Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Advent Devotional Booklet - 1985
writers: (in order) Sharleen Matter, Marianne Taylor, Fay Leach, Melissa Bootes, Jeff Hieb, Charles Hagan, Elaine Parker, Jeanette Christian, Sue Enoch, Sharon Smith, Sarah Paulk, Dale Moody, Wes Lites, Janet Tharpe, Steve Shoemaker, Jane Webb, John Arnett, Judy Johnson, Nick Foster, Ginger Arnold, Margaret Murchison, Wesley Edwards, Dorothy Waters, Cherie Williams, Sara Jo Hooper, Keyes Tate
editors: Sharon Smith, Wes Lites, Jane Webb
artists: Jenny Aleshire, Will Courtney, Adam Hester, Michael Seiffertt, Mark Soder)
December 1, 1985
I learned about hope early as a child on a North Dakota wheat farm. In the winter my father would look out over the cold, snow-covered prairie and say, "Won't it be nice when it is spring and all the land is green again with wheat?" As the first grass-like blades of wheat emerged in the early spring, my parents would say to me, "Look, there is the wheat which will buy you food and clothes in the fall."
Through their eyes I learned to have hope--the belief in fulfillment. I learned to believe during the hard times in my life that joy and peace would soon come, just as the first blades eventually became kernels of wheat which could be sold for money to keep me fed and warmed. I also learned to believe that the Baby in the manger would grow into manhood and be my Savior. I learned to trust God to show me evidence of His presence in the midst of the good and bad times of life.
Father, thank You for the gift of hope. Thank You that we can be aware of Your presence when life seems as cold as the wintertime ground as well as when life is full of joy and peace. Amen.
Sharleen Matter [later Birkimer]
December 2, 1985
My mother and I sat helplessly clinging to each other in the Critical Care Unit waiting room, while inside, my dear father battled to gain stability after two major heart attacks in three days. We searched one another's eyes for hope and reassurance and talked endlessly about how much the three of us loved each other.
We spent days and nights in that waiting room, awaiting any encouraging word from anyone about Dad. For a long time none came. During one bleak night I asked Mom what we had done the past Christmas--for a moment I had forgotten. Satisfied that it had been a good Christmas, I felt better. It seemed so important.
Prayer, frequent and heartfelt, kept us during that time, but often we were hanging onto hope by our fingertips. Thoughts about Christmas kept coming back. We were entrusting Dad to a God of extravagant love! John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life." I began to realize that whatever the outcome, Dad would be in most loving hands, and with His help I could cope. Hope--it felt so positive, warm and real. Hope is at the core of Christmas, glowing bright and sure.
Dad is doing fine these days and the hope made so real that April, ten years ago, continues to sustain me.
Dear Father, as we live the ups and downs of our lives, help us to hold on tightly to the hope which Christmas teaches. Amen.
December 3, 1985
Psalm 71:5, 14
In the early 1940's I spent many hours at my father's gas station because it was necessary for Mom to work there while Dad worked two other jobs. The station was on a corner. My two brothers and I often climbed the six-foot fence beside the station, to watch Germans working in a steel/iron yard while being guarded by Americans with guns. On the other side of the station was a junkyard and warehouse, which was supposed to be forbidden territory to us three children because of the large rats.
And what was a mother to do in the midst of this place with her three young children? She taught us to make flower beds and grow zinnias and marigolds. And everywhere there was a little bit of soil, our flowers bloomed.
Now, my own three children help me plant tulip bulbs, azaleas, and vegetable plants and seeds. Sometimes the winter is cold and long, and it is a long wait before we see the flowers bloom, but these experiences of my past have become God's unwritten, unspoken textbook of hope.
God, thank You that in the midst of the December winter, we can remember the tulip bulbs that lie under the ice and snow waiting to bloom in spring. Thank You for those who taught us to plant seeds. Thank You for the hope that comes with a tiny Baby in a manger.
Fay W. Leach
December 4, 1985
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
A symbol of hope for me was my experience this past summer as a Governor's Scholar. Although It was a great honor to be selected, settling into a college dormitory with all new people, living independently, and being away from home for five weeks was no easy task.
I came to realize that hope and strength go hand in hand. One needs a great deal of strength to withstand homesickness, feelings of being left out, and sheer confusion. In those first few days, hope was bleak and the forces of anguish and despair were dominant. As the weeks progressed I did find hope--hope to become me, hope to carry out my dreams, rather than anyone else's, and hope to conquer the world my way!
In the Governor's Scholar's Program I learned many things that were not in the curriculum. I learned that people are different, but the possibility of "community" always exists, and that I could contribute to that community. I realized that I had the ability to "stand on my own two feet," and to establish myself as a new person. I was able to stay true to my own values and found hope in my faith in God and in the love of my family and friends. I also found that the pain of my new quest could serve as a useful tool to help me grow because through pain came growth. But most of all I have realized that I am a Gift under God, as is each of you.
In this Christmas season I pray that our hope will grow just as the tiny Baby's did so long ago. Amen.
December 5, 1985
Throughout Isaiah many references are made to the Messiah. These foretellings took place around 730 B.C., almost 730 years before Christ was born. This simple hope of a promised child was carried from generation to generation and became an important foothold of the faith.
As many generations told the story of the Messiah who was coming, hope spread through the oppressed believers. Many times it was this hope that held them together and to their God. The Messiah is the symbol of God's love, God's peace, and God's grace, but also the symbol of hope in our faith.
I have spent the past year or so looking around me and studying just what a world this is. I have seen great despair; there is poverty, nuclear threat, and economic and moral collapse. The picture is grim and is not improving. What, then, is the meaning of loving, caring, and living? God and Jesus are that meaning in me. My church is the light that makes me go on. Crescent Hill is the hope of my life and the source of my strength, which I hope I can share with others.
Hope to me is the blind, silly belief that anything can happen, and because God loves us, good things will happen. I find hope in my church, my friends, and my God. I would like to think that I have been able to pass along hope to others, and in doing so, to allow them to find the happiness I have known--the happiness of facing despair and trouble with hope and a smile.
Lord. though we often think of Christmas as a joyful time with tittle despair, there are those without hope at this joyful time. May we see how Your gift of Jesus can be the one great source of hope in our lives. Our greatest hope does tie in You, and only You can lift our hearts when we are hopeless. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
December 6, 1985
Psalm 42: 11
Death seems inappropriate for Christmas reflections, yet it is death that gives rise to our greatest hope, that of new life to come. At this writing our family stands in the shadow of the tragic death of our five-year-old nephew, Jeffrey, a laughing, boyish wonder, whose life ended instantly in a recent farm accident.
The sky is black ... much as it was for the Wise Men that first Christmas, for a world mired in the Law and an image of Yahweh, Old Testament God of the scorched-earth policy...a world with only a hope of the Messiah. Then comes Christmas--in the midst of life's Decembers, the dry rustle of dead leaves, in the midst of black skies, of old sins and past failures, God in Christ comes revealing Himself. The birth in Bethlehem is God's great "Yes" of affirmation and acceptance, of companionship in the midst of suffering. Amid black skies, there is hope--stars for Wise Men scanning the heavens, forgiveness for sins, new life in Christ-- now and beyond.
The first Advent candle--hope--burns brightly in every home where there is, grief, where there is suffering, where there is thankfulness for God's blessings, where there is loneliness. It bears the message of Emmanuel, that God is with us, that:
Always spring comes again bearing life! Always again!
Always, always forever again--spring again!--life again!
--summer and fall and death and peace again!--but always,
always, love and conception and birth and pain again--
spring bearing the intolerable chalice of life again!--
bearing the glorious, blazing crown of life again!
(The Great God Brown/O'Neill)
We thank You, O God, for the message of hope You sent us in the birth of Christ that first Christmas. May His Spirit enable us to experience new life and share that hope with the world. Amen.
December 7, 1985
For Americans of a certain age, December 7th has only one meaning: "Pearl Harbor." At the time, I was about to become a teenager and was probably more concerned about whether or not my face would clear up before the Christmas pageant than our country's going to war. Nevertheless, the fact that for the first time an enemy had crossed our boundaries and had bombed American soil was etched in the background of my consciousness. From then until the end of World War II forty years ago this past August, life had to be lived in the context of this awareness. There were no assurances that planes with Kamikaze pilots could not make it to the mainland. The Japanese were well-prepared for a long war and their weapons and military forces far outnumbered ours. Americans were called upon to make many sacrifices and went about their lives each day on the basis of HOPE.
It is not so different today except that few of us expect there to be an end to the daily threat of destruction in our lifetime. Still, we build our lives on a faith to sustain us through death, however it comes, and on the hope that with God's help the world can be made safer for our children.
Our Father, without faith there is no hopes without hope there is no meaning to life. Teach us how to use the events of each day to strengthen our faith in Thee and renew our hope for the future in this world and the next. In the name of Christ who came to earth to bring us hope, Amen.
December 8, 1985
"Moving from a place I love, giving up a job in which I am successful, leaving family and close friends, is too much for God to ask of me. How could this loving God cause me so much pain?" These were typical of the thoughts that ran through my mind for several months before moving to Louisville.
One day while packing, making phone calls, washing clothes and keeping Katie, my two-year-old niece, I became particularly hassled by all God was asking of me. I felt like my world was caving in around me. The phone rang and it was my mother inviting me over for a bowl of soup. I said I was too busy, but Katie was driving me crazy, so I said I would come. In the meantime, Katie spilled her juice and had to have her clothes changed. I was truly hassled then! That was all too much for me! I put Katie into her car seat and continued to agitate over my problems. About a mile down the road, Katie began to sing, "Jesus loves me, this I know... " I could not believe my ears; an angel had spoken.
I was so overcome that I began to cry. Somehow all my doubts and fears began to settle into reassurance and peace. God had made His presence known to me once again in spite of all my doubts. I had found peace in a place I had not expected. I knew I needed to trust God in this decision to move to Louisville. All of us are guilty of becoming so involved in our own problems and hassles that we fail to look for God's understanding and peace. During this hectic Christmas season we need to be open to "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding."
Dear God, give us the peace that passes all understanding. Help us to feel and experience that the peace in our daily lives. Thank You for the peace we can find only through Your love and grace. Amen.
December 9, 1985
It was early in the morning and I was alone on the hillside. Everyone else was asleep. The anxiety of the approaching day made me leave my room looking for some direction, some peace. As I stumbled from my room in darkness I picked up my Bible. It was purely reflex action ... what should I do with it? The woods were so quiet and the creatures I shared my space with were already busy with their tasks. Their lives seemed ordered and mine seemed so full of questions. The creatures did not seem to notice me, and the trees turned their leaves to the rising sun. Is this how it is, I wondered? Is God ignoring me, too? My life was in turmoil. Why didn't He give me answers? I opened my Bible, half-expecting to find a clearly-written answer on the page. Instead, I found a Psalm of David, and he was busy asking God the same question. This was definitely not what I had in mind. Knowing that David was growing impatient, too, didn't make me feel any better, nor did the trials of Job! Still ... the creatures were busy with their tasks. I turned to the more familiar ... Romans 8. I remembered the Spirit's intercession and began again to trust God's understanding of my frustration. But more than all else... that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. At last I found peace in His love and could move on with the day. It would be a day of both good and bad, but it would also be a day at peace in God's love.
That morning, the first day of Elementary camp, has left an indelible mark on my life. It taught me that in the midst of confusion sometimes all we can do is follow the examples of the creatures in the woods and go about our assigned tasks. It taught me the value of time alone in quiet, even though it was born of frustration. Most importantly, it taught me that His peace does not come when we know all of the answers, but when we remember that we are not looking for the answers alone.
Loving God, so often the sea seems so wide, and my boat seems so small. Help me to trust in Your Holy Spirit to word my requests and to find my peace for living in Your constant love. It is in Your presence that all peace becomes real. Amen.
December 10, 1985
One Sunday morning in September, after having gone early to church to prepare for Communion, I rushed back home to pick up Jim and Kristin. When I arrived Kristin was still eating breakfast and Jim was not dressed. My immediate reaction was one of frustration, but as I looked at Jim it quickly turned to a feeling of uneasiness and fear. I learned that he had spent the morning on the phone talking with my family. They had just received word that my younger brother, who had spent thirteen years safely tucked away as a meteorologist in the Air Force, was being sent the next day to Honduras. He was to leave his wife, son, and daughter--and us--with no explanation or information regarding his exact destination or purpose.
Later that evening when I was able to talk briefly with him, he expressed his fear and his inability to grasp the reality of what was happening. As I listened to him, tears, anger, fear and disbelief raged inside me, and the age-old question of war versus peace came to me in ways it never had before. It continues to haunt me as I pray daily that my little brother, from whom we still have had no word, is safe. As I struggle with my questions, I am learning again that, though it may not be a choice of nations, Christ comes to offer each of us peace in our hearts.
Jesus, Prince of Peace. in the midst of world and individual human conflict, in the midst of our lives which are full of demands and unexpected twists and turns, teach us again to open ourselves to Your peace. Amen.
December 11, 1985
My family has spent summers at our cottage on Crystal Lake in northern Michigan since before I can remember. The building's structure has changed, but somehow the essence of the place has remained the same. The musty smell of the closet under the stairs still brings a flood of memories. While we were at the cottage two summers ago, I asked my father if the two of us could spend some time alone together. He agreed, so we got up earlier than usual that morning and sat outside for a while drinking coffee and watching as the mist over the lake dissolved. Then we went for a walk on the beach. Daddy and I hadn't been alone together for a long time, so we felt awkward at first, but gradually we started to relax with each other. I don't, remember what we talked about; it doesn't really matter. What mattered was that we were in a place where our memories had deep roots and where a bond was recalled that had outlasted distance and years of separation. It was not so much a timeless moment as a moment in which time, and Daddy and I, the place where we walked, and our shared memories and hopes, were all held cupped in God's hands the way a child holds a robin's egg. The essence of a place can reach to that core where each of us is wholly himself or herself, created in the image of God. To become more completely integrated with that core is to experience the peace of God.
Loving God, as we remember the places where our lives are rooted, grant us Your peace and the knowledge that You are the source of all peace. In the name of the Prince of Peace, Amen.
December 12, 1985
When I was asked to write a few words about peace, the New Testament hymn in Ephesians 2:14-18 leaped into my mind. In one file I found several detailed things I had already written on the passages, but most of all I remembered the days when Mildred and I rode the Arab bus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, returning on the Jewish bus. By the end of our six months' stay we had discovered the true meaning of Shalom in Hebrew and Salam in Arabic. The barrier between Jew and Arab had been broken down, especially among those who met with us on each Sabbath at the Jerusalem Baptist Congregation where people like the beloved Robert Lindsey knew well that He is our peace.
W.H. Hull, now a member of the "Peace Committee" of the Southern Baptist Convention had used the same passage in a beautiful, and scholarly, book of sermons called Beyond the Barriers. Both Hull's book and Jimmy Carter's book, The Blood of Abraham, are thoughts of two devout Baptists who really believe that their Christian ideas on peace can be applied to the complex problems of the Near East.
Father in heaven! Open our hearts to believe and experience the peace that removes all human barriers to bring us into Your presence, creating a new type of humanity that believes "we all are one in Christ Jesus." Help each one of us, especially Southern Baptists, to demonstrate our belief in behavior.
December 13, 1985
God's peace enters my life in unique and unexpected ways. June 22, 1977, is one such example. I grew up in an older home in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and I came to know the problems related to an older home. An annual chore was "cleaning out the sewer lines" of the roots that had grown in them. We knew the time for cleaning had come when we discovered clogged sinks and heard gurgling sounds. I was always willing to dig down to the sewer pipes, but my father had the "wonderful opportunity" of doing the dirty work. But June 22 was different, for on the morning of June 21 my father died, and June 22 brought grief, anger, loss, and "gurgling." At 7:30 a.m. on that morning, it was no longer my responsibility to only dig, but also to do the cleaning. In the midst of my digging, God's graceful word of peace entered the scene helping me to know that God was with me, even in the shoveling of the dirt. The comedy of digging somehow refocused the reality of death.
The realism of life reminds us that joy and sorrow are often closely related. I am glad that God's presence interrupts the chaotic, messy moments to share the word of peace. Indeed, God's peace and the way it comes "passes understanding."
Remind us, 0 God, that Your peaceful word can transform our most difficult moments. Help us to be Your agents of peace in a troubled world.
December 14, 1985
Isaiah 11:1-10; Ephesians 2:14-18
On the appointed day, I clear my calendar for thirty minutes, pop some popcorn, tune in the TV, and enjoy How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It is a Christmas classic. The "child" in me ranks second only to the Gospel writers, Luke and Matthew. While I find Dr. Suess' wildly imaginary characters delightful and the words he invents just to make his sentences rhyme quite zany, it is the message of his tale that captures me. Without the Gospel hidden and revealed in his fantasy, the story would be only so much creativity.
But it is after the Grinch goes through some conniving antics to steal Christmas on Christmas Eve by stripping the Whos' environment of every shred of Christmas trappings that the Good News is revealed. For when the Whos waken to barren surroundings, they still make their customary trek to the square to welcome Christmas in song. This unnerves the observing Grinch. Would it surprise you to know that this Spirit of Christmas that does not depend on the presence of tinsel transforms him?
Yet, was not transformation the agenda of the first Christmas when God's transforming love was made plain and powerful in the person of the Christ Child? Was it not the agenda of reconciliation that reached out to touch us in the Christ--to bring us peace--within us, among us and between us and God? As we are made new, perhaps we too can realize that Christmas Day can be a reality in our world so long as we have hands (and not things) to clasp--the hands of family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.
Father God, thank You for the gift of the Christ Child who unsettles us and who helps us to see Your priorities. Continue to transform us and guide us in the way that leads to peace to the end that all humankind may one day know the spirit of Christmas every day of the year. Amen.
December 15, 1985
The most elusive of all the themes of Advent seems to be joy. People seem to have a harder time experiencing it--and if they are not experiencing it they feel awfully left out when someone starts talking about it. What is this joy that is so much a part of the Christmas proclamation? It is not the giddy, bubbly emotion that our world packages and sells as joy. That kind is here today and gone tomorrow, leaving traces only in the dull thud of a headache.
I think a hint to the meaning of joy is found in the famous words of the angel of the Lord to the shepherds found in today's Scripture. That scene is relived in every Christian's life; at some point we all must move from fear to joy.
We all live life with scary feelings; soared of life, seared of being left or getting lost, seared of the unknown, seared of death, seared of God.
What the angel of the Lord tells us is that we do not have to be afraid any longer. God has a face--it is Jesus. God has not abandoned us--He has come to be with us, Emmanuel. We need not fear life or death--both are held in an Eternity of Holy Love.
I remember getting lost late at night in a big city. I was seared. And I remember how I felt when I stumbled onto the first familiar landmark which headed me home. It was something akin to joy, the joy with which I live all my life today because of the God who came to reveal His face and show me the way home. It was something akin to the feeling I get every year when I sing with my family of faith, "Joy to the World, the Lord is Come."
Almighty God Who has come among us in human form as friend, help us to know we no longer need fear You but can greet Your coming with great joy. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
December 16, 1985
Every year when we were little, my sister and I stood shivering in the doorway to the pink room of our grandparents' farmhouse where our parents lay sleeping like two lumps in the big iron bed. "Can we go down yet?" we asked in stage whispers until they finally groaned, looked at a watch, and pronounced, "No. It's too early. Go back to bed." We would whisper and giggle in the dark for about fifteen minutes and then try again.
The excitement had built every day since the Sears' Christmas catalogues had arrived, and it grew as we pored over the toy pages until they became smudged and wrinkled. The waiting grew almost unbearable as we watched out the windows of the station wagon for signs of Santa's sleigh in the sky. By the time we spotted the blinking red light of the radio tower that signaled our grandparents' town, we thought we would burst. Finally, about four a.m., our parents would lead us downstairs, open the door to the living room where the tree Granddad had out from the pasture stood lit, and under it we would find everything we had wished for. Grandmother and Granddad, already up for their farm work, would watch us and take delight in our great childish joy in Christmas.
One year, our dad read his watch wrong in the dark, and when we got downstairs, our parents discovered that it was only three o'clock, too early even for our grandparents to be up. When we went back to bed with our new dolls, there was something missing from that great pure childish joy in Christmas.
I learned something of joy that year. Although I've often longed for that completely overwhelming, unbounded joy I felt as a child, I've also learned often since then how much joy can diminish when it's not shared with others.
Dear God, help us to receive the gifts of Your love with the eager excitement of the joy of children, as Jesus instructed us. Also help us to express our joy in ways that allow us to
share it with others. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Romans 8:26, 28
I was clearing the grass and weeds off a dirt basketball court in the backyard when it started to rain. My initial response was to curse the rain for interfering with my project, but when I resumed work the next day, I found the ground softer and easier to work. How many times are the rains of inconvenience turned into the rains of joy and opportunity! The inconvenience of Jesus' having to be born in a manger as a baby affords Him the opportunity to say with meaning to us, "I know what it's like to feel impoverished and helpless."
Help us to meet each day, not with the inconvenienced attitude of. "Good Lord, it's morning!", but rather, "Good Morning, Lord!", which expresses the joy of new opportunities to see You at work in the world.
December 18, 1985
Snaps and snails and puppy dog tails--that's what little boys are made of I How well have I grown to appreciate that phrase! Chad, my son, has given me a fresh outlook for hope and excitement! Moments around him can "transform" the ordinary into an experience. From shaking out bluejean cuffs to a kiss hinting of peanut butter and chocolate, little boys certainly are spirited and ever so humbling!
Was Jesus that type of little boy? What was he made of? Imagine the things he might have done, such as wishing on a falling star, searching for four-leaf clovers, or putting lightning bugs in a jar. Mary may have found all sorts of things in his pockets. She probably wondered just how God would use this grubby little boy in His divine plan, as she scratched his back and told him bedtime stories.
Jesus heard stories of his birth; however, he never heard the Christmas story as we know it. Jesus has never celebrated Christmas as we do either. Maybe we should invite him to our homes this holiday and give him gifts of love, peace, poetry and laughter. As the "Littlest Angel" gave his favorite treasures to the Christ Child, maybe we should risk enough to give him ours.
Thank you God, for giving us thoughts to imagine Jesus as a child, and for allowing us to borrow qualities from our own children. Thank You especially for children, and for the little bit of angel in each one. Amen.
December 19, 1985
John 1: 14
The summer of 1969 had been a delight to us. The Atlanta Braves had slugged their way to the championship of baseball's Western division in the National League. Never mind that the Braves were in Atlanta and we lived in Birmingham. They were our Braves, too. Only one thing stood in their(our) way--the "hundred-to-one-shot" New York Mets. Nobody had figured the Mets to even be in the race, much less win their division. Atlanta might have a little trouble, but we never doubted they would win the League Championship Series.
The Mets swept the Braves in three straight games. And they swept us along with them. But these Mets were real charmers, a team of misfits with, from every vantage point, no chance of getting into the World Series. They were one-hundred-to-one shots who had no business being successful. We had to follow them.
The Mets won the World Series In five games. They beat a clearly superior Baltimore Orioles baseball club. The fans in New York went absolutely mad; they stormed the field. They stole the bases and ripped the sod from the playing surface. Who could blame them? Everybody wants a piece of a hundred- to-one-shot winner.
Converted Mets fans like us, all over the country, shared their outrageous joy.
If we were of a mind, what odds would we have put on the birth of God in human flesh? The very idea is beyond us. It doesn't fit--God and flesh, But we are charmed by this one named Jesus. We cannot help but follow him. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..."
Lord, may we be amazed again at the outrageous joy that is ours in this season. Amen.
December 20, 1985
It was morning, and I had two children to awaken and get off to school, a baby-sitter to pick up, and myself to get dressed for work. Just a few small chores to do In one hour! I went to my five-year-old's room first. In an effort to calmly awaken him, I began rubbing his back. Slowly he began stretching and showing signs of life. Upon opening his eyes, he looked up at me and grinned, displaying his missing front tooth. I will always remember Ben's first words of that day. My sleepy, smiling child exclaimed, "Happy birthday, Mommy!"
With all I had to do that morning, that thought had not crossed my mind. Here was my precious son, who at times has been known to turn the entire house upside down, thinking of me on a special day, with no reminders from anyone. This mother's eyes became a little misty as I hugged him tightly. He giggled as he hugged me, delighted he had delighted me.
Before you begin your celebration of Christmas, lift your eyes toward the heavens and send a birthday wish that way. If all God's children did the same, all of our hearts would be in the right place and perhaps, for a moment, there would be a sense of peace, hope, and joy throughout this world. I imagine that God in His heaven would be delighted with all His children. His eyes might even be a little misty, too!
Thank You, Father, for sharing Jesus with us. May we be ever mindful that all joy in this world lies in knowing and loving Him. In His name we pray, Amen.
December 21, 1985
The Saturday before Christmas ... Today is probably one of the busiest shopping days of the year. We may wish Christmas were over. A real struggle I have had for the past few Christmas seasons is the feeling of frustration that my gifts for family and friends would not be "Just right." The gift becomes more important than the giver or the real reason for the gift, for that matter. The joy of giving becomes a chore.
Our three-year-old son, Mitchell, has already informed me of several gifts he wants Santa to bring him for Christmas--a brown-haired Cabbage Patch doll, a Care Bear, and a camera. Our TV industry, our marketing techniques, and our reading material are all full of suggestions to us to want more and to buy more. Why have we, why have I, let this secularization of such a holy event take place? We must recapture the real meaning of Christmas. Let us give our gifts, but let us not forget why we give the gift. We need to remind ourselves of that first Christmas when the greatest gift of all was given to us. "Joy to the world, the Lord has come."
Lord, help me to be willing to give more of myself to You, so that You might use me to share Your joy with others.
December 22, 1985
One of my favorite memories of Disney World is the journey through "It's a Small, Small World," during which the dolls and characters sing the entire song. We did not really need the rain as an excuse to experience that event again. The tune, the words, and the animation were so appealing. All the characters of the various cultures around the world seemed to flow together like rivers into an ocean. I can still see the dolls curtseying, waving, smiling, and charming us as our boat eased by them.
If we are moved by a Disney fantasy, how much more must we be moved by the reality of God's coming to this "small, small world" in the person of the Christ Child? God's love flowed from heaven so that all of His children everywhere might know that this world is small enough for Him to love and care for us all. The reality of Jesus beckons all cultures to embrace Him and each other, in affirming that "It's a Small, Small World."
God, help us remember that Jesus came for all the world and that we are all Your children. Amen.
December 23, 1985
My very special friend brought joy to me. Our friendship began when I came as a stranger to Louisville. She genuinely welcomed me to her "home town" and in many ways made the newness seem less confusing.
We have been friends for almost half a century, a friendship that long has been a joy in itself, and also provides a feeling of real security. My friend is old enough to be my mother, and she calls me her "second daughter." Our friendship has been a two-way street, sharing problems, successes, fears, pleasures and all the variances of day-to-day living. At the time of my pregnancy when I was admitted to the hospital, she met me there and waited with me until I went into the labor room. She was more comforting to me than was my husband, who seemed as nervous as I.
I have seen my friend reach out to others in compassion. A young man with a club foot had true musical talent as a pianist and as a composer. She believed in his ability; her confidence and encouragement helped him to push on towards his goals.
She has lived through uncomfortable times herself, and has worked through difficult obstacles with equilibrium. She shared major responsibilities for her mother who became blind. She also shouldered major responsibilities for her husband following a series of strokes.
My friend is a living example of God's love, which enables us to know joy even in our difficulties. Her life pattern has made me more aware of the value of sharing when I can be of some benefit.
Lord, help me to live with more sensitivity to other people. Help me to be more giving of time and more understanding of others. Amen.
December 24, 1985
I John 3: 1 8
"My life ain't worth a nickel," declared the pathetic figure siding up to me. One look, and I was in complete agreement. Shabbily dressed in oversized trousers and dirty undershirt, he smelled awful, too. Settling onto the park bench by me, he heaved a laborious sigh before inquiring, "You doing okay?" "Yes," I replied curtly. I had brought my daughters to the park to play while I read. Now this...
Soon his life story spilled out. Miserly, I doled out, "How sad," greatly resenting this disruption of solitude. I don't recall when or why I became caught up in his hurt. His was not unlike legions of others' hard luck stories--failing health, unemployment, sixty-three years marked by a legacy of poverty and disenchantment.
I wish it could be said that my sympathy made a difference. Vaguely I recall quipping, "Well, wishes won't make you wealthy or well." He laughed, then was gone.
Opening the book which minutes earlier I had felt intrusively deprived of, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry--Loaves and Fishes by Dorothy Day, champion of the downtrodden.
To bury one's head in a Day book while ignoring the cries of the broke and broken was heresy.
"Thanks Lord, I needed that." I bowed my head in shame--too late, wishing I had done more than just listen.
Lord, when comfort is put before concern, remind us that Your place upon the cross was not a comfortable one. In Jesus' name, Amen.
December 25, 1985
John 3:1.6; 12:2-8, Luke 21:1-4
After an hour of rustling paper, trips to the kitchen, and repeated warnings to me to stay away, Ian emerged from the den and placed under the tree an extravagantly beautiful package. "It's for you, Mom," he declared, then, "I hope it doesn't ruin before Christmas."
"Does it need to stay in the refrigerator?" (Hemming and hawing.) "Sweetheart, if it came out of the 'fridge, you'd better tell me what it is."
Between sobs he confessed, "I was afraid you wouldn't have any packages to open Christmas morning so I took the Melton's potato salad and wrapped it for you." (This was one of Ian's very favorite treats, bought for an in-car picnic at King's Island the next day.)
I held him for a long time, groping for the right words to tell him how beautiful his gift was and to ease his pain in adjusting to having one parent rather than two.
Late that evening, I discovered this note in the refrigerator: "Dear Mom, sorry about the potato salad. P.S. Pretend you don't know where it is. Love, Ian."
I was astonished. He clearly expected me to help him give the gift, then joyously receive the gift. Such innocence Only a child could expect someone to be both giver and receiver. (Only a child and God.)
O God, we have received Your gift of perfect love in Christ Jesus; now it our turn to help give that gift to others.
Sara Jo Hooper
CRESCENT HILL BAPTIST CHURCH
2800 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
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