Crescent Hill Baptist Church

Advent Meditations - 1989

writers: Dorothy Waters, Laura Lea Duckworth, Beth Ryan, William L. Hendricks, Michelle Tupper, Fritz Gutwein, Ronald L. Loughry, Paul Harris, Susie Corlett, Elaine Parker, Nina Pollard, Lydia Bean, Lewis Miller, Deke Slaton, Janet G. Tharpe, Peggy Hester, Mary Zimmer, Nancy Kiker Bean, Robert Mark Causey, John Styron, Wesley Edwards, Sara Jo Hooper, Sharleen Johnson Birkimer, Paul M. Debusman, Rhonda Slaton, David Mears, Cherie Williams, Viola F. Crismon, Caroline M. Noel, Betty Cook, Annie B. Hammon, Sharon Smith, Hollie Rainwater, Bob Brocious, Charles D. Gregory, Don Polaski
editors: Annie & Chris Hammon, Beth & Charles Gregory
artists: Sue Enoch, Brooke Burhans, Margot McCall, Nicholas Brashear, Tina Bellou, John Gedmark, Vanessa Chipe, James Graves

December 3, 1989 (Dorothy Waters)
Psalm 100

A booming voice singing a boisterous bluegrass song was heard throughout the long wide hallways of old General Hospital. I knew it was my patient coming to the clinic.

Wayne was admitted to the hospital after he had been found unconscious on one of the downtown sidewalks. He was a senior citizen o strong physical build -- which was being eroded by a degenerative neurological disease. All four of his extremities were numb, and there were large infected sores on his toes and fingers.

Wayne had been a lawyer and lived on "south stocking row" at Lexington. He had been married twice and had two sons. One was a postal employee in Florida and the other son owned a nightclub in Jamaica.

Wayne had recently rented a room in Louisville and now needed help in finding a more protective living arrangement. Both sons made an attempt to have Wayne live with them. These plans failed. The Florida family as very conservative. The arrangements in Jamaica did not provide adequate care.

So Wayne returned to Louisville, and his singing was heard once more. Many people in the hospital were irritated by his noisiness. I felt that Wayne's singing was his expression of hope that he could continue "to hang in there."

My relationship with Wayne lasted for about a year. Many years have come and gone since then, but he has a permanent place in my memory.

Dear Lord, Help me to enjoy Life, and not be defeated by difficulties and unexpected changes.

-- Dorothy Waters

December 4, 1989 (Laura Lea Duckworth)
Psalm 63:5b-7

When I was small and often afraid, my mother told me a secret: When you are frightened or feeling alone, sing. The song will give you courage and hope. And so, it became a habit to sing when I was afraid.

Our family visited Yellowstone Park when I was seven. Geysers were impressive, even to one for whom the wonders of nature were old hat. Something else impressed me even more than Old Faithful, though. Mennonites.

There were orthodox Mennonites in the cabin next to ours, in black, full-length costume with veils, funny shoes, hats, and BEARDS! I had seldom seen a beard, and had never seen so many people in black.

Despite reassurance from my parents I was terrified of these people. So, when I ventured out to the camp lavatory one morning, I decided on a route which would not take me past their cabin. [Guess what? Yep. I got lost.]

As the minutes passed I started to panic. Then, I remembered the secret. "Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine...," I started singing in a shaky little voice. The music came automatically as the prayer ascended. Find me, god. I want my Daddy.

When she found me, I think I must've had tears running down my cheeks, but I was still singing. She bent over me and kindly placed her arm, covered in a long black sleeve, around me. She said some reassuring words and, as my father rounded the corner I thought how silly I had been. She was very kind.

As a grown-up, I have had nights so dark that I couldn't find a song. Sometimes my song has been my despair. But when I wait for my God, and sometimes the wait has been long, God comes as a song, transforming despair to hope, fear to courage.

During the night of Advent, come to us as a song, Oh God, as we wait for the Hope of the world. Amen.

-- Laura Lea Duckworth

December 5, 1989 (Beth Ryan)
Isaiah 12:1

Sitting in the sanctuary of Crescent Hill Baptist Church on Christmas Eve seven years ago, I was filled with the "specialness" of that night. While waiting expectantly for the worship service to begin, my mind wandered back seven months earlier to the month of June when I had experienced the "slamming of doors" on many of my hopes and dreams. That month I had lost, in early pregnancy, the child I'd prayed for so intensely, and the financing for the home my husband and I wished to buy had fallen through. Several other hoped-for happenings appeared to have reached an abrupt dead end as well. I remembered my spirits reaching an all time low as I could see no reason for the seemingly unending series of unhappy events. I felt betrayed; as if God had turned His light elsewhere.

Then I recalled driving through Cherokee Park later that same month, brooding over my problems and oblivious to the June morning splendor around me. Glancing upward, I caught the reflection of light filtering through a tree making each leaf stand out in its unique distinctness. Suddenly I became aware of the beauty of my surroundings as something inside seemed to tell me, "This is for you." I spontaneously found myself thanking God for the moment, for each leaf, and for every event in my life. While praising and thanking God, my despairing mood lifted, and He gently planted seeds of hope within me. The swell or organ music signaling the beginning of the Christmas Eve service returned my thoughts to the present, while the thriving new life within me stirred restlessly.

... Still, still I believe
All Good things come from You.
Take darkness and make light,
Take old and make new.
Work Your plan now, Creator,
I accept what you bring.
I'm tired of disappointment,
It's a negative thing.
Take my heart now and hold it,
Cause it to sing --
Thank You for HOPE
What a wonderful thing.

-- Beth Ryan

December 6, 1989 (William Hendricks)
Proverbs 29:18

"When am I going to get out of here?"

It was one of the most hopeful cries to come out of a modern crisis that seemed hopeless. The crises began at 5:04 a.m. on Tuesday, October 17, 1989. The earth plates beneath the San Andreas fault in Northern California rubbed together, and all the civilized world became aware. The impossible had happened. One of America's favorite sites (San Francisco) had a major earthquake during one of America's favorite rites (the World Series). A mile and a quarter of the double-decker Nimitz freeway in Oakland, CA fell--the upper onto the lower. It was, as the media never tired of saying, a tomb; and so it was for over 50 people. But nearly 90 hours later workers came upon the badly wounded but still hopeful, Buck Alvin Helm. His query, when the first flashlight of a paramedic shined on him was a marvelous question of hope "When am I going to get out of here?" No ifs, no ands, no buts. Just the elemental question of hope that must have sustained him during the dreadful disaster. A brave young paramedic, Diana Moore, shined a light on the grim scene and stayed with him till the debris was lifted off.

At the first Christmas the world had waited for rescue a long, long time, crushed by the accumulated weight of centuries of human debris. Hope had been promised. Rescue would come; else the human race would not have survived. "When are we going to get out of here?" This is the cry of hope in every human crisis. "Where there is no vision the people perish." Vision is hope imagined. Whoever would have supposed that a burdened world would be rescued by the light of a star and the presence of a child? Yet, that is the message of Christmas. The light will shine, and He will stand with us until the rubble is

Dear Lord, however dire the situation, however heavy our load, make us aware of His light and His presence. Amen.

-- William L. Hendricks

December 7, 1989 (Michelle Tupper)
John 1: 5

Darkness surrounded me. Although I heard my soft footsteps on the road, I could not see them. All I could feel was cold. I did not know where I was going or what to look for--all I could do was keep walking. I wanted to scream to break the silence, to let out my anger and my fear, but my mouth would not open. I groped in my pockets for warmth, but I felt nothing. The road seemed to grow longer with each step, and I began to wonder if I would ever make it to the end. I was all alone. Alone on a dark road in a world that knew no mercy. I wanted to cry--to cry for all the grief in my life that continuously washed over me. Wind tried to push me back, and the path became more difficult to follow. I wanted to end everything-- the road, the world, my life. I was so confused. I was always asking myself questions to which I could find no answer. The road grew harder beneath my feet, and I grew weak. My life was weighing down on my back, and I could bear it no longer. I
fell. The world that I had fought for so long had won--it had beaten me until I could no longer stand. "Help!" I cried. "Is there no one who cares?" I stumbled, blindly reaching for the end of the road, for the way out. Suddenly, a light broke through the darkness, an infinite light that overwhelmed me. Somehow I broke free--free of life, the world, and my
suffering. The light grew stronger, warming me, and somewhere, somehow I found the strength to run.

Thank you for being with us in the darkness and for the gift of your radiant light. When we are tired and confused, give us strength and hope. Smile on us in this season of love with the joy of our Savior's birth. Amen.

-- Michelle Tupper

December 8, 1989 (Fritz Gutwein)
Matthew 1:18-25

While Mary was singing praises to God, Joseph was struggling with his own song. It is a song that was not sung, but lived.

He was considering how his engagement to Mary should end. Joseph was concerned for his reputation. He was probably a bit angry and definitely confused. How was it that Mary, the apple of his eye, was carrying a child? This could not be.

Matthew tells us that Joseph was a just man and did not want to cause Mary any shame, so his choice was to divorce her away quietly. But as he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said that Mary's child was conceived not by another man, but by the Holy Spirit.

Now, what was Joseph to do?

He could have doubted the angel. After all what proof was there that this message was true?

He could have believed the angel and still rejected Mary. After all, this could mean an awful lot of trouble and sacrifice for a small town carpenter. The divorce could have gone on as planned.

But what Joseph did was to make the leap of faith, believe the angel, take Mary as his wife and commit his life to God.

Joseph's song is a song of faith. Even though he was faced with an unusual and disturbing set of circumstances Joseph put his hope and trust in the promise of God.

Father, During this season of Advent we pray that our hearts will be filled with songs of faith. We ask that we will follow the example of Joseph and all the other saints who put their hope in You and Your Son. Amen.

-- Fritz Gutwein

December 9, 1989 (Ronald Loughry)
Isaiah 60:1-3

December - such a gray, dark time, the sun struggles to shine. It is dark when we rise up in the morning, and we depart in darkness,
only to return in evening's gloom.
We leave on porchlights, we switch on roomlights, we move
room to room, lamp to lamp.
We light fires in fireplaces and stoves trying to recreate light and warmth.
We succeed artificially.
We spend hundreds of dollars on extravagant lighting displays
and power companies offer prizes, while in the next block,
on the next street someone else's power is cut off.
For some there is no light, for some there is no warmth,
for some December is gray and dark.
Still, we try to recreate the sun; our best efforts are inclusive.
Shared warmth, shared light, the star of Bethlehem shone not
for just a few. It shone for the world, a gray, dark
December world.

a song

In the grayness of winter, sunshine came.
In the darkest of nights, sunshine came.
And all the chaos and fear the world has known was gone.
When the sunshine came, when the sunshine came.
They say that angels sang at his birth,
and the shepherds' cold night was filled with warmth.
When a light shone forth from heaven bringing hope to the land.
When the sunshine came, when the sunshine came.
Now in this world of chaos and fear,
Lord, let your spirit draw us near.
Yahweh, please hear our prayer, let your sunshine be felt here.
As when the sunshine came, when the sunshine came.

-- Ronald L. Loughry

December 10, 1989 (Paul Harris)
Matthew 2:9

We hear a lot about stars today: movie stars, sports stars, the 'stars and stripes', and reaching for the stars in space research. We also hear about people who live under the stars, people without shelter or food, or people who need a sign of light Iin the darkness of grief and hopelessness. What has this to do with the Star of Christmas, and the message of peace?

The Star of Christmas symbolizes guidance for the Christ-seekers, and proclaims the presence of God in the One who was born. On their journey, the magi were directed by the Star. It was a manifestation of the action of God, unmistakable and intelligible, and it both signified and granted peace to people who lived in darkness.

Sometimes God leads clearly by a bright star, but not always. Often there is no dazzling star, no unambiguous ray of light in the darkress. The Star of Peace, pointing to abundant life under divine blessing, is not evident. We face life with no easy warm glow, but with the dark shady gloom of confusion and uncertainty. It may seem that we live in the vast expanse of night with a multitude of twinkling stars, distant, tantalizing glimmers of hope in a scene of otherwise awesome, empty nightfall. Yet we live by faitb, always through grace, in the mystery of God who becomes in Jesus Christ, the light of the world to those who are seekers after divine love and truth, and to those who wait or grope in the darkness.

O God, who formed the galaxies of light and fashioned the earth to sustain life through each new day and night, we offer our thanks and praise for the light and the darkness in our experience. Grant us the vision of your Star of Peace as we journey on day by day. Grant us courage to face the darkness of your gentle probing of our selfish peace. Grant us vision to seek God in the lives of those around us, and to serve Christ there. May we adore you, in the mystery of your being and loving, and may our hearts remain restless until they find their rest and peace in you. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

-- Paul Harris

December 11, 1989 (Susie Corlett)
Matthew 2:10

The best gift that I ever received was a star. Not a five-and-dime-lick-and-stick-on-a-chart star, not a tiny-tip-top-of-the-tree tinselly star, but a high-in-the-sky laughs-in-your-heart star. Antoine de Saint Exupery recounts the giving of such a star in The Little Prince. A traveler, stranded in the Desert of Sahara, met an extraordinary friend and learned lessons of living from him. When it came time for the little prince to die, he promised, "in one of the stars I shall be living. In one I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing when you look at the sky at night. And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me." Tabatha Foster gave me a star. The simplicity of her life and purity of her love was a beacon to all who knew her. Her strength and courage in the presence of insurmountable odds taught us to live life to its fullest.

Starlight is not measured in duration, but rather by magnitude of brightness. Though Tab lived for only three years, that time does not determine the size of the blessing she gave us. Many stars have gone out already but continue to shed light on our world.

A year and a half have gone by, and our sorrow is comforted a little. "Time soothes all sorrows." But the true Comfort has come in the Star of Bethlehem. For of all the stars in heaven it is the brightest. Not even death can blot out its splendor. And in it we find hope and peace and bear a million tinkling bells laughing for Eternity.

Creator God, Giver of all light. We give thanks for those who have shown evidence of Your love in Our lives. Comfort us when memories of past seasons bring grief and sorrow. Grant in us the hope of Resurrection. Instill in us the peace that quiets every heart. Amen.

-- Susie Corlett

December 12, 1989 (Elaine Parker)
John 21:15-17

Maybe it was because news of hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods was not conducive to thoughts of Advent. For some reason I couldn't seem to come up with anything this year. I remember the story of The Other Wise Man and wish I could excuse myself by saying I was too busy helping others. But that would not be true. I did have a few interruptions I might tell about--like the visit from my little friend Alicia. Before her grandmother, who lived near me, died in July I saw Alicia often. But now she rarely comes to visit. I couldn't say no when she called asking to come by. After all, I was just sitting at the typewriter staring at a blank sheet of paper. We made hot chocolate and talked, but there was not time for her to tell me all that was on her heart. Her parents are separating, her grades are dropping, and she misses her grandmother. I was late to the meeting I rushed off to as soon as she left, but I had not given her what she needed.

Then there was Maureen who knocked on my door as I tried another day. She is a friend's daughter who walks her dog in our neighborhood. She has a speech impediment causing many people to underestimate her intelligence. Her mother had been taken to the hospital. She was worried and lonely. Instead of responding to her need then, I made a date with her for the next day. Her mother came home the next day and needed her there. I accomplished little in the way of writing either day.

I wish I could tell you that I spent every spare minute visiting the sick and taking in-home communion to some who know are longing for it, but I have fallen short of the mark. Could it be that taking care of these responsibilities, along with writing meditations, are not things one can do "on the run?" And why do we live our lives this way? There will be many stars among the decorations this season. I intend to let every one I see remind me that I can follow it to the Source of Peace, but not until I have taken the time to care for his sheep.

All-knowing God, you see clear through to our hearts and love us anyway. Please teach us how to find your peace by listening to your voice and allowing you to order our days. Amen.

-- Elaine Parker

December 13, 1989 (Nina Pollard)
Matthew 2:10

How fitting that a star should be the sign of the birth of the one who was to be the Messiah! It appeared in the night skies, one of millions twinkling in the clear reaches above the earth. The star could have gone unnoticed had wise man from the east not been watching, studying the heavens, wondering at the mysteries to be revealed there. It could have been no different from countless other stars which appeared, shone brightly for a
time, then disappeared without a trace. Yet this star was unique, though few saw it.

The baby was born like so many before and since--in lowly surroundings, attended by anxious first-time parents. His life could have passed uneventfully in an undistinguished country; his death mourned only by family. At his birth, who would have predicted otherwise? Few there were who watched in wonder, recognizing that this baby was to change the course of lives.

The light of the star, now visible on earth, had its birth unnumbered light years previously and moved through unimaginable space and time toward its rendezvous. And the love of God, fully revealed in the one born that evening, had been there from the beginning moving toward that moment when the word would become flesh and we could behold His glory.

Draw near, day-spring from on high, that we may recognize the appearance of your love and light during this holy season.

-- Nina Pollard

December 14, 1989 (Lydia Bean)
Luke 2:1-20

Silence drapes over Bethlehem. Peace lies over the stilled roads.

In a tiny stable a baby's gentle cry breaks the stillness. But the sound is soft and nothing stirs.

All is quiet but a brook babbling beside the town.

All is quiet but the trees, rustling, rustling.

But in the tiny stable, what is there? In dim light, the dim moonlight is a child. A very special child. A smiling face leans over the manger and peers down. Peers down at a child. A very special child.

On a quiet hill, many shepherds wander aimlessly around their sheep. Far below them is an emerald valley, Far above is a sky-full of bright stars. All around them are fields of soft
fluffy animals.

Suddenly an angel appears in their presence bringing good news. Good news to all men! In Bethlehem a baby has been born. God's son! You will find in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And a gathering of angels appear and sing thundering glory to God. Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!

Loud, joyful, frightening peace fills the air. The sky rings with song! And when the angels return to heaven, the shepherds run and leap with joy, surprise and excitement. The sheep are dashing about, frightened by the huge noise and the great light that has rolled through their midst like a giant cloud. But through it all, peace is still there. A loud excited peace.

Lord, help the world have peace, both quiet and loud as there was the first Christmas.

-- Lydia Bean

December 15, 1989 (Lewis Miller)

And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so. Genesis 1:14-15

"Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him." Matthew 2:2

"When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are." J. Cricket

Entering the last decade of the millennium, we still make some basic mistakes about relating to stars. Even the rich and famous -- maybe especially the rich and famous -- are consulting astrologers and reading horoscopes in hopes that prosperity, health and happiness are "in the stars."

Well, here's some good Christmas news! The God Who placed the stars in space has placed us here among them. The very stars, which call planets into obedient orbit, are called by our Creator to keep still. The raging intensity of the stars is so carefully held that we are calmed and quieted by their gentle constancy.

If we will remember Whose we are, then we will be as wise as the Magi -- wise enough to see that stars do not bear witness to their own burning explosions, but to the Peace that entered history out on the edge of town under what surely was a night sky extravagant with stars. These stars do not line up to bless or curse us; they are lined up so we may steer a course toward the generous Giver of grace and peace.

When you wish upon a star, it may make no difference who you are. Knowing that you can follow a star can make all the difference in the world.

-- Lewis Miller

December 16, 1989 (Deke Slaton)
Matthew 2:2

Every community I've been part of has a group within it that thinks of itself as victimized. I've been part of that group lately. But no adult is a victim unless they willingly accept that state. So I am taking this season as my opportunity to break those fetters.

But I have been victimized by something that may seem odd to you. I am a victim of civilization.

Civilization is killing me. I'm being choked out by the steady march of civilization as surely as the Amazonian jaguars. Civilization victimizes us by telling us that wood comes from a lumberyard, you get water by turning a faucet. Civilization teaches us that meat comes in polystyrene and shrink-wrap and costs no living thing its life; and a person's worth can be estimated by bean counters at the IRS. Civilization has told us that the way to get somewhere is to get a trip ticket set of maps from AAA.

Civilization lies.

But I'm not listening anymore. I'm taking wood from trees, trees that I stand beneath and respect as living things; I'm thirsting for water that has known no pipe but ice and rock;
I'm hungry for game honorably hunted with flavor from leaf and limb. From now on, I will refuse to believe the numbers of civilization. No numerical equivalent can be given to a human life. Lastly, to navigate, to find your way, is to look at the stars. The antidote to civilization is wisdom. The wisdom to know when to navigate by a star. Maps cannot lead us home, especially to manger homes; for that you need wisdom to twinkle at you from heaven. That's where I'm looking. Your head can never be bent by oppression while it is star-gazing.

God, give us grace to refuse to let anyone sell us short, grace to risk everything for what is good, grace to realize that the world is now big enough for the truth and safe enough for love. So may God take our minds and give them wisdom, take our tongues and give them silence, take our hearts and set them at peace.

-- Deke Slaton

December 17, 1989 (Janet Tharpe)
Matthew 2:10-11

Four-year-old Jonathan was already in our classroom that Sunday morning when I arrived. He was playing with the blocks, but he looked up to greet me and we exchanged bright smiles. He continued to play, and I began to prepare the room for the Bible lesson: The Visit of the Magi. On the wall I taped a big, shiny, aluminum star; beneath it I placed an apple crate with a sheep skin, and a baby doll inside. Some other children had arrived and I started them on the art activity, decorating cardboard crowns.

Jonathan was still building, so I chose him for a special activity. I invited him to wear a cardboard crown and terry towel cape that I held out to him while suggesting that he
could pretend to be one of the wise men who followed the star to look for baby Jesus. He beamed his answer; his imagination was sparked and he put on the simple costume, and selected one of the three "gifts" that I had brought, to carry with him: gold, frankincense and myrrh (a wooden box, a flower vase and a grease can).

Ready to begin, he looked to me for direction. "Do you see a star?" I asked. Surveying the room, he discovered the star and ran toward it, pointing excitedly. He never took his eyes from it until be stood under it. Then he looked to me again. "Do you see a baby in a manger?" I hinted. Glancing down, he saw the crate and the doll for the first time. His face filled with the light of surprise and wonder and joy.

This time he needed no prompting from me. With great gentleness he placed his gift in the manger and then he picked up the baby Jesus and held him close, tenderly rocking him in cradled arms.

Gracious God: grant us the royalty of innocence once more so that we may discover You again as if for the first time; and so that we may be as uninhibited in our adoration as this awe-eyed, cardboard-crowned wise man; and go that we may be unencumbered enough to embrace You with hearts and hands that are ready to love. In the name of Jesus who was born to be our truest Gift. Amen.

-- Janet G. Tharpe

December 18, 1989 (Peggy Hester)
Isaiah 11:1

Three times I have given birth ... each precious and special in my memory. Each had its own magic.

Megan's birth...l had never even held a baby before and now I had one, twenty-four hours a day! Thank God for mothers who come to help initiate their "new mother" daughters into the joys and sorrows of motherhood. I wonder where Mary's mother was that long ago night in Bethlehem. How comforting the visits from the shepherds must have been to the young mother.

Allison's birth ... I remember the doctor saying, "Mrs. Hester, we have a little problem with your baby but we can take care of it." My heart stopped and I held Michael's hand tightly as the doctor explained. "Your daughter has an extra thumb that will need to be removed when." What a relief! Only an extra finger. I wonder how Mary felt as she looked at her new baby, remembering the angel's words, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." How different her baby was.

Adam's birth ... in a place where we felt lost and alone, a church where conflict had colored our days and nights. We bore a son who brought joy and peace. His birth was a respite from struggle and a reminder that God was indeed the source of our joy and peace. Nothing--not even churches who fought, our struggle for vocation, mounting worries about our future--could quench that joy. Surely Mary caught a glimpse of that joy in her little baby boy.

And there shall come forth ... babies, joy, struggle, love, loss, peace. Praise be to God who is the source of all births!

Gracious God, giver of all good gifts and parent to the little child who lives in each of us, remind us again of the feeling of joy and peace which comes with the birth of a child, Your little baby boy Jesus. Help us to love one another like the little children we are, helpless without Your sustaining presence. Thank you for this Christmas celebration of hopes love, joy, and peace. Amen.

-- Peggy Heater

December 19, 1989 (Mary Zimmer)
Isaiah 35:1-2, 10

"No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found."

How did this verse with its dark imagery find its way into one of our favorite carols? What do sin, thorns and curse have to do with singing for joy at Jesus' birth?

This verse does not promise that the joy of Christmas is unmitigated. We cannot expect permanent freedom from sin and sorrow. But we are not to let them grow. They do not have to take over our lives in a world that still celebrates the birth of Jesus.

And thorns infesting the ground? The particular species of thorn may be unique to each of us -- a sin we can't forgive, we've not confessed, a grudge we nurture. Sins and sorrows can infest our lives and absorb most of our energy.

The promise comes in the next line: "He comes to make his blessings flow." It is the opposite image of "infest." The birth of Jesus symbolizes the pouring out of God's blessing. Jesus' life was spent freeing people from their sins and sorrows.

And to what extent? "Far as the curse is found." It doesn't matter what the curse is or how long our ground has been infested. The love of God, through the birth of Jesus Christ, can reach into every corner of our being, every hidden hurt and shame and transform us.

This is the season that we prepare the manger of our hearts for the Christ child. Such preparation opens us to the blessings of God's love and teaches us to sing, "Joy to the World."

Dear God, Open our hearts to the flow of thy blessings, and grant us release from the sorrow and sin we know. Show us joy in the season of celebration. Amen.

-- Mary Zimmer

December 20, 1989 (Nancy Bean)
Zechariah 9:9-10, Isaiah 55:6-13

Just as joy comes in the expectation of God's salvation it also arrived as surprise. The life we await, the salvation we expect is not necessarily what God has in mind. And if we are too sure about the script, we just might miss the cue.

Humor results from an absurd or surprising combination of ideas or images. Laugh! God's joy also comes with surprising absurdity. We sound the Advent trumpets, angels fill the heavens. Then ... Laughter fills the innocent with joy. Those still looking for grown-up majesty are left confused. Religious zeal is mocked. A baby cries and God's joyous surprise is unwrapped to us. And wrapped again in swaddling clothes.

No proudly prince on milkwhite steed.
No reigning king on purple throne.
But humble brow and muddy feet
Come trotting into David's town.
Come trotting into Zion town.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Rejoice! Our donkey-king!

God of joy, we rejoice in the surprising joy you send us. We rejoice in the humble savior you give us. We rejoice and laugh with thanks.

-- Nancy Kiker Bean

December 21, 1989 (Robert Causey)
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7; 61:1-2

It was a clear crisp night. Maybe the stars were a little brighter than usual. The shepherds were watching their flocks. Suddenly a sound, faint at first, but growing in strength ... a flash of light maybe... the shepherds saw it. They were well acquainted with all the tricks of the night, having spent many a long night in the open air with their sheep. But this was different; an angel appeared. He told them something about a baby being born in Bethlehem, and that they ought to go see it for themselves. The men were tired and they knew they shouldn't leave their flocks unattended, but they had to go. They were compelled to go. It's hard to disobey a multitude of angels when they tell you you ought to see something.

He was a tiny babe, so helpless looking. flow gently, his mother cradled him in her arms, her eyes full of a mother's tender love -- eyes that searched deep into the newborn face. The shepherds hated to intrude on such a holy scene. They apologized, red-faced for their unexpected arrival and their rugged appearance. But they had to see; they had to know something. Was this the one? Could this be the Expected One, the promised Messiah? This tiny life clutching at its mother's fingers?

The shepherd's question, even Mary's question, and certainly our question is the same. Is this the one -- the Christ? If that tiny infant, clumsily wrapped in swaddling clothes, could have spoken, if he could have answered in all the knowledge of his divine nature, and of God's eternal plan; he could have looked into the wondering eyes of his mother, the shepherds, the wise men, and said: "Yes, the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor...." A simple message of hope, of life, and light, and freedom, from a simple child in a simple manger among simple folk like us.

Christ, we thank you that you are who you say You are. Help us to accept your good news and to share that good news with others. Amen.

-- Robert Mark Causey

December 22, 1989 (John Styron)
Genesis 2:7; John 1:14

"Christmas In Us"

Tradition is confusing
Tragic and amusing
Sentiments from yesterday
We emphasize the manger's hay
How temporal is the tinsel!

Son of God and Son of Man
Impossible to understand
We celebrate the Incarnate
Miraculous, immaculate?
What is the meaning of it?

It was the Holy Spirit
And now we call Her Christmas, Lord
Conceive a Holy Christmas
In us.

For me, Christmas joy is the reminder that God has chosen to inhabit human flesh. I find God's presence in the arms of friends and family. And within myself. Christmas gifts and traditions are fun. But a hug is something holy.

-- John Styron

December 23, 1989 (Wesley Edwards)
Matthew 18:5

As a child in rural Georgia, I experienced the excitement of the birth process. I was fascinated by seeing a hen settling in to nest. We would circle about 21 eggs in pencil in order to notice any fresh eggs laid when she was away from the nest. I would wait and watch for three weeks. Toward the 18th and 19th days, I could press an egg to my ear and faintly hear a soft peep. Soon, the eggs would be pipped (cracked). The chicks would emerge wet and wobbly, soon drying under their mother's warm body.

Next, heads would start inching out, like curious turtles. In a day or two with empty stomachs and craving curiosity, the chicks would be led out in search of food by their mother. night the chicks would nestle safely under and around their mother's warm hovering body.

Similarly, all of us joyfully hear the announcement of a baby to be born. We make ready for the baby's birth by anticipating and sharing gifts, experiences, and advice. We celebrate the arrivals. We watch and help that baby grow ....

We teach them many things. A small circle in Jesus' world anticipated his birth. They celebrated finding him, amongst God's simplest creatures--the animals. Jesus then had to be taught about growing up. But more so, he had to teach us about growing--about growing closer to God. Those of us who work with preschoolers know it still happens that way. Like Jesus, they are surely closer to His Kingdom.

O loving God, help us to understand the love and nurturing you give us through your little ones.

-- Wesley Edwards

December 24, 1989 (Sara Jo Hooper)
Luke 1:37; 2:10-11

I was ten, Daddy wouldn't be home until Christmas Eve, and we had no Christmas tree. I fell asleep and woke up with fantasies of heroic solutions to the puzzle of how to get a
tree with no forest, no money and no car.

Two days before Christmas vacation, a tree appeared in my fifth grade classroom. I have no memory Of the shape of the tree or what we put on it; in my mind that tree sat in our living room decorated with our prized string of eight lights and the few balls that hadn't been broken in moving from place to place. We were getting out for vacation the next day and the tree would be thrown out. I'd ask Miss Allen, my teacher, if I could take it home when we finished with it. (not only would she give me the tree, but she would be impressed with how smart I was to think of using the tree in two places.) And I did ask her. But she didn't say, "Yes." She told me that the Presbyterian minister's wife brought the tree, and she was probably going to take it home to use there.

I knock at the door of the parsonage; the ministers wife answers and stands smiling down at me. I stammer who I am, "My family doesn't have a Christmas tree, and are you going to use the tree you brought to the fifth grade room?" I don't know what she said, but I do know that she gave me the tree. What I call a BIG YES. I believe that, when we got out of school the next day, she put the tree and me in her car and took us home.

That woman, whose name I can't even remember lived Christmas truths I can never forget: that God depends upon us, his human family, to love each other--even strangers' children; to take each other's needs seriously--especially children's needs; and to give each other hope built on the confidence of our having heard over and over again, "Yes, yes, yes."

Dear God, help us to celebrate the YES Jesus brings to us. He came as a baby to teach us that we are children of God. Help each one of us to give the gift of hope to one person today. Amen.

-- Sara Jo Hooper

December 25, 1989 (Sharleen Birkimer)
2 Corinthians 8:7

When I was born, my parents were a young couple who were struggling to save money to buy their farm on the North Dakota prairie. One lovely day in late June, a neighbor, Grandma O'Connell, called and asked Mom to come over for a cup of coffee. "I have a little something for Sharleen," she said. She was not a relative but was called Grandma O'Connell because she was a sweet, elderly woman. My mother carried me across
the prairie that was green with the growing wheat crop. Grandma O'Connell gave me a tiny pink dress. My mother thanked her for the gift but then added, "How sweet of you to give Sharleen a gift, but what can I do for you? Your children are all grown; I will never be able to repay you." Grandma O'Connell smiled, "You do not have to always repay the same person. When John and you have more money, you give a gift to someone who cannot afford to give you one. Just pass my gift on to someone else."

Over the years my parents have done what she suggested. They have purchased clothes and medicine for children whose parents could not afford it and they have served meals to families who could not afford to return the hospitality. They call them "Grandma O'Connell" gifts.

I invite you to join the Johnson family in having a tradition of giving "Grandma O'Connell" gifts to people who cannot repay you.

God, show me people I can give "Grandma O'Connell" gifts to this Christmas season and throughout 1990.

-- Sharleen Johnson Birkimer

December 26, 1989 (Paul Debusman)

Have you ever been disappointed with a Christmas gift You received? If we are really honest, some of us can recall disappointment. Perhaps it was a gift that looked so special and wonderful in a store or in a catalog, or one that seemed so beautiful in bright wrapping paper, but when the gift was received and opened, somehow the magic vanished. Maybe it was a gift that said on the box "some assembly required--only a screwdriver and basic skills needed." After long hours of toil with every tool available and amid threats to call in someone with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering--there is disappointment. Maybe it was the article of clothing, perhaps sent from out-of-town, that did not quite fit or was not the proper color--and there is disappointment.

When we think of the original Christmas gift--the love of God expressed uniquely in Jesus Christ--we recognize that God does not disappoint us with the first Christmas gift given to the world. In fact, the life which comes through the Messiah is such more than we could ever hope for or imagine. Notice a few scripture verses which emphasize the "much more, overflowing," nature of God's gift: "I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full." (John 10:10b, Jerusalem Bible); "Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20, Jerusalem Bible); "Thanks be to God for his gift beyond words." (II Corinthians 9.-15, New English Bible).

Gifts we receive or give have the possibility of disappointment because they involve limitations of various kinds. God's gift is not limited, and the "amazing grace" is that we keep on receiving blessings all along the way.

Gracious God, you have given of yourself, and your gift fills our lives with love beyond measure. May our gratitude find expression in words and deeds of love to others. In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.

-- Paul M. Debusman

December 27, 1989 (Rhonda Slaton)
Matthew 18:1-4

I remember the first time Stephen sang with the preschool choir. I worried about how he would behave, wanting him to be perfect but also wanting him to be noticed. I remembered in years past watching young choirs and being charmed by a sweet voice or cute antics, and I wanted everyone to be charmed by my child. I was prepared to respond to comments about him with, "Well, what can you expect from a three-year-old," or "He gets his musical ability from me!"

What I was not prepared for was realizing that Stephen was no longer mine, but a boy with his own character and personality. I watched him as he sang his heart out. The tears came. I couldn't atop them. Then he began clapping along, in perfect rhythm, and swaying back and forth. Laughter accompanied my tears. He was so free, so uninhibited, totally carried away with feeling the music. No amount of coaching from me could have given him that freedom.

Children are God's grace and hope for us, grace and hope that is because of and in spite of us. It is no wonder to me that God sent hope and grace to us in such a small, delightful package.

Thank you, God, for trusting me with the care of your grace and hope. Amen.

-- Rhonda Slaton

December 28, 1989 (David Mears)
Luke 1:37

Someone has said that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who enjoy Christmas shopping and those who don't. I suspect that most of us spend our holidays going back and forth between the two groups, sometimes enjoying the task and sometimes hating it. A recent survey of those who hated it, for the moment, revealed a common complaint: "I wish I didn't have to give so-and-so a present, but...
a, "he/she gave me something last year."
b. "he/she is family."
c. "my parents will kill me if I don't give him/her something."

God probably understands. After all, God probably receives more obligatory gifts than all the aunts, uncles, and schoolteachers put together. Maybe that's why when God gave the gift of Jesus, God decided to have fun with it. "How," you ask?--by adding the element of surprise. God surprised everybody.

In his shock, ol' Zechariah actually asked the angel for some proof. (He got it.)

Dumbfounded, Mary asked the same angel, "How in the world can this be?" And then there are the shepherds. Their first words were mercifully left out of print.

Ah, but when you and I realize that the Jesus-gift is for us as well, we can't help but be surprised too. "For me?!, How?, Why?"

Christmas shows us that the best gifts either are undeserved or unexpected, or at least contain a dash of surprise. It seems they also contain a dash of the giver's own self. And if God gives this way and enjoys it, maybe we can too. Maybe that's the point.

Thank you, God, for giving us Jesus. And thank you for enjoying it. Teach us to give as people of the Gift, for whose sake we pray. Amen

-- David Mears

December 29, 1989 (Cherie Williams)
Galatians 3:28

What I remember most about Christmas, 1961, is a gift of words. It began with a clustering of cousins beneath a cedar tree in Granny's parlor. We were snipping away at sheets of construction paper and old brown grocery bags, creating shapes to adorn the sickly cedar picked up for a couple of dollars at the nearby open air market.

"Rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief..." we chanted while cutting, letting the falling snippets of paper act as divining instruments to ascertain future spouses. Inevitably, Shelly got paired off with the "Injun" chief. We shrieked our disgust, and as our shrieks pierced the cookie scented air, Granny appeared. Marching us straight to her bedroom, she motioned toward a portrait of a proud-looking lady dressed in high Victorian collar and wearing a cameo brooch.

We had often stared glumly at that dour face whose stern countenance would have halted Mardi Gras mid-festivities. But on this day, something was different--namely the identical expression of displeasure our Granny's face. "That is your great-great granny:" she began "a full-blooded Blackfoot Indian." With wide eyed astonishment we gaped.

"We are all one and the same in God's family," Granny cranked up for a lecture, but seeing it was Yuletide, she out the lesson short. "Besides," she added with a sly smile, "no Injun chief would have the likes of any one of you for a bride."

No doubt my overstimulated sensibilities regarding Santa's fat sack of toys temporarily obliterated Granny's words, "We are all one and the same in God's family." Yet strangely, while Saint Nick has stood the test of time, I do not recollect a single toy from that his sack Christmas, 1961--just the gift of Granny's words.

Dear God, Let us remember we are one and the same in your family, and may we, too, this Advent Season share with someone else a gift of words which stand the test of time. In Jesus' name, Amen.

-- Cherie Williams

December 30, 1989 (Viola F. Crismon)
John 13:35

October 17th I received a lovely note from a teenager that did my heart good.

Every one likes to be loved. My first experience of the elderly showing love toward children came when I started walking the two miles to school with my sister and two friends. About half way to school lived an elderly couple. Mrs. Wasson (a small, white-haired lady) would meet us at her gate. Greeting us she would give us apples or fruit, or a large sugar cookie.

Snow came early in Missouri. Like all children, we played in the snow and our mittens and books would be wet. Mrs. Wasson made mittens out of ticking, lined with flannel she also made book sacks. She took our wet, frozen mittens, and we wore the new ones. Then, in the afternoon, she would meet us and return our dried warm mittens. She met us two or three times each week.

A few years later we moved to Vandalia, and my first assignment, by the pastor, was to teach a class of little children. I was also asked to visit 13 shut-ins for the Home Department (now Extension Department). I love to work with all ages.

Years later, after I moved to Louisville, I read in my home paper that Mrs. Wasson had fallen and broken a hip. I took time to write her and mention the apples, cookies, gloves, etc. I told her how she had helped me in my Christian work.

She was round 100 but she wrote a note saying "I remember you children, but supposed you had forgotten the little gifts. It did my old heart good to know you remembered and loved me enough to write and pray for me."

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God." I John 4:7a.

Father, Help us to love all people.

-- Viola F. Crismon

December 31, 1989 (Betty Cook)
Luke 1:57-63

He motioned for someone to bring him a writing tablet and on it he wrote "His name Is John." Elizabeth, the child's mother, had spoken up when the time came to name him and had said, "He is to be called John." "Why there is no one in your family called by that name," they said. "He should be named for his father, Zechariah." They sought a higher authority than his mother, his father, and he had been completely positive in his response. Not, "We shall name him John," but "His name is John."

This is the way it happened when John, whom we call John the Baptist, was named. He was a long-awaited child whose coming had been announced by an angel of the Lord as Zechariah served his turn in the temple.

Zechariah could hardly believe this wonderful news. "How can I know this?" he asked and the angel replied, "I am Gabriel and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news! You will be unable to speak until the time the child comes," said Gabriel. The angel gave the name of John to the child and with the name came instructions for the upbringing and a prediction of his future activities preparing the way for the Lord.

We have not received our names from an angel, but as we choose to follow our Lord we are given a new name--"Christian." With this new name comes a new life-style and great responsibility. We are to love each other. We are to live as our Lord lived-- not for ourselves but for others.

Dear Lord, we thank you for the names given to us by our parents and for the new name, "Christian," we receive as we accept Jesus as Lord of our lives.

-- Betty Cook

January 1, 1990 (Annie Hammon)
Isaiah 43:1

When I slipped into the world, the doctor laid me on my mother's stomach where she eyed me carefully and said, "Well, she looks like an Ann Elizabeth." Minutes old, I had already received my first good gift of affirmation--a name. Mom looked at me and told me that I was Ann, which means grace, and Elizabeth, which means consecrated to God. That was my first naming my first acknowledgment of life in continuity and community.

Since then, I've been given many names, including some unprintable ones from middle childhood. My brother hung a name on me that still makes me blush--he couldn't. pronounce Elizabeth. I've given names to pets, named a son, given a million nicknames, and in giving the names I tell them who they are to me: give them names born in love, in moments of friendship, laughter and shared experience. Names evoke memory and hope for me. They anchor my place in the human family by expressing kinship, affirming our personhood and binding us together.

Every time I sign a letter, I think of the name this person knows me by: Ann, Annie, Ann Bellinger Hammon, Annie B., Sam .... They are all my name, and reflect relationships set In certain places and times. Jesus had his name chosen before he was born: Son of the most high God, Immanuel, God with us. Isaiah had a whole list of names for this tiny child. Names are important. Through them we know, and are known.

As we celebrate the naming of the Christ Child, it would be good to remember the people who name us; who give us signs of identity and relationship. Cherish those who have given you names you cherish, and maybe forgive those who have given you names that are wrong or unloving. Think of the names you give others: nicknames, carefully chosen names for children and spur-of-the-moment names ... and celebrate.

Good and gracious Namer, whom we call by many names, thank you for the name You give us, that claims us and calls us your own.

-- Annie B. Hammon

January 2, 1990 (Sharon Smith)
Isaiah 62:1-5, 10-12

Growing up, my parents told me that it wasn't nice to call people names, but the longer I live I realize how much of our lives are spent doing just that. How we have been named, how we name ourselves and (how we name) others can be either a curse or a blessing. Are we a Jacob who has stolen the name, and thus the blessing, from a sister or brother? Like him, have we had to wrestle an angel until we could wrench a blessing and a new name before we moved on?

Luckily there are times when naming is easy and fun.

GABE--the long-awaited first puppy who turns out to have one floppy ear shorter than the other. (But, we say to ourselves, you don't notice it too much when he cooks his head and looks at you with those sad, brown eyes.)

JOHN DAVID MICHAELS, III (or) KRISTIN MICHELLE SMITH--a name that has been chosen after long deliberation to insure it is equal to all of our hopes for the yet unborn child.

DARLING, PUMPKIN, DEAR HEART--terms of endearment that make our hearts leap and our eyes fill with light because we know we are enfolded by the love of the one who speaks our "name."

But there are also those names we call ourselves and each other that distort our true image. Names like--SUCCESS, FAILURE, SELF-SUFFICIENCY, DISAPPOINTMENT--names that make the journey more difficult and painful, forcing us to dig deep and long in the eyes and words of others, and even in our own hearts, in order to discover there our true name--the name imprinted by the One who fashioned us.

Oh One who has named each of us, give us courage to learn our own true name and love enough to offer names that bless rather than cripple and curse. Amen.

-- Sharon Smith

January 3, 1990 (Holli Rainwater)
Romans 8:15-23

We expected her in January. She was going to be an Epiphany baby. And the first gift her parents would give her would be her name, Victoria Grace. It would be a strong name, a name that would express the gratitude for this victorious gift of her life in spite of a difficult pregnancy.

She came on a Saturday in September. She was asleep when she was born. Her life came full circle in forty-five minutes. And the gift her parents gave her was her name, Victoria Grace.

Christmas has been difficult for Victoria Grace's family. Their arms and hearts are empty and the images of the infant Christ only remind them of their longing. I stand near them in
their grief and wonder at the name they have given their infant daughter. Their emptiness radiates toward me and touches me and becomes my own. And I am startled because it feels like spaciousness rather than desolation. There is no flurry to fill it with activities that will numb the pain. Rather, it is an emptiness that is willing to stay empty. It is an emptiness that groans inwardly yet knows that it will be set free. It is an emptiness that believes in victory and prepares a place for grace.

God, our father and our mother, who knows the pain of losing a child, bless our emptiness and fill us with your Spirit. Call us your children in ways that we can understand and teach us to love you warmly, simply, and completely. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

-- Holli Rainwater

January 4, 1990 (Bob Brocious)
Matthew 1:23

The stepping stones of my life are marked by music and story. Songs I've heard, books I've read, have named and renamed me. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, is such a book.

Lewis tells the story of bus trip to heaven, where all the inhabitants are "solid people" and the bus-riding visitors are ghosts. The "solid people," looking like angels, escort the visiting ghosts around heaven. Lewis witnesses an encounter between one angel and a ghost. As the angel tries to persuade the ghost to stay, a lizard, sitting an the visitor's shoulder, whispers in his ear to ignore the angel. The visitor makes futile attempts to silence the lizard.

"Would you like me to make him quiet?" says the angel. "Maybe some other day. It would be too painful now." replies, the ghost.

The argument continues till the ghost can tolerate no more. At the risk of losing his own life, he allows the angel to slay the lizard. As the angel flings the reptile to the ground the ghost screams in agony.

What occurs next catches Lewis by surprise. What was once a dark, oily phantom, is transformed into a magnificent person. And what was once a little red lizard is now a silvery white stallion with mane and tail of gold. The stallion is mounted and ridden into the quaking mountains, as the earth begins to sing:

The Master says to our master, Come up.
Share my rest and splendour till all
natures that were your enemies become
slaves to dance before you and backs for
you to ride, and firmness for your feet
to rest on.
From beyond all place and time, out of
the very Place, authority will be given
you: the strengths that once opposed you
will shall be obedient fire in your
blood and heavenly thunder in your voice.

The most difficult facets of the person I am to name have been those dark, shadowy sides that elude my glance yet whisper in my ear. May this season mark the day we ride the backs of old masters.

''And your name shall be called Emmanuel.... " (paraphrase)

-- Bob Brocious

January 5, 1990 (Charles Gregory)
Mark 8:27-29

When I made my first audible noises my parents had already agreed on my name. The first sound I heard was my Dad saying, "Dr. Lewis, may I introduce Charles David Gregory." At least that's the story I have since heard.

Mom often called me Bubber, Gordon, David, or Paul, Anne, Charlie, depending on which generation of children she was thinking about. Dad called me whatever random group of syllables happened to come to mind at the moment. Nevertheless, they raised me in the consciousness that I was an individual with a carefully chosen name. I learned that they respected my distinctive ideas, preferences and creativity. From them I learned that it was a good thing to be me, and I am very grateful for the lesson.

I have wrestled with the many attributes and associations that are used to identify selves. I am a Christian, a Baptist (American or Southern?), a citizen of the U.S.A. whose home is
Thailand, a student, a minister, perhaps. These and many other terms are what I have called myself at different times, but I have also rejected most of theses names at times.

Just as the apostles had many names for Jesus, we all. have many names. The accumulation of labels and descriptions is always inadequate. Ultimately our names represent individuals who are more than any description.

Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of birth and existence and the gifts of name and individuality. Amen.

-- Charles D. Gregory

January 6, 1990 (Don Polaski)
Isaiah 11:1

In Florida, where I grew up, we laughed at the thought of a "White Christmas." Until Christmas 1984, when a strong cold wave dropped temperatures low enough to destroy a large section of my grandmother's orange grove. That little five acre grove which had withstood all the changes in our family and in our area the past sixty years appeared to be gone. But my dad and my uncle took it upon themselves to plant new trees where the old ones had died. I could not understand why two men, who really aren't very young, would plant trees which would take several years before they could bear any fruit.

Then I read a quote from Henry David Thoreau and it became clearer:

"Examine the root of the savory-leaved aster, and you will find the new shoots, fair purple shoots, which are to curve upward and bear the next year's flowers, already grown half an inch or more in the earth. Nature is confident.''

If you get close to nature, you will learn disappointment but also hope. The present day, the present year is not the final word. All around us, on our coldest days, the God who fashioned Nature, is working to bring new life. Even out of a lifeless old stump. My dad and uncle understood this, and joined the effort of bringing life out of death. This winter we'll sat the fruit off the new trees.

O God, you are preparing now to give us new life in the spring. Thank you for the new life given to us through Jesus. May we have hope even on our coldest days, hope enough to bring forth new life, also. Amen.

-- Don Polaski

Advent 1989 1989 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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