Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Advent Devotional Booklet - 1988
writers: (in order) Paul Debusman, William Hendricks, Annie Hammon, Jackie Pendergraph, Alleen Nolan, Holli Rainwater, Bill Leonard, Wesley Edwards, Patricia Powell-Egbert, Edie Sommer, Lyle Edwards, Jan Richardson, Diane Layton, Chuck Leach, Janet Tharpe, Elaine Parker, Jane Childress, Blanche Goetzman, Will Courtney, Christi Schmidt, Kevin Rainwater, Keyes Tate, David Shoemaker, Lewis Miller, Sarah Garland
editors: Holli Rainwater, Jan Richardson
artists: David Shoemaker, Carolyn Waters, Laura Adams, John Garland, Bennett Duckworth, Jenny Aleshire, Sarah Garland, Ryan Kiser, Elisabeth Taylor
November 27, 1988
Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:29; 2:19, 51
Christmas seasons are filled with many sounds: happy sounds of families and friends greeting one another and enjoying good times, pleading sounds of Salvation Army bells, impatient sounds of cars stuck in traffic jams, excited and surprised sounds as gifts are opened.
There is another-reality of Christmas which complements and sometimes competes with the sounds--the reality of silence. The Scriptures for today indicate that Joseph and Mary spent time thinking about the events they had witnessed. As they tried to understand what was beyond understanding, they must have given time to silence. On that first Christmas night, there may not have been much quietness. There were many people in Bethlehem, a multitude of angels was praising God, probably animals were in the barnyard where Jesus was born, and shepherds were not noted for their silence. Yet, there is in the story an element of reverence and awe which may produce silence. Lines from hymns and carols remind us of this response: "Let all mortal flesh keep silence," "How silently, how silently the Wondrous gift is given!" and "Silent night, holy night, All Is calm, all is bright." We would do well as individuals and as families to find time this Christmas to be silent. It may need to be an intentional time, for there are many sounds which interfere with silence. One special time to be quiet which I remember and appreciate from past years at Crescent Hill is the time at the end of the first Advent service when Darrell Adams sings "Silent Night." For you the silence may come then, or at some other time as we "ponder nothing earthly-minded ... Our full homage to demand."
For the sounds of Christmas we are grateful, O God. For the silence of Christmas we are hopeful. Amen.
Paul M. Debusman
November 28 1988
Before we can listen we have to sit down and be quiet. can hear what people say and try to remember it.
My family listens to me when I read a story and sometimes when I talk. I feel proud, happy, excited, and good when people listen to me.
I listen to my mom when she sings. I'm glad that she sings. I listen to my mom when she tells me to make my bed; I don't know what would happen if I didn't. I listen to my family almost all the time.
I listen to my church family everytime they want to say something. I listen to the preacher when he preaches and to Dr. Bailey when he tells us something. I listen when we pray.
Joseph listened to Mary when she said they would have a baby. He felt seared and happy. The shepherds listened to the angels. They had to be quiet, open their ears, and put on their thinking caps. They also had to look into their hearts.
Dear God, Thank you for your son Jesus. each other and to you. Amen.
First and Second Grade Choir Members
November 29, 1988
Christmas is for children, so they say. Christmas has not fully come for Matthea. She is three. Her daily trauma is to wear the very thick glasses which are necessary to assist her vision and alleviate her badly crossed eyes. When she was two she had what should have been routine hernia repair. A physician made a mistake. The bowel was out. Septic shook resulted. She has survived. Matthea's parents are seminary students in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. During the week Matthea sits several days -- mostly with quiet patience -- in Hebrew, Greek and theology classes in the seminary. Sometimes Matthea screams. She is frustrated. She hurts. She is a wounded child. The economy of her parents, her community, her country cannot provide the luxury of fresh fruits. Matthea is a child for whom Christ has come. She is a child for whom Christmas has not fully come.
If we mean that Christmas involves handsome gifts, glittering lights, fresh fruit, delicious candies, then Christmas has not fully come., But community has come for Matthea. She lives in the seminary building with her parents, a sister, another little girl and six other seminarians. That building provides the parameters of her world. But therein is love. She clings to any and every adult as a gift of love, security, acceptance. Love is nurturing her.
I think of her this Christmas and pray that the scream of a wounded child will be turned to smiles by the loving alchemy of the Child of Christmas. It will take human help too. It always does. Isn't that what Christmas really is all about? One Child coming to teach us to help all the children of the world.
O, Christ of Christmas come and heal the wounded children of earth, Thou who was wounded for all the world. Amen.
William L. Hendricks
November 30, 1988
Like many people in this church, Advent is the most special time of the year for me. There is a richness and depth in this season that sustains me through the rest of the year. It is the only time that I can wait creatively, and without my usual impatience and frustration, for the coming of Good News. I can almost allow myself to hope.
But there is much pain for me during Advent. All the absences are magnified by memory. Friends are scattered all over the world. My missionary parents are much too far away, in the homeland of my heart. And there is that other December birthday, never celebrated, of a red-haired boy who should have been 13 this year. It is winter, and there is more darkness than light.
It's hard to speak of hurt during Advent. I feel like a kill-joy. The pain inside stands in contrast to the sights and sounds of joy around me, and I'm reluctant to share my hurt
with even fellow-sufferers, for fear of deepening their own darkness. And yet, the five-word refrain of a favorite carol repeats, "tidings of comfort and joy." I can't sing "Joy To
The World," unless I first find myself held close and comforted until, the pain lessens and my soul is quieted. I need to hear the tidings of comfort before they can deepen into Christmas joy.
In Advent the people of hurt can become the people of hope, as we share these tidings of comfort and joy. This is Good News.
God of Advent, Give us ears to hear, and arms to hold as we comfort one another in these hurtful, wondrous days. And then give us joy. Amen.
December 1, 1988
One evenings just after dark, my Mother, my brother and I were sitting on the back porch of our country home. My brother and I noticed a tiny speck of light In the meadow below our home. It was-smaller than the reflection of the tiniest star on the surface of the water in the spring creek. The light would disappear for a moment, then another would reappear immediately.
Mother explained to us that the lights came from glow-worms. My brother ran down and picked up one for inspection. It was small insect that gave off a light so dim it would only be noticed after dark.
Mother also explained to us that in the great "meadow of life" there are people of whose presence we are not conscious until some hour of darkness comes to us--then we see from those quiet individuals an unexpected glow of courage, devotion and love.
As I grow older I understand Mother's explanation better. A TINY GLOW FROM
ONE LIFE IN DARKNESS IS WORTH A THOUSAND OF THOSE WHO SPARKLE ONLY IN THE SUNSHINE OF SUCCESS!
I thank God every day for those tiny lights in Crescent Hill Baptist Church that glow the brightest when the hour is the darkest!
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
December 2, 1988
The people of this church are being a gathering place for my beginning advent. I can finally see I have begun to be led into the presence of Christ by some special people here. As despair and hopelessness came to me through personal hurt and pain when I was a child, so love, hope, and advent can come to me only in a personal way and through specific events. This letter to my Sunday School class relates a personal advent for me:
To Members of the Hesed Class:
You are so special for me that my words cannot convey the depth of appreciation I have for you. If I understand what love and grace mean I believe it is and will be, through you. You are so attentive, so genuine, and so accepting of me that you push me to be who I really am, I feel as if I don't deserve your caring but also as if I want to absorb it all. Thank you.
With you I am experiencing what "family" should have been, and now is becoming all about; acceptance of my sorrow, pain, and finally to some joy. My Bible - the
Bible you gave me, is such-a wonderful and special gift as it was the first Bible ever given to me. As a part of the worship service at the Women's Retreat, Sue Enoch asked me to read the scripture. It was very appropriate that my first public reading from my special gift should be Philemon 4-7. As I read I felt I was reading with you and expressing my joy to you. "Your love, dear sisters, is bringing me great joy and much encouragement." Philemon 7
God, As I continue to struggle through another advent season I cannot look forward to the greeting card kind of Merry Christmas. Help me to know I am beginning to find hope of knowing joy with friends who know how much I struggle and hurt, and who continue to accept me where I am.
December 4, 1988
The third-grade Sunday School class spent some time talking about the excitement of taking-a journey at Christmastime. They wondered what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph, taking that long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem so Jesus could be born.
Many of the third-graders have taken trips at Christmas. Ann sometimes travels to North Carolina to see her relatives. Julie goes way up north for Christmas--to Pennsylvania! Louis travels to Florida, where it's eighty-one degrees on Christmas Day, and he can eat fruit from a tree in his grandmother's back yard ("She's the best cook in the world!"). Bryan goes to North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida to his grandparents, who have a trailer near a river. Rob goes south to Alabama. Jennifer has been to Macy's in New York City to see Santa.
Does Christmas-feel different so far away from home? Not really, say the third graders. When they're with family and friends, Christmas comes just the same as always.
But they wondered if Christmas is more difficult for people who are far away from their homes and families. Louis remembered a friend from Tokyo. Bryan thought of a friend in Iran. The third graders want to help remind Crescent Hill of those among us who have Journeyed a long way to be with us at Christmastime.
O God Be very near this Christmas season to those who are far from home. Help us to be like family to each other. Amen.
The Third Grade Sunday School
December 51 1988
John 10: 7-11
In many ways this Advent is no different from past Advent seasons which our family has experienced. During the four weeks before Christmas we will attend a variety of special worship services. We will sing carols and hear the timeless story of Christ's birth retold in a church decked with banners and where a cross shines above the baptistry.
This year, however, the carols and prayers, the banners and scriptures are all in Japanese. On either side of the baptistry in the Seinan Gakuin Baptist Church, Fukuoka, Japan, are two wooden closets or crypts where the ashes of deceased church members are reverently stored. The ashes of the dead and the waters of baptism are powerful side-by-side reminders of the reality of death and the promise of new life. On Christmas Eve we will attend the candlelight worship service at the Seinan Gakuin Church. I have promised myself to learn the Hiragana alphabet by Christmas so I can sing the carols.
In September, when we arrived, Stephanie (age 13) asked, "Do they have Christmas in Japan?" "Yes," someone replied, "but not many people notice. Unless it falls on Sunday (like this year), many Japanese Christians have to work on Christmas. Most Japanese do not observe Christmas as a special event." Hummm, I thought, sounds a bit like Bethlehem long ago. So this Advent we will find our way, one more time, to Bethlehem, with some Christian friends who retell the story in another language and another place than we have heard it before. It is worth telling again, even for those in "Buddhist" Japan and "Christian" America who do not seem to notice. Kurisumasu omedeto (Happy Christmas), and heiwa (peace).
O God, Wherever we are and whatever we are like, may the peace of the Christ-Child find its way into our lives. Amen.
Note: Japan is 14 hours ahead of Louisville. Christmas presents get opened early here. Eat your hearts out, kids.
December 6, 1988
When did my traditions formulate? Was it with parents or visiting with grandparents in rural Georgia? Is it the now with Crescent Hill family, particularly our preschoolers as
they participate in the Hanging of the Greens service?
Was it from a high school girl's simple, yet spine-tingling rendition of "O Holy Night?" Or Arnold Epley's soul-searching "Sweet Little Jesus Boy?" Did my first exposure to the Messiah in Mercer University's choir lead to joining Carol Anne on Christmas Day to listen to the complete Messiah?
Is exploring "O Tannebaum" on the piano in recent years perhaps still part of searching for that perfect tree as a lad scouring far-reaching property with a favorite aunt? Or is it our first married Christmas and that scrawny, two-foot model snatched from a barren Fort Hood reservation which still stands as our memory's sentinel over our present-day trees?
Perhaps it's Carol Anne's Yankee heritage where we trim the tree on Christmas Eve, with crismons and other hand-made ornaments. Maybe it's the illuminated star atop, a father's gift for a Connecticut child's third Christmas, and our tree remaining up until Epiphany which serves to unify traditions and also leads us to the Christ Child with the wise men.
Is it Mary's earliest memory of Christmas "lighting the candles" on the Advent wreath each evening? Of Lyle and Mary growing to read scripture and readings, first haltingly and
then with sureness!
It is each of these separately and in combination that have nourished and sustained me in the faith.
Wherever we are, with grandparents, other family or friends, at home, alone, traveling, on a reservation, in an elevator, we need to be Christmas to each other.
Loving Father God, We thank You for the memories and support of family and loved ones over the span of our varied lives.
December 7, 1988
Angels look great in green velvet dresses. Or at least my "angel of greeting" does. She has appeared in my life on three particular occasions, the third of which she was wearing the dress. She was a knockout; avocados should look so good.
We moved to Lexington for a year. We returned to CHBC nervous about the changes within us and worried we wouldn't "fit in." Our first Sunday back she was there.
This year we tried to "find ourselves" by experiencing other churches. We came back to Crescent Hill. But upon our return our knees became jelly and paranoia our dance partner. We were positive we were being stared at. Amidst this self-induced anguish, in she flies. In front of the elevator on the first floor. She threw her arms around us and we felt wanted.
Christmas Eve we took part in the service. We felt so honored and so unworthy. Many had been more faithful. That is when the green velvet dress appeared, adorning outstretched arms offering affirmation and love. That evening I remembered many
occasions our insecurities overtook us and how, as if by divine guidance, she appeared. Gracious and warm.
Sharon Smith has taught me the importance of the command in Acts 15:7, "Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God."
Her example has revealed the importance of stepping outside one's self and embracing those new or returning home. It's often a scary time.
I can live with the fact that I may never be as good at this as she is. And maybe no one will ever look upon me as an angel, but I'll have an edge if I can just find a larger size of that dress. I could look great in green velvet.
Beautiful Spirit, Fill me overflowing with your love so that I may pour out your warmth to others.
December 8, 1988
I was trying to remember my best Christmas and I finally decided my best Christmas is every Christmas (except the one when I got sick). Christmas is my favorite time of year. The smells, sights, gifts; everything about Christmas is great. To a child Christmas is the best thing in the world. I should know because I am a kid. I feel sad for the kids who can't
have a Christmas like mine.
Dear God, I pray that someday all children of the world can look forward to Christmas with joy and gladness. Amen.
December 9, 1988
As Christians we are taught that we are part of the family of God, with Jesus Christ as the uniting power of love and compassion.
As I began to grow from a young child, my horizons growing with me, my sense of family grow. It grew beyond my mother and father and new little sister to include the church, as I continued to grow through elementary, youth 1, youth 11, and now beyond. I have grown up in Crescent Hill and consider it my church family and spiritual home.
This summer the phrase 'The Family of God' became new and fresh to me. I attended the Baptist World Youth Alliance Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. People from all around the earth gathered to worship and to learn. Seven thousand people plus molded into family, celebrating our love and unity through Christ.
Christmas is upon us, and we are reminded now, perhaps more than any other time, of the love that all the world may know Him. We are all truly family because God holds us together.
Dear God, Thank you for the love which unites us all as one family. Amen.
Lyle A. Edwards
December 10, 1988
I'm meditating on Advent in mid-air, returning to Louisville from a weekend trip away. The setting is familiar, for last fall I spent four months as a payroll clerk near Poughkeepsie, New York. My world was a world of hotel rooms--sterile, unmarked by my presence. I spent ten hours a day shut up with machines in a power plant. I was living without connections, and as Advent approached I became dreadfully fearful that I would not connect with Christmas.
I remember slipping into the back of the sanctuary at Crescent Hill during a brief trip home. My throat tightened at the music, the candles, as Advent crept in to warm my wanderer's spirit.
This year as I approach Advent I again feel like a wanderer, a stranger in a strange land. I am single, between families-- with no real end to that journey in sight. There are days when my apartment echoes with the same emptiness as the hotel rooms. My life could take many directions, and which way to take is unclear. And again I am seeking out Christmas among the words and music and golden light of Crescent Hill. It is still a sanctuary--from the weariness of the familiar fear, the fear that God will not enter my wanderer's world as Emmanuel this year.
So I turn to my family of faith this Advent. It takes faith to embrace each other as family in the midst of our own treacherous journeys. We each have come from a far country, whether Poughkeepsie or elsewhere. We bring with us the "hopes and fears of all our years" to place before the manger--there to receive grace from the one who traveled far to enter a world of strangers, the one who makes us family.
O God, Give our weary hearts hope for your gift of Christmas grace--the catch in our throats dissolving into bright tears at the advent of Emanuel.
December 11 , 1988
Romans 8: 25
Christmas always means waiting. My brother and I never became very patient about waiting, though we had a lot of practice. "How many more days of school?" "When can we decorate the tree?" And the most important question, "When is the Christmas party this year?"
Young people of all occupations, from government clerk to fish vendor, came to study with our parents. Once a year, at Christmas, they came to our house for a party. I think it was their favorite event of the year; it certainly was mine.
When my father had delivered the last van-load of guests to our door, when the words of welcome had been spoken, our waiting was over. The games that followed left my face aching with laughter. The cookies Mother had spent two days baking disappeared in thirty 30 minutes. The gift which the students brought was presented by the bravest of them, nudged forward by his peers to make a three-sentence speech in English. We taught them Christmas carols then, and in the peace which follows laughter and singing, my father told them the story of Christmas. With a prayer of blessing, the party was over.
My brother and I, glutted with goodwill and cookies, went to bed. For our parents, however, the waiting continued. Through the party clean-up, through the days and weeks and years that followed, they waited--for the glimmer of a star, for the note of joy, for the birth of the Christ in the lives of their students. Christmas always means waiting.
Lord, Help us to wait with the eagerness of children and with the patience born of hope, for your coming.
Beth A. F. Gregory
December 12, 1988
Leaving home for the first time to go to college is a time of discovery. The new student is compelled to redefine his or her community at home and struggle to establish one at school. The newness and uncertainty forces him or her to search for a foundation and source of strength and encouragement.
When I experienced this last fall I found myself leaning on a much larger family than I had expected. I never fully understood the role that Crescent Hill Baptist Church plays in my life until I was unable to be there. Throughout my life my family at Crescent Hill has supported me, encouraged me, loved me, and helped me grow. This is my community in Christ.
My thoughts of returning home for the holidays consist of memories of crismons at Hanging of the Greens, the Lessons and Carols service, and hearing the Christmas story read by candlelight. The beauty of the season is captured in our sanctuary, aglow with warmth and light from our candles and our love. For me it is a special time when I embrace my family once again and we celebrate the birth of the one who binds us together, I know I will always look forward to coming home to a Crescent Hill Christmas.
Almighty God, Father of us all, we are so thankful that in your name we can gather, loving, encouraging, and supporting each other. We thank you for the blessing of your church, our community. Allow us to unite and rejoice in our love for You and Your Son. Help us to realize our potential in being a family of faith. In Your name, Amen.
December 13, 1988
Two years ago Christmas Eve, my mother was released from the hospital. Terminally ill with lung cancer, my family had to face the reality that this would be Mother's last Christmas. Several weeks before, a kind nurse had instructed me to make this a wonderful Christmas for Mother and surround her with love and support. Newly married, I was hostess to my family for Christmas brunch. My mother was very sick and weak, but she seemed to enjoy our hearty breakfast fare and ate a good meal. How I enjoyed waiting on my mother for one time, instead of her waiting on me. As she opened the presents we had bought for her, Mother wept. The presents were given out of love and in the hopes that Mother would get better. Yes, our Christmas 1986 was a melancholy affair indeed, but one to be cherished for a long time. There was sadness in the knowledge that Mother would not be here next Christmas, mixed with the gladness of my new marriage. Both were held together by family love for the celebration of Christ's birth.
My mother died shortly after Christmas. But how thankful I am, that her last Christmas was spent out of the hospital surrounded by those who loved her. Mother's absence is felt
daily in my life and Christmas is even more difficult. It is God's love for me, that my mother taught me at an early age, that sustains me at all times.
O Heavenly Father, Surround us with the memories of loved ones who are no longer with us, but who are still a part of our daily lives. Thank you for memories of Christmases to come. For the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, and the love he bestows on our lives, we are ever amazed and blessed. Amen.
Diane C. Layton
December 14, 1988
In a book called My Brother Was an Only Child, one of the quips that stuck in my head was an allusion to Christmas: "When my brother got the little red wagon was when I first noticed the pain." My brother really did get a red wagon--but that wasn't when I first noticed the pain.
Christmas was usually painful, One example was when I was about four. While we were sitting in the living room on a December evening, there was a knock at the door. As the door opened I saw a strange apparition: a figure dressed completely in red, with a red hood and a white beard.
My father was not there at the time, as far as I knew, and I was terrified. The wicker rocking chair offered little shelter but it was the best I could find, and I cowered under it.
After a brief stay the stranger--who talked too loud and moved dangerously close--left and, though I was shaken, I was thankfully unharmed.
It was hard to understand why my mother seemed totally unconcerned with this whole event, and even seemed to have something of a smile playing on her face even though she had taught us better than to just let strangers in. She may have known something I didn't know.
Lord, Sometimes you seem to know things we don't know. It makes the waiting and wondering scary--sometimes terrifying.
December 154 1988
Jeremiah 29:11-14; Isaiah 11:1-9
When they returned home from the Baptist World Alliance Youth Conference in Scotland last summer, the 23 youth from our church family were no longer exclusively "our children." They had been a part of the world in microcosm with 7,000 other youth representing 85 countries. In the Presence of the one Tie that can bind us together in peace they experienced races, languages, cultures and political ideologies transcended as they formed one global family.
What a sign of hope for a war weary world that seems to be eternally observing advent--eternally waiting, waiting for peace! It seems the technologies that have decreased the distances between people and places, making us a global family, have also intensified our tendencies and abilities to do violence. Conflicts escalate daily: between nations and next-
door-neighbors, against our environment, and even within our own souls. But out of this summer's youthful, global-family-of-faith gathering comes, again, the good news of the power of the gospel of peace.
In the closing worship celebration which I heard on a tape that Cara Miller shared with me, those 7,000 youth sang "...Here I am wholly available; as for me I will serve the Lord..." And the prophets must have smiled down from their places in that great cloud of witnesses beyond on the heritage we have in those children of our global family; even as the Prince of Peace surely found room to be born once more into our midst through their available lives.
God who created families: We give you glad thanks for the many ways that we are related to one another. Help us to keep advent's watch for peace faithfully and patiently. In the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Amen.
Janet G. Tharpe
December 16, 1988
My grandmother's hands were large and brown-speckled. They were hands made for kneading dough, mixing fresh sausage, churning, wringing chicken's necks, patting down featherbeds. "Not hands for making such tiny stitches," I think as I study the quilt across my lap.
I am reminded of the Christmas after my fifth birthday. On Christmas Eve we began the fifty-mile trip southward in a light snowfall. Contrary to the usual pattern, it became heavier. By the time we arrived the gently rolling hills were a pristine white. The tree, a cedar from off the place, was simply decorated. Electricity had not yet come to the farm so there were no lights, but to me it was wonderful. Most wonderful was the big box bearing my name. What could it contain? Was it the doll house I had seen in the Sears-Roebuck catalog? A toy barnyard? A Shirley Temple doll and wardrobe?
Christmas morning my mother's brothers took me out to see tracks in the snow made, they said, by Santa's sleigh. Did they really hitch up the drag so early just to make tracks for me to see? Probably. Eventually they would teach me the fine art of snipe hunting.
After breakfast we went to the parlor, I tore into my box. And there it was. A double wedding ring quilt. Beautifully made with many pieces from my first dresses, but just not something a child could appreciate. My face must have revealed the disappointment I felt. I tell myself Grandmother knew how much I would treasure her gift one day.
Dear God, We thank you for all your gifts, even those which do not seem so good at the moment but prove with time and spiritual maturity to be among the most valuable of all. Amen.
December 17, 1988
When my sister and I were little girls, we had bride dolls and a bride coloring book, and one of Barbie's most essential outfits was--you guessed it- -a bride dress. No wonder I wanted so much to be a bride.
I waited thirty years for it, so when Kyle and I decided to get married last May, I entered into the most intense time of waiting in my life so far.
We usually think of waiting as passive, but those six months were anything but passive. There was so much work to be done (and so much of it had nothing to do with the wedding--life ,went brazenly on), so much preparation to be made, so many feelings to be felt--and not only the happy ones I had expected. Every time one of us got in the car, I was afraid something was going to happen to us before the wedding. And there was anger; three days before the wedding, my father and I had a fight that left me In a frenzy of anger like I'd never felt before. The event I'd waited for to fulfill my fondest hopes and dreams seemed to be bringing not peace, but a sword.
But oh, the Bethlehem experience of that wedding! With singing and praising God and guests and gifts, our part of the family of God gathered at Crescent Hill to celebrate the new-life promise of a dream fulfilled.
And beyond Bethlehem? You know the story. That hasn't been all sweetness and light either. But as we awaken into life together, we'll carry that day with us as far as we can into the days to come.
Dear God, In the midst of life going on at full tilt all around us, let us keep a place inside ourselves where we wait for your coming in our lives with all the longing of a bride waiting for her wedding. Amen.
Jane Webb Childress
December 18, 1988
Mary's response to being chosen to bear the Son of the Most High was typical of most young women today. They wish to share the good news of the miracle of birth with close friends and relatives.
Christmas 1973 was very special for our family. Son John came from Atlanta and daughter Nancy, with her husband of 18 months, John Donovan, would be along later. They were planning to move from Erie, PA, to Bethesda, MD, where John would enter graduate school at American University and we were anxious to hear more about their future.
All five of us attended the Christmas Eve service at church and opened gifts from each other later that evening. Since we were all adults, this practice assured everyone a good night's rest, but Santa always left a surprise or two for Christmas Day.
A small beautifully wrapped box for Bob and me had three red cards on top. Nancy anxiously watched as I opened it. Each card was to be read in order, and this was the message:
you are going to be
What Joy! Our joy and theirs! Our first grandchild! What special news for us on Christmas Eve! The radiance in Nancy's eyes told the rest of the story. I felt as excited and pleased as Elisabeth when Mary came to share her great good news of the coming of God's wonderful blessing to her.
Dear Father: We thank you always for the marvelous miracle of birth. Amen.
December 19, 1988
It's fun to get a lot of presents at Christmas but sometimes I think the best part of Christmas is taking things to other people. Like the Christmas we went to Teresa's house. She is our friend but she and her three kids didn't have very much that year. My mother and father and sister and I got a bunch of stuff and went over there. It was kind of weird because the tree looked bare compared to ours and there were only about five packages under it. When they saw what we had brought, it made them happy and glad that we came. When we left I felt glad and sad all at the same time.
Dear God, thank you for Christmas and letting us have such nice Christmases. We pray for those who don't have all that much and pray that someday everyone will be happy and can sing and praise the Lord. Amen.
December 20, 1988
The tapestry of family is woven of nurturing relationships in birth, marriage, friendship, faith, nationality, and common humanity. The cloth expands in openness and trust. It is backed with the sturdiness of time, and colored in the sometimes faint, sometimes brilliant shades of acceptance and love. How interknit we are with one another!
Family is woven from fragile threads: respect, trust, vulnerability, love ... It takes very little to snarl relationships into impossible knots or even tear them apart. However one may mend the cloth, weakened threads reveal the damage.
Little threads seem so important. Nations kill defending a particular way of live. Denominations divide to safeguard "orthodoxy." The Southern Baptist Convention by its very name reveals an old tear. Churches split over jelly donuts and air conditioning. Friends part with hurt pride and broken trust. Homes are battlegrounds of polite silences and hidden feelings. The tapestry of human relationships is falling apart in our obsession with obscure threads.
The cloth of humanity, however, is being rewoven by a master weaver. With mysterious skill, the Creator of human tapestry entwines fragile threads of humanity with infinite grace. In Jesus Christ, divine flesh and blood have become the fabric of our tapestry. Someone once called an infant "a new human being." In Christ's birth, a new human being entered the tapestry. The cloth became radiant with the grace of God. Each snarl and tear awaits loving reweaving. In preparing to celebrate Christ's coming, let us reflect on the infinite possibilities for God to mend and untangle our tapestry of family. Let us open the fabric of our relationships to God's skillful touch.
God, you entwined yourself with human flesh in Jesus Christ. Mend our tapestry of family through Jesus Christ, the fabric of grace. Amen.
December 21, 1988
A family is a powerful place. Families have the power to build up or destroy the-individuals that live in them. I see this in counseling families and in my own family experiences.
Christmas is a time most of us want to be with family. At Christmas, family memories are made and recorded on film. Gifts are given in attempts to communicate and celebrate love for one another and for Christ.
But Christmas, like family, is often a mixed-up time of both joy and fear, pain and pleasure. Christmas, like family, has tremendous power to heal and nurture and a terrible way of highlighting our pain and loneliness.
God knows the limitations of our natural families and Jesus proclaims to us the Good News that we have an expanded family. For those who seek his way, family is no longer only blood-ties and longtime friends. Under the reign of God, family becomes the people who do God's will.
For me, family has happened when Gabriel, my son, was dedicated at Crescent Hill and Darrell Adams led us in singing "The Family of God." Family happens when we celebrate "Christmas" in July with other Baptists at the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America's annual revival. Family is Wednesday suppers and the various mission groups of the church. Family is the people who care for all of the children.
God, I pray for the courage and grace to do your will. I pray to be a part of your reign which has come, is coming, and will come bringing peace and justice for all of your children, uniting humankind in the family of God. Amen.
December 22, 1988
We were stationed at Fort Ord, California, described as the "Jumping off place." Since our marriage December 6, 1941, Jim had been ordered steadily westward from Fort Knox. Only three officer-friends and their wives moved to this assignment with us. The men were training in rough California surf using amphibious landing vehicles. In a training accident one of the vehicles turned over and men were lost. It was an unhappy time.
The joyous season was upon us but the stress ratio was high. I was carrying our child and Jim was carrying secret overseas orders. December 22, 1943 I awakened Jim to take me to the hospital. That evening Susan Gay Tate was born, a healthy little girl with lots of soft brown hair and a rosebud mouth. God's gift of a child brought indescribable joy.
Christmas Eve, Jim carried our stockings to hang on each side of the hospital bed. Ranging stockings is a tradition we have never abandoned. Christmas Day the other couples, plus the new father, shared a bountiful turkey dinner. The good-hearted hostess sent some of everything to the hospital. It tasted so good. Jim was keeping his secret. I was deliriously happy! One month later he got a skin hair cut, kissed us good-bye and left for the Pacific war.
On Gay's birthday each year we remember 1943 when we were uniquely blessed with Jesus' birthday and our own precious daughter. We also rejoice remembering the exquisite pleasure of Jim's safe return twenty-one months later.
Thanks be to God who gives us every good and perfect gift. Help us to have souls to magnify our Lord and spirits to rejoice in God our Saviour.
December 23, 1988
Christmas is a time for celebrating Jesus' birth. However, somehow over the years people stopped rejoicing the birth of Christ. Most people now think of Christmas as presents. I'm glad I'm a preacher's son, or I probably wouldn't celebrate it either.
Dear Lord, Thank you for giving your life to humanity. Please remember us and continue to spread you holiness around the world. You are my inspiration for writing this prayer. Amen.
December 24, 1988
Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 1:36-42
"Think of it this way," my Intermediate Department teacher explained one mid-December Sunday morning. "God passed as much of himself through our world as we could understand -- maybe even more than we can understand -- and began by showing us a baby. He entered history depending on family members to take care of him, and made everything we knew about relating in families have something to do with relating to God. You know, Jesus later taught us to use the family name for God -- said to call him 'Our Father',"
"Wait a minute." I had a little brother at home, and this family imagery had obligation written all over it. "I think of our connection to God as ... I don't know, more spiritual or something."
She studied me before responding, her eyes narrowing with the effort of kindliness. "Then you weren't paying attention last week. Remember, Matthew began his Gospel with a family tree, putting Jesus at the end of a long line of forefathers and foremothers. Luke's account has Mary staying at her cousin's for three months. When the Lord's angel makes the first birth announcement, it's to those second- and third-cousins-in-the- faith shepherds on the hillside. I'm telling you, God's son was surrounded by every kind of family there is."
"So what? I mean, how does that help me know how I ought to live?"
This time her eyes relaxed. "The 'ought' part comes later. The Christmas part comes first, and is easier: it's pure wonder and adoration. Hey -- it's a baby! You just love a baby."
Our Father, Give us the gentle hearts of close kinfolk to the gift of your baby son.
December 25, 1988
Christmas is celebrated by every Christian around the world. It's celebrated in heaven also. On Jesus' birthday all the angels bring special gifts to his house. He lives in a small house like yours and mine, but it's on a mountain. All the angels bring gifts to the valley below. They don't bring toys or radios or chemistry sets, but things like children smiling healthy smiles after a famine or when someone is forgiven or when a poor person finds a good job that will support his/her family or when a child is born or a person is baptized or someone lonely finds a friend. They march up the mountain on a cobblestone road to Jesus' home singing hymns, playing bells, and playing trumpets. He comes out of his house to greet the rejoicing angels.
Dear God, we thank you for your son and for his wonderful birthday. Amen.
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Advent 88 © 1988 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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Louisville, Kentucky 40206
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