Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Advent Meditations - 1992
writers (listed in order of appearance): Bill Thomason, Janet Hoomes [now Cole], Ginger Miller, Janet Tharpe, Diana Garland, Elaine Parker [now Akin], Darrell Adams, Mary Zimmer, Marv Knox, Rick Forest, Bill Rogers, Christi Schmidt, Sue Corlett, Paul Debusman, Lewis Miller, Bobbie Thomason, Colleen Burroughs, Leila Routh Arnett, Beth Ryan, Deke Slaton, Bill Thomason, Lyle Edwards, Bobbie Thomason, Elaine Parker, Mary Ann Bootes, Sharon Smith, Becky England, Hannah Ryan
editors: Becky England, Sharon Smith, Janet Tharpe, Bill Thomason
artist: Lou Ann Iler
November 29, 1992 (Bill Thomason)
ADVENT AND ADVENTURE
Advent means "to come near, to approach, to arrive." It carries the connotation of expectancy: the advent of something is the coming of something we were
expecting. But what is expected may not arrive on time or may not arrive at all. So, the word advent is related to the word adventure, which means a bold undertaking involving risks and an uncertain outcome -- an outcome which is important, crucial, perhaps even a matter of life and death. With an adventure there is an air of expectancy, yet uncertainty, because there is also danger and risk.
During Advent Christians begin the celebration of the greatest adventure of all -- the coming of God in Christ to save a lost world. Like every adventure, it has risk, danger, hazard; but also expectancy, hope, and joy. We who celebrate Advent participate in that divine adventure with all of its drama and uncertainty and hopefulness. The world may reject what God is doing to save it, and the world may reject us too and the story we tell.
But a special season of celebration such as Advent in which we dramatize the Christian story in our worship may intrigue the world or spark some interest, may cause the world to take a second took at the story it has so casually been dismissing or ignoring. For that matter, such seasons may make us stop and pay attention once again to the "old, old story" which -- because it is so old and familiar to us -- may have lost its excitement and freshness and ability to renew our lives.
This is the season of Advent, the beginning of the Christian adventure. Let's celebrate!
Prayer: God of all Adventure -- Rekindle in us an expectation of your coming.
-- Bill Thomason
November 30, 1992 (Janet Hoomes)
HOPE -- OPENNESS FOR SURPRISE
I Peter 3:15
In his Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, Brother David Steindl-Rast talks about life
as gift and life as surprise. As people of faith, we have experienced the gift of life in
Christ. Our call, then is to live in expectancy -- to acknowledge that gift and to be
open for the surprise it brings.
Each day brings the promise of new discoveries -- about ourselves, loved ones,
strangers, the person of God, life itself. Too often the frustrations and familiarities
of daily routine numb us to the miracles before our eyes. We lose sight of the
wonder of seeing a newborn baby, the unexpected delight of visiting with old
friends, the beauty of growing new friendships, the privilege of comforting those in
need. We worry too much.
Then something happens . . . an invisible switch flips on and we suddenly see -- and
discover -- and feel. Surprise. Joy. In that moment we welcome life; we seek to
discover more and more, We are open for surprise. Bringing a smile to the face and
heart of one in distress gives us a glimpse of Christ; touching the silken cheek or
holding the tiny perfect hand of a baby strikes us with the marvelous goodness of
God. Even experiencing grief and loss reminds us of the comfort of the Spirit and the
miracles of healing to come.
In this season of Advent we should remember the words of Peter and "always be
prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the
hope that you have." Celebrate Christ's birth in the assurance of the gift of life he
offers. Be ready, be open, expect surprise; experience joy in its fullness.
Prayer: O God of Hope, Open our eyes and our hearts to the joys of surprise. As we observe with gratitude the birth of your Son, our Savior, my hope be renewed in us.
-- Janet Hoomes
December 1, 1992 (Ginger Miller, Janet Tharpe)
NORTH CAROLINA EPIPHANIES
Genesis 1:3la; John 3:16
We were driving across the mountains of North Carolina on a misty, autumn-tinted morning in early October and listening to Cynthia Clawson's tape, The Hymnsinger. The combined beauty of the vista and the music flooded our senses until our souls brimmed over.
I imagined the fully human Jesus, long ago, feeling similar awe and delight in the midst of creation's glories. Then, my image of our human brother, Jesus, was transformed to the divine Lord Jesus, whose infinite compassion compelled Him toward us in the Incarnation, answering creation's need with His life.
The music drew my focus back into the present moment, and I heard Cynthia singing these words as if they were Jesus' own exuberant and compassionate words to us:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my life, my soul, my all!
Prayer: Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gifts and Gift!
-- Ginger Miller
-- Janet Tharpe
December 2, 1992 (Diana Garland)
AN AUSTRALIAN CHRISTMAS
I tried -- honestly, I tried. Like the stereotypical "good mom" I did all the things last year to make it feel like Christmas. But we were in Sydney, Australia for the year, and in Sydney, Christmas comes in the heat of midsummer, close to the longest day of the year. I bought red Christmas candles, but the sun stayed up too long to make it fun to light them. We cut a branch of wattle bush from the yard, stuck it in a cooking pot filled with sand and wrapped in a piece of red cotton -- our Christmas tree.
The children made ornaments and strung popcorn, but they ate watermelon while they did so. We sang what they said were Christmas carols in church, but we didn't know the words or the tunes. And our Christmas dinner was to be vegetable salads and sandwiches on the beach. There weren't any turkeys in the stores and besides, it was too hot to cook.
As hard as I tried, it just didn't feel like Christmas. Nobody really had the Christmas spirit. Then, the evening came for the sausage sizzle and carol sing on the grounds of John's primary school. As we sat on the ground and sang about kangaroos pulling Santa's sleigh, about sheep stations and shepherds and angels and a newborn Savior, it hit me. Thanks be to God -- Christmas doesn't depend on how we feel. God doesn't wait until we feel ready. God comes to us, ready or not. We don't have to get the feelings right or generate the appropriate mood. The shepherds were passing the night away like any other night, and God brought the joy.
Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, whether we're ready or not.
-- Diana Garland
December 3, 1992 (Elaine Parker)
KNOWING AND BEING KNOWN
Recently I heard the story of a couple celebrating one of the more significant anniversaries -- ten or twenty maybe, I hope not fifty -- and the husband asked his wife what she would like as a gift. "I would like to start making the toast every morning from now on," she said. "In all these years you've given me the heel from every loaf of bread, and I'm tired of it."
The husband dropped his head, there was a long pause, and then he said, "That's because the heel is my favorite."
I hope this is just a story. The thought of such lack of communication over all those years is heartbreaking, yet probably not so uncommon as we would hope. How often do we deny ourselves, or inconvenience ourselves and others, in order to give something to someone they neither need nor want?
Once I had a clerk call every Stewart's Dry Goods Store in town to see if they had a certain gift I wanted to buy in a different color. Later I learned that the recipient of the gift had taken it back and exchanged it for the first one I saw. We all sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we know what another person wants better than they do.
But God is really the only One who know what we want better than we do.
Prayer: Lord, help us keep the lines of communication open between ourselves and our loved ones so that misunderstandings cannot separate us. Sensitize us to others so we will know their deepest needs. Make us wise to distinguish between necessities and luxuries. Help us to give without remembering and receive without forgetting ... especially the gifts which come from you.
-- Elaine Parker
December 4, 1992 (Darrell Adams)
I always dread winter for the bleakness of it. It looks sad and often stirs a longing in me for New Mexico where I grew up. Even though the sparse New Mexico trees would be bare and the bermuda grass (dead from lack of summer rain) would be winter dead too, the sun's constant smile provides day brightness and warmth. "Home, home on the range ... where the sky is not cloudy all day."
It's different here in Kentucky. The trees (millions of trees!) are bare, grass stays green mostly, and the sky is cloudy all the time. So when the winter sun does get through the clouds, I notice. Though it doesn't provide much bodily warmth, it brightens my bleak mid-winter perspective.
Looking out my bedroom window one sunny December day, I noticed that the window was really dirty. I wanted the sun, as much as it could, to shine in. I regretted not getting this window cleaned last spring, or last summer, or last fall. Right now, I needed the sunlight.
On impulse, with window cleaning equipment in hand and a borrowed ladder, I began cleaning - at almost precisely the same hour that a cold front swept in; and well, I got real cold, the house got real cold, Alice questioned my sanity, but those windows got clean!
Windows clear, I was struck by the view. My crazy impulse had paid off,. The varied grays and pale blues of winter were an artist's work. The winter sunlight was clean and sharp and my room felt brighter and more comfortable. Outside looked different, inside was different too. Wow.
Prayer: Dear God -- this December, this Advent, may we notice the things that cause us to see unclearly, as through a dirty window. Help us to see more clearly, to be enlightened, and then be a light by which others see You.
-- Darrell Adams
December 5, 1992 (Mary Zimmer)
SWEET LITTLE JESUS BOY
During Advent one year I found myself once again elected by silent acclamation the Executive Producer of Christmas at my house. I seemed to be having more conversations with women friends about how burdensome the season had become. I found myself pondering Mary's point of view. A lot of our interpretation has been from the point of view of the shepherds or wise men. Thus, it is at one step removed. What about the experience of the primary actors?
Did Mary really welcome the shepherds' visit? Weary, but excited at this special new life, did she perhaps want a few hours to quietly ponder her new responsibility? Did she wonder about her ability to nourish a miracle child past disease and risk into adulthood?
And what about Joseph? He had managed this long trip to a crowded city and been up all night in a stable watching his young wife give birth. Did he have doubts about just what he had gotten himself into by listening to angels?
What is the impact on our witness and discipleship if, here in Advent, we think of Christianity as a new born baby placed gently in our arms? We become responsible for feeding, cleaning, responding to cries and keeping Jesus alive. As kids today would say, "Awesome!" No wonder we would rather be shepherds kneeling at a slight distance or wise men bearing gifts and then going home.
But Jesus is our miracle child, too. Somehow, at Advent, we must see our way within the stable of our daily lives and keep Jesus alive. Since the spirit of Herod is still around, we will have to keep listening to angels.
"Our eyes were blind,
We couldn't see ...
We didn't know who you were."
-- Mary Zimmer
December 6, 1992 (Marv Knox)
A WORLDWIDE FAMILY
Don't you love Christmas surprises? Cards and calls from long-lost friends. Your favorite pie, baked in Mom's own oven. (She still remembers.) Lights on grouchy Mr. Williams' house; you never thought the old Scrooge would go for Christmas cheer.
Surprises make Christmas memorable, even in church. That's where we were, on
the first Sunday of the season. Tradition demands that a family light the advent candle. You know: A four-generation clan. Mom and dad and kids. Maybe a single parent and child. But on this Lord's Day, symbolism glowed with surprise. Instead of a biological family, our pastor invited a spiritual family to spark the flame. "Will the children of Southern Baptist missionaries please come light the candle?" he asked.
From all parts of the sanctuary -- as if from all regions of the earth -- they
approached the wreath. Nine Christians joined for a common purpose, just as their
parents journeyed with a unified goal. I say there were nine, but don't bet on it. My
eyes were too misty to see.
My tears flowed with joy -- thrilled to be part of the family of God, and a church that loves the Lord and a waiting world. They flowed with gratitude -- for being blessed to help send these friends and their parents into mission fields. And they flowed with sadness -- because all Christians won't stand in unity to light a candle.
As the "missionary kids" went back to their seats, that flame glowed, reminding us our hope is not in good deeds, nor in compromise, nor even right beliefs.
Our hope, of course, is in the One whose birth we celebrate. Jesus. Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Prayer: Dear God of surprises, nurture within us the flame of wonder that brightens our lives, reminding us of your Holy Gift.
-- Marv Knox
December 7,1992 (Rick Forest)
Often, in our artistic endeavors, we portray the multitude of angels not speaking but rather singing praise to God. There is something special about music that can express more than the words we would try to use to describe an experience.
Christmas some twenty years ago was a unique one for me. My family had moved to Germany six months before, and one December night we found ourselves at an Advent concert in a nearby town.
The concert was performed by a recorder choir and pipe organ playing music of the season. As we sat, the music echoed through the church. The sounds of these instruments, so strange to our ears, distracted us from the melodies until I realized that these songs were not so strange, they were ones that I had heard for many years, just in a different context. Hymns that had been passed down through generations and had made their way to America were being played this evening in their homeland. Had we sung them I would not have understood the words, but the melodies spoke volumes more to me. In a church full of strangers, whose language was a mystery to me, I worshipped.
Now, in this world so small and dangerous, we must find new ways to communicate and let God's love speak to and through us.
Prayer: Our words are often insufficient, O God, to speak your truth in a world that needs so desperately to hear it. Let our actions speak for our words and bring peace not just in this season, but year round.
-- Rick Forest
December 8, 1992 (Bill Rogers)
A WILD ORDER OF WORSHIP
I Kings 19:11-12
In 1989 we enjoyed the privilege of a sabbatical leave in Oxford, England. Our lodging was located at Christ Church Meadow, two blocks from St. Aldates Road and a five-minute walk from Christ Church Cathedral. There in that holy place, we attended Evensong several times a week for five months. There we would hear the Psalms sung in a rich and inspiring musical setting. We would offer intercessory prayers for the world and we would worship God in the soaring echoes of that lovely architecture. All of that just as it had been observed in that place every evening for more than 400 years without exception or interruption.
Across the street, not 200 yards away, is the St. Aldates Anglican Church. On several Sundays and weekdays we visited that congregation. Their approach to preaching and worship was charismatic. Their music was folksy and more akin to retreat sing-alongs. Their interest in ritual, concern for tradition, and care for their worship facility was minimal.
But with them we experienced one of the more profound communion experiences of our lives. For that communion service, the church had been filled to overflowing with worshippers of all ages. Chairs were brought into the aisle and we found a seat on the steps of the choir. Males and females of all ages helped distribute the elements of communion because there were no passages in the aisle. In short, this communion had about it a first century Christian feeling.
In these two places we found a sense of God's revealing presence. In the separation of those two places we found a distance greater than 200 yards! Here in the Crescent Hill family at Advent we have found the reconciling gift of worship which incorporates the best qualities of each worship style in this singular place. And we are grateful. Thanks be to God!
Prayer: For the tradition of worship which is ordered and spontaneous we give thanks. For the wild order of worship we express our gratitude, O God.
-- Bill Rogers
December 9, 1992 (Christi Schmidt)
I was nine when one of God's gifts came to me in the form of a school bus: not an ordinary big yellow school bus, but one of those stubby orange minibuses equipped for kids with special needs. My parents told me I wasn't achieving my potential which sounded to me like a dreadfully embarrassing condition. When that little "special ed" bus came for me, I finally knew the truth. I was retarded -- the word we used in those years. Only retarded kids rode special buses and we had to go to special schools. I was miserable.
I was fourteen before I asked my parents about it. Astonished, they tried not to laugh as they explained that I'd been stifled by standard teaching methods and needed a special environment in which to grow. It is still somehow confusing to think of myself as gifted and capable rather than awkward and slow.
Surely Mary must have felt at times that her gift from God was more of a curse than a blessing. There must have been many who did not see her as blessed. The hasty marriage, not quite accounting for the nine months of her pregnancy; the bewildering incidents of her son's youth when she must have sensed a fiercer love than her own grasping him more each day; the embarrassed confusion she felt when her beloved gift from God was despised and humiliated on a Roman Cross.
But here is the mystery and wonder of Advent. The gifts of God are sometimes perplexing and we often misunderstand. But they are no less gifts and no less gracious, because we do not recognize them.
Prayer: God, give us the eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to embrace the giftedness in our lives and in the world through the One who came as Inexpressible Gift.
-- Christi Schmidt
December 10, 1992 (Susie Corlett)
A PURPLE EPIPHANY
Short and squat, with a dazzling gem in his belly button and a Don King hairdo, only purple and taller -- at first glance I wondered how he could be an object of desire for my daughter. He was a troll, not just any troll mind you, but a Treasure Troll. The gift shop was offering him as a prize to the child who submitted the best wish. Mera Kathryn,. certain that the troll was meant to be hers, pulled me toward the contest table. The protective mother in me was tempted to purchase one of the dolls, but the determined tugging informed me that she had grown too old to be so simply placated.
With paper and pen in hand, I awaited the wish. My waiting was met with a thought-filled silence from my usually chatty, energy-filled daughter. Then: "I wish that God was not just a spirit. That God could walk on the earth so that I could give God a hug." Her wish was met with a thought-filled silence from her usually chatty, energy-filled mother. A quiet amazement connected us in the epiphanic moment. Our common desires joined us not only with each other but with all humankind. Our greatest wish became our greatest joy not only with each other but with all humankind. Our greatest wish became our greatest joy when God came in human flesh and walked on earth. In Jesus, God was available to see, to hear, to touch, to hug.
The next day, the gift shop called for Mera Kathryn to come and accept her prize.
The Good News of Christmas is that our hope is more than wishful thinking. Emmanuel has come. God is with us. We are called to come and accept our prize.
Prayer: God, parent of Jesus and our parent too, thank you for giving us a human being full of your grace and love. Thank you for your child and for all children. Let us learn from them to wish for you, to watch for you, and to wait for you.
-- Susie Corlett
December 11, 1992 (Paul Debusman)
THE SAFEST PLACE ON EARTH
Several years ago our family received a very welcome Christmas gift. It was not wrapped in bright paper; in fact, it came after Christmas! We had celebrated Christmas with my parents in Kansas and were returning to Louisville. The weather was not good when we left Wichita, and the roads became slick with ice as we drove to Missouri. As darkness approached, we decided it was time to find a motel. However, many other travelers had made the same decision earlier, and as was true long ago, "There was no room for them at the inn."
We were weary and uneasy, but there seemed to be no place to go to avoid the dangers of the highway. Finally, lights from a building in the distance offered hope. We discovered an "all night" truck stop and restaurant. I tried to forget some of the stories I had heard about such places, and we went inside. The place was filled with stranded travelers -- it may have been one of the safest places on earth that night! We found a booth where our two children could rest on cushions, and Amelia and I could alternate saying with the children or resting in the car for a few minutes. Several hours passed, the weather improved, highway crews came, and it was safe to travel again.
Although we journeyed from Louisville to Wichita and back again many times after that year, we did not stop at the restaurant again. But I could see the place from the highway, and every time we passed I offered a silent prayer of gratitude for a good gift which came at the very time we needed it.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for coming to us at Christmas and at other times when we are most in need of You.
-- Paul Debusman
December 12, 1992 (Lewis Miller)
My brother and I are different in almost every way. While he appreciates popular music (and exhibits disturbing sympathies toward country and western), I prefer classical, folk and jazz. His idea of recreation is to spend the day on the golf course, while mine is good reading, good food and a fire in the fireplace. We grew up in the same family, but we developed into different and unique personalities.
And, as you might guess, we wanted different Christmas presents. Even as children, we had two very separate lists for Santa Claus to read. He frequently asked for sporting goods and toy cars; my requests were for books and records (remember records?).
Our differences gave us the freedom to celebrate each other's different gifts. His presents didn't diminish mine and did not seem insignificant -- they were just what he wanted. My packages were neither superior nor inferior to his -- they were just right for me.
Surely this is the Christmas model for learning the same lesson about spiritual gifts. As a member of the same family, can't I learn to be grateful that someone else's gift is different from mine? It should not threaten me or make me feel smug that my gifts and abilities are different from yours, because a loving God has given each of us gifts which, God knows, are just right.
Prayer: Extravagant God, we are grateful that you know what we want and need even better than we do, and that you give so freely the things that make us your family.
-- Lewis Miller
December 13, 1992 (Bobbie Thomason)
GOOD AND PERFECT GIFTS
James 1: 17
I have never forgotten what John Updike wrote about gifts in one of his short stories: "An expected gift is not worth giving."
My mother knew this. For Christmas we always got something that we had wanted and asked for, but we also got something that we had not expected. My mother always said that she wanted us to open something on Christmas morning that would "make our eyes light up."
God, too, tries to give us unexpected gifts that will make our eyes light up - bare tree branches against a winter sky, an orchestra warming up, stars in a dark country sky, children's wide eyes when listening to a story, close friends who truly understand, red tulips, purple irises, Bach chorales, newborn babies, the love of family, autumn leaves, waterfalls, frost on a window, snowstorms.
In this frantic world, these gifts are, above all unexpected.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your unexpected gifts.
-- Bobbie Thomason
December 14, 1992
John 1:14; II Corinthians 9:15
Have you ever been given an extravagant gift?
It was the last day of my summer mission trip to Panama City, Florida, and I was going to see Shirley. She lived in a shack in an extremely poor part of the inner city, the kind of area where people warn you to roll up your car windows as you drive through. She and her husband didn't even have a stove to cook on, and over the summer I had brought her bread for sandwiches, a file to sharpen the axe they used to chop wood, a couple of ribbons for her hair, an almost-new Bible. Life had been hard for Shirley, who had lost one brother to suicide and one to murder. Her mother couldn't recognize her any more because she had a brain aneurysm. Stories about devastating crises flow as matter-of-factly from Shirley as stories about the weather. I wasn't prepared for what she taught me about giving.
On my last day in Panama City, Shirley nervously told me that she wanted to give me a gift. She had made it -- a beautiful, almost-white, crocheted book mark "to put in my Bible," she said. It had taken her a month to find the book on how to make it and to get the string and starch to make it with.
My heart was quiet as I drove a van load of teenagers home. When the reality of the gift finally sunk in I began to cry. Never before had I understood the word "unworthy." I was the missionary, but Shirley had taught me about extravagant giving.
Then I noticed that the book marker was in the shape of a cross, and for a brief second, I understood the value of the gift of Jesus.
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for all the extravagant gifts you give us, especially the gift of Jesus.
-- Colleen Burroughs
December 15, 1992 (Leila Arnett)
A PIT, SOME CLAY, AND A SONG
A few days after my eighth birthday in El Paso, Texas, my mother died, leaving my father with six children to care for - an overwhelming task! Since my oldest sister and brother were already in college, my father decided, at great personal sacrifice, to let the older children continue with their education and to place us four younger children in a boarding school. San Marcos Baptist Academy was the school he chose.
Even though it was sometimes a sad time in all our lives, we had many happy experiences there. One of the happy memories I have of that time was learning a catchy little chorus and singing it with all my friends. It went like this:
He took me out of the pit
And from the miry clay.
He set my feet on the rock,
Establishing the way.
He put a song in my mouth,
My Lord to glorify.
And he'll take me some day
To his home on high.
Now, I must admit that, at eight years old, the idea of being taken "out of a pit" was baffling to me; and I had absolutely no idea what "miry clay" was! I did know, however, what it meant to have "a song in my mouth," and we all loved singing that chorus at the top of our voices.
As I have grown older, I have learned the meaning of these other words, too. I have experienced God's grace and forgiveness. When I have sought guidance, God has given light for my path.
Prayer: How grateful I am, Lord at this time of year especially, for the joy and hope in my heart, made possible by the love and sacrifice, long ago, of my earthly father and my Heavenly Father.
-- Leila Routh Arnett
December 16, 1992 (Beth Ryan)
SPAGHETTI JUNCTION AND JOY
Morning rush-hour at that incredible work of man, spaghetti junction, whose concrete mazes and gridlocking trail of endless tail lights, hopelessly snarled traffic and perpetual road repairs I am destined to face each morning in the frantic scramble (often gamble) to get to work: this morning ritual can make me something less than human.
Once beyond the Third Street exit, westbound on 1-264, the traffic eases and I lapse into a zombie-like state, wrapped in my own thoughts, giving no notice to dramas unfolding on the expressway's fringes. Yet God has plans to wake this sleeper from the dead.
One morning, safely past Third Street, a shaft of light passes slantwise through my car, catches on a row of clothing hanging in the tiny backyard of a Portland area shotgun house. The illuminated long-johns and overalls waving in the breeze grab my attention, and for the first time I really notice the teeming life I pass each day. Five pairs of overalls step-laddering in size hang alongside numberless pairs of underwear. Who is the woman living in that household filled with males, who faithfully washes these overalls and hangs them out to dry in even the coldest weather?
I begin noticing toddlers playing in backyards and old people swinging on back- porch swings. These people with their backyard stories become my secret friends, their lives special treasures. One day I notice diapers on the clothesline of my washing-woman, a few months later a tiny new pair of overalls. Another boy! I find myself praying daily for the people along the freeway. They do not know me, yet their lives touch mine with you.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for opening my eyes to the people of your world, for we are the greatest work of your hands.
-- Beth Ryan
December 17, 1992 (Deke Slaton)
AN ASTRAL PERSPECTIVE
It's all a matter of your perspective.
A few years ago I wrote an Advent meditation which ended:
God give you grace never to allow anyone to sell you short,
Grace to risk it all for what is right,
Grace to recognize that the world is now small enough for love,
Safe enough for truth.
This world is small enough to love. From the perspective of a star there are no borders. Sarajevo looks like Somalia which looks like Iowa City. It is not so large that we will run out of compassion if we include everyone. It's not that the world is now too small, but finally small enough.
And safe. Facing the IRA in Belfast is safe enough, assaulting corruption in Sao Paulo is safe enough. Even taking your daughter to the doctor "for a few tests just to rule out anything serious" is safe enough. Safe enough for truth.
It's not about being too dangerous, it's about being safe enough. The world is safe enough for us to experiment with knowing the truth. Small enough for us to love each and every one. It's not that the world is too small or too dangerous for options. We can always lie and hate even on an individual basis, but this advent star gives us a new perspective. Small enough, but safe enough.
Prayer: So may God take our minds and laugh through them, our lips and kiss with them, our heart and set them at peace.
-- Deke Slaton
December 18, 1992 (Bill Thomason)
We tend to think that the people in the Bible were unique individuals, with all sorts of special endowments and extraordinary talents. But that's not necessary true. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary jobs, and Mary was as ordinary a person as there is in the Bible. In fact, I wonder if Mary was the only woman Gabriel approached? I wonder if there may not have been many annunciations? The difference between these supposed annunciations and the one to Mary would be that Mary was the one to say "Yes."
In the light of this speculation, I would like to think that you and I experience our
own annunciations, in the same way Mary did. You may protest that you and I are not called like Mary to bring the Savior into the world. Maybe not, maybe not like Mary. But in some sense, God does ask us to do just that. We call ourselves "Christians," which means "little Christs." That is, we give life to Christ by our actual living in concrete, specific situations, just as surely as Mary gave Jesus biological life. We do in fact bring Christ into the world every day of our lives.
That means that our world is full of angels making annunciations to us, if we would just open our eyes and ears to them. But if we do, then we must be prepared to respond. Like Mary, we can say either "Yes" or "No." God won't make us conceive and bring Christ to life.
Prayer: God of all Power -- For our sakes you became powerless so that we might be your presence in the world.
-- Bill Thomason
December 19, 1992 (Lyle Edwards)
OUR SMALL AND DANGEROUS WORLD
John 8:32 and 14:6
. . . A world too dangerous for anything but truth. . .
This is a dangerous world. It is littered with half-truths, misrepresentations and lies. This summer I encountered a lie so big that it had eliminated an entire nation, indeed an entire race, from the hope of Jesus. The lie said that no Kazak could be a Christian because all Kazaks are Muslim, and Muslims can never become Christians.
. . . A world too small for anything but love. . .
Having been to the other side of the planet, I realize now how small the world really is. Through the thousands of miles that separate us and the cultural standards and customs that define us, people are still people. Chief among these is the desire to be loved. We all go through the same search.
Jesus said, "You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free!"
He also said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
I saw the Truth conquering the lie this summer. I saw love creating reunion. This Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Truth and the Love in the form of the tiny
and humble baby Jesus. The Truth that frees us and the Love that saves us.
Prayer: God, we thank you for all the wondrous things you have revealed for us through the birth of a small baby boy so many years ago.
-- Lyle Edwards
December 20, 1992 (Bobbie Thomason)
WHEN THE DARK IS LIGHT
As I was practicing the organ one afternoon at Highland Baptist Church, I began to sense that someone was sitting in the sanctuary listening. I turned around to peer into the darkening church. Sure enough, someone was there. A strange man yelled, "I'm just the temporary janitor, if you wondered." I said hello and continued to practice. I did not feel comfortable, however, and began to think about the fact that it was getting late, the secretaries had all gone home, and I was alone in the church with a stranger who did not look at all like a savory character and, in fact, began to look more unsavory every moment.
Finally, deciding that I should leave, I got up. The man got up too. He started toward the choir loft where the organ and organ pipes were located. Since the light switch was beside the organ, I knew that I would have to turn out the lights and walk into the dark past where the man was standing in order to get out.
I took a deep breath. My heart was pounding as I walked toward the man and the exit. As I came up to him he reached out -- but not to me. With a look of awe on his face he started touching the organ pipes and said, "I always wondered what one of them organs sounded like. It was beautiful."
Needless to say, I felt very small. My eyes filled with tears as I thought of the way I had misjudged this situation and the way I take for granted wonders some people never experience.
Prayer: Dear God, Help us not to take the beauty of this world for granted.
-- Bobbie Thomason
December 21, 1992 (Elaine Parker)
Advent 1992 --- Sounds from Ramah --- Rachel still weeps --- Somalian mothers come into our homes holding small corpses to dry breasts --- earthquakes --- hurricanes --- murder --- suicide --- We all await the fatal diagnosis --- No one we know would molest a child --- Not! --- The IRA claims credit for bomb that explodes in our faces on the nightly news --- The blood of Serbs & Croats & Yugoslavs red as carpets --- Apartheid ---The world is too dangerous --- Will truth help? The world is too small --- Will love help? It's our only hope --- Come Lord Jesus. [In the original booklet, the about thoughts and questions form a winding path. -jwa]
Prayer: Dear God, We thank you for the promise in this scripture passage. We praise you for your Son who came, who died, who arose and ascended, and who shall come again. In this holy season, may we begin each day by asking with total subjection to your will what we can do to alleviate the hurt in this small and dangerous world. Amen.
-- Elaine Parker
December 22, 1992 (Mary Ann Bootes)
A DANGEROUS WORLD FOR DOVES
It was mid-March. spring was in the air. The crocus blooms presented color and a promise of warmer days to come. The dove had returned to the still latent wisteria vine to begin her family. But Spring can be fickle, and we were surprised that Saturday morning with a deep snow. The world was transformed. I marveled at its beauty.
Then I thought about the dove outside our window. Unlike the robin's nest, hers is a haphazard construction of a few twigs precariously placed together. What she lacks in building skill, she more than makes up for with her sense of nurturing. Rarely is her nest unattended.
But the snowfall would be her enemy. There were no leaves to protect her nest. She sat silently, with resolve, as the snow fell and crept over her nest, finally enveloping her. She disappeared into a cold blanket of white.
I had hoped her instincts would save her, but it was mid-afternoon now, and she had not moved. Her two white eggs were surely frozen, and I feared for her life as well. The world she trusted had played a cruel trick. She had believed and cooperated with life, and her trust seemed misplaced. I felt a sad kinship with her. Our human condition creates a vulnerability to life, its goodness as well as its storms. We too are easily imprisoned. When the snow melted, to my amazement the little dove appeared. She had endured! She shook her feathers in freedom. She could begin again.
I saw the smile of God that day and I heard his word of courage and new beginnings. My heart sang!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the gifts you give and for the serendipities of life when you speak and we are able to hear anew.
-- Mary Ann Bootes
December 23, 1992 (Sharon Smith)
INTENDED FOR HARM
COVENTRY. I had heard sermons about it, had talked with those who had seen it firsthand, and in June I was to see it myself. I needed to. For me, Coventry's name meant forgiveness, and oh, how I needed to be taught. We were to be there on a Sunday. At 10:35 AM I climbed down out of the van alone and walked inside. At a distance I saw the modern French tapestry of Christ on the Cross -- colorful, odd, and large enough to cover the high wall behind the altar. To my right was another high wall -- the baptismal window streaming light of multi-hued blues -- and an enormous natural stone font in front of it. I lit a candle and said prayers for CHBC and me.
And then I noticed them, the people in the congregation. A remarkable sight. For all the signs of past destruction -- the standing shell of the bombed-out original cathedral, the cross of charred wooden remains -- there they were, a congregation known as the most active and viable in England. They were love's offspring. Love that moved them to decide on November 15, 1940, to rebuild, only one day after the bombing. Love that endured seven years until an architect was hired. Love that held on until June 8, 1954, when reconstruction began. Love that prompted a group of Germans to extend their own hands to help, and love that moved acceptance of this offer.
Love as from another country. Love that endured and worked patiently until May 25, 1962, when the new cathedral -- Coventry Cathedral -- was consecrated.
Prayer: What some meant for evil, love meant for good.
-- Sharon Smith
December 24, 1992 (Becky England)
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
With five children in the family, Christmas Eve was always a time of irrepressible excitement at our house. Our family devotions on those evenings were usually a bit awkward and wide-eyed, since each of us had a part in them. One of us, crazy with anticipation, would usually ask if we could open just one present afterward, and ' acceding to that request usually did little to calm us down or help us sleep.
When I was twelve, I remember the beginnings of my own sense of reverence on Christmas Eve, as I became aware of the breathless sense of waiting that blanketed my world like the snow that never fell in Alabama. In my room awaiting sleep, I wanted to have my own devotional, to elongate the time, hold stillness in my flannel-clad arms before Christmas burst in upon it. Wanting to look out on the world and pray, I twisted around in bed, looked out the window and saw, for the first time in this way, a light on the steeple of a church in the block behind our house. I had a strong sense that the light was God, the light was Jesus, and that I was to know on this night that the light was distant but coming, and that I was a holder of its promise.
I have since been faithfully met by that light in the quiet dark of the hours before Christmas, and have been sustained by its message, and its call to remember both that the light has come, and that it is still to come.
Prayer: Light of the world, we wait and hope in you.
-- Becky England
December 25, 1992 (Hannah Ryan)
WHAT ADVENT MEANS TO ME
These are questions that run through my mind about Advent. What does Advent mean? Advent means preparations for Christmas, like the hanging of the greens or lighting the candles to count how many days till Christ was born. I also wonder why Advent is important. Advent's important because if God didn't send Jesus, the world would be a scary, hateful place to live. It would be a hateful place to live because, before Jesus was born, the world wasn't friendly and was full of despair, lonely, and had no hope.
I think Advent is a lovely time of year. It's brimful of love, hope, joy. It makes you feel special and wonderful. That's what Advent means to me.
This year thinking about God's love and Advent made me think of a girl In my class. She sometimes is unhappy and takes it out on the teachers and kids. I don't think she knows much about God's love. She only had 8 crayons, so for her birthday, I bought her some markers. She was surprised and happy, and even more happy and surprised when her mother came in that afternoon with 3 presents, punch, and a cake. God's love is a wonderful thing.
Advent, Advent the time of year
When Christmas is getting near.
Advent, Advent the time of day
When all the people say,
Jesus was born! Jesus was born that
Very special day.
-- Hannah Ryan
Advent 1992 © 1992 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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