or wonderful because there is so much love. But surely our "love" for a hot fudge sundae is not the same kind of love God has for us. His love is unlimited, self-giving, amazing; our love is limited and sometimes even selfish. Some languages have different words for different kinds of love! Come to think of it, we do too; for a special word was given to Mary, a name for her child---"And thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21) God's kind of love is Jesus.
(Family members may wish to bow their heads in silence, then say together John 3:16, each using his or her own name in place of "the world".)
Thank you, gracious God, that you love each of us as if we were the only one you have to love, and then that you love everyone in that same way. Thank you for Jesus who came to show us your great love. In his name we pray, Amen.
December 20, 1983 (Randall Powers)
The key word for Christmas is LOVE.
The tree, the gifts, the good food, the bright lights and the colorful decorations must all find their meaning in LOVE.
John 3:16 "For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son........."
That was the greatest LOVE gift that brought Christmas into being. We who have received that Gift, Jesus, the Son, give gifts to others at Christmas to observe Jesus' birthday. The best gifts are the ones from which LOVE radiates. That LOVE cannot be bought with money or be confined to a package. The best Christmas you and I will ever have will be the Christmas when we plan LOVE gifts for others. Some examples: A hug, a kiss, a simple statement of "I love you" (if meant), a helping hand, an errand run, a good thing shared.
Here is an exercise for all of us to try:
(1) Select five people to receive LOVE gifts in observance of Christmas.
(2) Decide on a different LOVE gift for each of the five.
(3) Deliver the five LOVE gifts during five different hours.
(4) Note the response to each gift.
God is LOVE. We are the delivery persons for His gifts.
Thank you, God, for your LOVE. Bless our efforts to share that LOVE with others.
December 21, 1983 (Sara Jo Hooper)
Isaiah 53:2-3; Jonah 1-4; Romans 12:9-20
My mother tells of her longing, as a high school senior, for a typewriter. She knew that her widowed mother couldn't afford it; still, she dared hope that Christmas morning would bring a small miracle. Imagine her disappointment when her mother beamingly presented a rug for the living room floor. She wanted her teenagers to be able to have company without embarrassment. Mother accepted the gift with all the grace she could muster; but it was years before she fully understood just what Grandma Sallie Kay gave that day.
Imagine the indignation of the people of Judea who had waited and longed for God to send the Messiah, their King, the Son of David. Here came this baby with all the wrong credentials: he was a nobody; his mother wasn't even married! Why, he was born in a stable. They could not receive the holy gift of God's love because he didn't fit their ideas of what a king was like.
Perhaps our deepest celebration of this Christmas is to let go our standards for other people's behavior, their appearance, their giving and to open ourselves to accepting love however it is offered.
Oh God, Giver of the perfect gift, help us to be willing to be surprised by love. Amen.
1. Draw names for love gifts (no money permitted). Some families keep givers' names secret as they perform small acts for each other throughout the Advent season. This is also a good refocusing and letdown-chasing activity for the week after Christmas.
2. Stuff stockings with love; give coupons for anything from sit-and-hug time to cleaning out the garage (no money allowed).
Sara Jo Hooper
December 22, 1983 (Cherrie Williams)
Granny decided how we'd spend that Christmas - we'd invite Jeanne, an orphan in my fifth grade class, to help trim the tree. "But Granny," I protested, "she's as mean as she is poor! She yanks hair, smacks food on purpose, and spits ten feet across the classroom at a target!"
But Granny interrupted, "The Bible says love your enemies." And her favorite parable was that of the Good Samaritan. But when she saw Jeanne sauntering up the walk at twelve o'clock sharp, cracking her gum like a lion tamer's whip, she exclaimed "Poor pitiful thing!" Then she spent the rest of the afternoon running and exclaiming, as Jeanne pried open drawers, practiced acrobatics on the banister, and gobbled up Christmas confections.
At 4:00 Granny watched as Jeanne opened up her Christmas present - a yellow dress with tiny periwinkles - her blue eyes clouded. The next hour she clutched wrapping paper, ribbon, and dress to her like a newfound treasure. On leaving, she waved to us saying. "See y'a!"
"She didn't even say thank you!" I complained.
"Well, that child is a holy terror," Granny conceded, "but you see in those eyes the need and the hurt."
Putting on my coat to leave, I noticed Granny's Bible opened at Matt. 5:41 - "And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two." Judging by Granny's weary eyes, she had jogged twice that distance today with a little girl named Jeanne. Accustomed to seeing only pure spite in Jeanne's eyes, I had to take Granny's word.
Lord, this Advent season, help us to follow your example of loving the unlovable.
Activity: Visit or invite into your home someone who is without friends or family, and prepare a small gift for this person.
December 23, 1983 (Amy Keys)
It was two days before Christmas and it was dinner in the Grant's home. Susan and Jim had been shopping all afternoon at the Mall and were very excited.
"Oh Mama," said Susan, "I just love to go to the Mall. It's so pretty with all the lights and decorations. I just love Christmas 'cause it's so much fun."
"Yea, me too," said Jim. "I like to ride the little train and visit the toy stores."
Mother said, "I guess Christmas is my favorite time of the year too. I like all the lovely songs we sing, the Advent services at church are so meaningful, the packages under the tree are so beautiful ---- it all makes things seem so Christmasy. I'm glad we've got the Christmas spirit."
Father set his coffee cup down and quietly said, "I'm not sure we really have the Christmas spirit."
Everything became suddenly quiet at the Grant's dinner table. Mother said, "I don't understand what you mean, Dear."
"Well," said father, "I don't think that the real Christmas spirit can be triggered by pretty decorations, colorful wrapped gifts, or by the strains of beautiful old Christmas songs. There's something missing when those things stir a feeling we call the 'Christmas spirit'. The Christmas spirit is something else. Let's all think for a minute about what the Christmas spirit really means to us as Christians!"
I think it is ______________
(Discuss, as a family, what you think is the real Christmas spirit.)
December 24, 1983 (Bill Leonard)
On one sultry morning last summer I sat with my daughter, Stephanie, in the cool beauty of the great cathedral at Cologne, the "finest example of gothic architecture in Germany." I was trying madly to get "into" the place, beyond the crowds of tourists and flashing cameras. In the midst of my efforts to create a meaningful spiritual event, Stephanie whispered, "I love you, Daddy," and with those words she gave meaning to the "finest example of gothic architecture in Germany" (and to my own life as well).
It can happen at Christmas. We often work so hard at getting "into" the year's greatest season, making it an unforgettable spiritual event, that we miss its most basic truth: God loves us and he reveals that love by joining us in the world. All the tinsel and traditions, all the beautiful religious services mean little without the gift of love which slipped in on us at Bethlehem. Without it our cathedrals are so much stone and stained glass and the manger just a feed trough for animals.
On this Christmas Eve, in the cathedral and the ghetto, in recreation rooms and emergency rooms comes the Word of God, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us..." (I John 3:1)
God loves us--that is Christmas enough!
For the Gift of love born at Bethlehem we say thank you, Abba. Amen.
Return to Advent Meditation Index
Advent 83 © 1983 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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