Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Advent Devotional Booklet - 1993
Angels and Advent
writers (in order of appearance): Walter Wangerin Jr, Sharleen Birkimer, Nick Brashear, Matthew Brashear, Debbie Brashear, Wesley Edwards, Elizabeth Sorrell, Nina Pollard, Elaine Parker, Walter Wangerin Jr, Tom Scott, Mary Anne Crane, Bob Brocious, Leslie Kendrick, Beth Ryan, Lewis Miller, Walter Wangerin Jr, Lelia Gentle, Bobbie Thomason, William Hendricks, Micah Wilkinson, Phyllis Skonicki, Marv Knox, Betty Cook, Walter Wangerin Jr, Mary Zimmer, Francine Todd, Lou Ann Iler, Bill Thomason, Janet Tharpe, Walter Wangerin Jr)
editor: Janet Tharpe; artist: Colleen Burroughs
Sunday, November 28, 1993 (Walter Wangerin, Jr. - 1989)
John 1: 1-5
Once upon a time the world was dark, and the land where the people lived was deep in darkness. It was as dark as the night in the daytime. It had been dark for so long that the people had forgotten what the light was like. This is what they did: they lit small candies for themselves and pretended it was day. But the world was a gloomy place, and the people who walked in darkness were lonelier than they knew, and the lonely people were sadder than they could say.
But God was in love with the world.
God looked down from heaven and saw that the earth was stuck, like a clock, at midnight. "No," he said. "This isn't good. It's time to make time tick again. Time, time, " said the mighty God, "to turn the earth from night to morning.
And God was in love with the people especially.
He saw their little candlelight, and he pitied their pretending. "They think they see," he said, "but all they see is shadow, and people are frightened by shadows. Poor people! he said. "They wonder why they are afraid. " God watched the people move about like fireflies in the night, and he shook his head. "Poor people., pretending to be happy," he said. "Well, I want them to be happy. It's time," declared the Lord our God. "It's time to do a new thing! I'll shatter their darkness. I will send the sunlight down so they can see and know that they are seeing!"
God so loved the world, that he sent his only son into the world itself And this is how he did it:
Once upon a time, when the whole earth was cloaked in a cloud of darkness, God in heaven turned to his angel and said, "Gabriel.
And the angel said, "What, Lord?"
And God said, "Go. Go down. Go tell my people remarkable news."
--Walter Wangerin, Jr. (1989)
Come Thou long expected Jesus into this busy Season and into the places in our hearts where our light is dim. We await You now with Hope. Amen.
Monday, November 29, 1993 (Sharleen Birkimer)
Whoever welcomes in my name one of these children, welcomes me; and whoever
welcomes me, welcomes not only me but also the one who sent me.
Light reveals what may have been there all the time, but was previously hidden
from our view. Children in our 3rd grade Sunday School are frequently angels of
light to me. They have revealed to me at least three fundamentals of our faith.
The human aspects of Jesus:
I told the story of Jesus' birth to the children using chenille strips shaped into skeleton-like people and a manger and then placed in a clay base so they would stand tip. As I told the story, I was only vaguely aware some of the children were playing with the clay; but when I had finished the story, a little girl handed me some clay and said, "This is a better baby Jesus; he has a face." She had stuck two balls of clay together and made a smiling baby Jesus. A boy handed me another lump of clay and said, "This is a pillow for Jesus because the hay might stick him." I humbly replaced my Jesus with his pillow and the Jesus-with-a-face.
The divine nature of Jesus:
I have tried to imagine Jesus' physical and emotional suffering on the cross, but I had never thought about God's agony until a little girl asked me on Easter Sunday, "What if God had not been able to stop crying because his son had died?" Good Friday will never be the same to me after that question. Good Friday will always be "The Day God Cried because His Son had Died."
That baptism and communion are visible representations of God-at-work in us:
When our church budget needed to be reduced, the children decided the last budget lines we should cut were those for money to heat the baptismal water and for the "crackers and juice" we use in communion. "Those mean God is worshipping with us," a thoughtful boy reminded me.
Thank you for children who are messengers of light. Thank you for their ability to reveal to us the essentials of our faith. Amen.
Tuesday, November 30, 1993 (Nick, Matthew and Debbie Brashear)
Wow! Isn't life just a series of hopes, one right after the other? When the boys and I sat down to put into words what our ideas of hope are, we got into a varied discussion; and yet it could be summed up in a few words: expecting the best to happen.
Nick expressed it as waiting for joyful tidings, being willing to insure that the righteous will prevail, and in a more down to earth approach, "Hope? hmmmm ... assumption ... wanting ... wishing...praying ... striving... begging... pleading."
Matthew's ideas were also lofty and thought-filled ... that someday the world would be free of sins, poverty, hate; believing that something will happen, that Jesus will come back one day; and he also related it to a peacemaking experience--I like that idea! He further stated, "I hope that people do believe in God and that He looks after us."
As I think of hope in the light of our world, I think of the promise of Jesus fulfilled in his birth and life. As I write this, trees are budding, flowers are blooming, and I see the cycle of hope in nature, As I contemplate hope in my fife, I think of seven years of waiting to become pregnant, the hopes involved during two pregnancies, and all the other expectations of watching two boys grow (and grow!). My life's work also revolves around many hopes, including education--the answer to many of life's problems, and children--our hope for tomorrow. Even though personal and global concerns can make me question what there is to hope for, I still feel hope in expecting the best to happen, even though at times the worst seems to thrive. Matthew, Nick, and I will always continue to hope; and we pray that in this powerful season you too might see hope in your lives. In 4th grade, Nick wrote a poem that is a good closing:
My dream for the world
Is not to want but to give
To have peace and no wars
To love for nothing in return
To care for everybody.
Oh Hope-filled God, Please give us all a little more of the patience to wait for the good to come, as Paul spoke of in Romans 8, and never let us give up on hoping.
--Nick, Matthew and Debbie Brashear
Wednesday, December 1, 1993 (Wesley Edwards)
LET THERE BE LIGHT
The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. John 1:4-5 (Good News)
Growing up in rural Georgia, I spent countless cloudless evenings studying and surveying the heavens, looking for God and meaning to life.
An endless canopy of stars opened up, like a lightning bug festival in outer space, the expansive Milky Way as a handle for the picnic basket.
The stillness of the night was only altered by stars dancing in staccato, seeming to twinkle and emitting tiny sparks like sparklers on the Fourth of July that reached and tingled my bare arms.
The breath-taking silence was cadenced only by an occasional awareness of my own slow and steady breathing inhaling the huge panorama. Other times that silence was punctuated by the forlorn cry of a nearby whippoorwill luring me back.
Even on cold, frosty evenings, as the wonder and awe drew and crystallized my into miniature sparkling stars, I was beginning to fathom that I and all mankind, part of God's grand scheme, a plan for love and redemption. I sensed that a wonderful and powerful God had created and ordered the universe. Each visible star was a lone, special guardian angel watching out, just for me.
When my faith lapses or falters, nothing draws me nearer than another heavenly scan. Sometimes I recall that the wise men needed only one star, pointing to Jesus' birth, God's exclamation mark of love for us.
Dear God, however, wherever, and from whomever we perceive your light, may it draw us toward your Kingdom. Amen
Thursday, December 2, 1993 (Elizabeth Sorrell)
My mother and I made a trip some years ago to visit my sister in North Augusta, SC. Just getting there was a challenge because our car broke down three times during our efforts to get there and a fourth time as soon as we arrived! The mechanic who looked the car over in North Augusta found no problem.
So when our visit was concluded, my mother and I left for home in High Point, NC. Actually we left twice. The first time, the day before, about an hour into the trip, our car had lost speed; and when I pulled off the interstate, it died. A man stopped to help us and we returned for the night to my sister's home while our car was checked out by a mechanic. He found no problem and so we set out again.
However, about an hour into the trip, the car began decelerating again--rapidly dropping to 35 mph in the path of an eighteen-wheeler traveling at 65 mph or more! We were able to get into the slower lane of traffic safely and limped along determined to get home with the mysterious deceleration problem plaguing us the whole 200 miles.
My mechanic in High Point could not find any problem with the car either when he checked it out the next day. I believe God's angels were watching over mother and me as we traveled; God's protective hand was with us the whole trip!
Attentive God: Thank you for Your many mercies as we travel over the interstates and through the daily routines of our fives. And grant safe travel to all who travel the highways this holiday season. Amen.
Friday, December 3, 1993 (Nina Pollard)
The ringing of the telephone or a knock at the door during the wee hours of the morning when sleep has descended peacefully on the household always strikes terror into me. It begins in the pit of my stomach before I focus my eyes or my mind. A messenger at that particular time must be the bearer of bad tidings--an accident, a death, severe sudden illness, a disaster. A messenger interrupts my sleep and I am fearful.
Yet there is a welcome message which comes at any hour. "Mom? Dad? It's a girl. She was born about thirty minutes ago and she is beautiful." Welcome, waited news.
Even then, though, there are limits to my desire to hear the news as soon as it happens If the new baby is not a close family member or the addition to the family of a dear friend, the news can wait for a more opportune time. On the other hand, if this child's life will touch my life on a regular basis and in a meaningful way, then interrupt my rest to tell me about the birth.
These particular messengers had news which could not, should not wait. "Do not be afraid! No need for panic. We have good news and we knew you would want to hear it immediately. A boy child has been born to Mary and Joseph--but not to them alone. This baby has been born to you--to you shepherds and farmers, to you auto mechanics and lawyers, to you waitresses and accountants. Good news! This baby is going to make a difference in your lives. Glory to God in the highest!"
Now that is news we should wake up to hear. Thanks be to God.
Saturday, December 4, 1993 (Elaine Parker)
I John 4:18 (also see Matthew 8:26, Mark 5:36, Luke 12:32, Psalm 23:4, Psalm 27: 1)
And the angel said, "Fear not."
Biblical angels always seem to say that. Did they look frightening or is fear just our
natural response to extra-terrestrial beings?
Some years ago it seemed every other newscast contained some reference to unidentified flying objects and human encounters with beings from outer space. I decided that if confronted by such a phenomenon I would simply say "Do you know about the God of our Universe and Jesus Christ who came to this planet to teach us how to live in harmony with God and each other?" It might turn out to be like one of those nightmares where you're in trouble but you can't make a sound come out of your throat, but at least I have a plan.
Actually I think "Fear not" could have been part of the glad tidings. Did you ever think what you might have accomplished if unwarranted fear and/or excessive worry had not hindered you? Most of us have a secret fear or two tucked away that we've finally given up on banishing. Faith in Jesus Christ should liberate us from such fears and worries, but does it? It seems that so many good friends and loved ones have their lives circumscribed by fear. How did we miss out on this part of the good news?
"Perfect Love casts out fear."
It seems so simple, yet it is so difficult. Like so many of Jesus' teachings it is eminently practical , but we just don't trust it enough to build our lives on it. Probably the best Christmas present we could get this year would be for a stranger to appear out of the blue, place a hand gently on us and say, "Fear not.
Dear God, how we long to cast off our fears as summer children of long ago flung their clothes on the bushes and plunged into cool sweet streams. What joy it would be to live life with such abandon restricted only by your loving will for our fives. Thank you for Jesus who tells us how to do it. Amen.
Sunday, December 5, 1993 (Walter Wangerin, Jr. - 1989)
When the angel said "Ha" in the middle of the night, like bright explosions in her bedroom, poor Mary jumped and covered her mouth and could not talk because she was afraid.
God in heaven whispered, "Hurry, Gabriel. Comfort the woman.,,
So the angel said, "Hush, Mary. The dear God loves you, don't you know? God favors you, and the Lord is with you. Mary, do not be afraid," said the angel, still more gently. So Mary grew calmer; her mind grew quiet; and she began to listen. "Behold," said the angel, "you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus."
Quickly, Gabriel, " said God in heaven. "Tell her quickly what this means. 11
And quickly the angel did a comely thing: he stopped speaking, and he started to sing. So marvelous was the meaning of this baby, that is wanted a song for the telling. "Mary," sang the angel: (read Luke 1:32-33)
A baby? thought Mary in spite of the music. How dear was the promise. "How can this be?" she blurted--and the angel stopped singing, and God in heaven began to smile.
Well, maybe the angel didn't understand the nature of human bodies. Some things had to happen first for the other things to happen second. "How can this be?" said Mary.
There came a strange sound in Mary's bedroom then, like the creaking of the walls, or the cracking of the universe. It was an angel chuckling. For the thing that he was telling Mary was a miracle, after all. The new thing God was doing didn't depend on nature. First things needn't come first anymore, and the baby would have a father, but not the kind that Mary imagined.
So the angel continued, in a happy melody, to sing: (read Luke 1: 3 5b)
Startling God, today breathe the Peace of Your favor on our fevered hearts. Amen.
--Walter Wangerin, Jr. (I 989)
Monday, December 6, 1993 (Tom Scott)
THE ANGEL'S SONG
It was 3:30 in the morning and my mind was racing like a top spinning out of control. Over and over I kept reliving the day's events. What a day it had been! My company where I had worked for 28 years had been bought out by a huge corporation. Waves of anger and fear pulsed through my body and questions filled my mind unceasingly. What will I do? Where will I go? On and on went questions without end, nurtured by the fears that threatened me. Could I ever sleep again?
It might have been the hundredth time I repeated the phrase, "Lord, lift me out of myself I can't handle it anymore," and, suddenly, I thought of the Christmas Angel's song... "Fear not, don't be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy, for today a savior is bom ... Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will to men." A state of well being and peace flowed through me bringing longed for and blessed rest.
When I awoke the next morning, Christ's spirit was alive in me in a new way. The hopes and fears of all my years were met in Him that night. The gift of Christ's peace became real to me that "Holy Night" when I heard the Angel's Song.
Lord, you know how much our world and each of us needs peace. Thank you for sending the gift of your son, "The Prince of Peace" and the Holy Spirit, "Our Comforter. " Make each of us instruments of your peace and through us bring blessing to the world. Amen.
-- Tom Scott
Tuesday, December 7, 1993 (Mary Anne Crane)
ANGEL OF GOD
I believe in angels --
Always have since I was a kid.
Years ago there hung on my bedroom wall
A small poem whose words that I hid in my heart.
"Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here --
Ever this day be at my side
To light and guard, rule and guide."
I still believe in angels
Even tho' they're a mystery.
Many times when I've been alone, been afraid,
God sent someone with a message for me. My friend, you were that
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here --
Ever this day be at my side
To light and guard, rule and guide.
I want to be an angel --
There is much I want to repay.
Lead me to another who needs your word.
Somehow use me, Lord, and tell me what to say. Then send me as your
Angel of God, a guardian dear,
To whom your love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side
To light and guard, rule and guide.
--song by Mary Anne Crane, 1992
Wednesday, December 8, 1993 (Bob Brocious)
I'm not in the mood for angels. Santa Claus, maybe, but no angels. Give me flesh and blood every time.
Take for instance the time Grandpa Tuggles and I were caught in a small boat during a south Florida "thunder-bumper. " You know the kind - sunshine one one minute, lightning bolts from Hell the next. We were being blown farther and farther from shore. The boat was beginning to swamp and bailing the water was almost impossible as we hung on to the sides of the canoe for dear life!
It was between the sheets of rain that we saw him, in a boat not much bigger that ours. He had a 12 horse Evinrude to buck the waves and wind with. No words were spoken as he threw the line to us and headed for shore. I wasn't sure either boat would make it. There were times when the rope stretched out into nothingness; the only clue it was attached to anything was the sound of that little motor screaming like a runaway mosquito. I wasn't sure we were even headed for shore--you couldn't see it for all the rain and wind. But sure enough, a flash of lightning revealed the cove as we settled into protected waters. He waited till we were standing on firm ground before he disappeared behind the curtains of rain; a quick wave of the hand and he was gone.
Now what good would a pajama-wearing, halo-bearing, winged ghost do for you in a situation like that! I'm not in the mood for angels.
Thursday, December 9, 1993 (Leslie Kendrick)
Just me in the house
and ancient silence,
the sound of birds
and early morning traffic--
I try to meditate
with the words of the Spirit
and the sound of my breath;
The demons of solitude threaten:
the dog lays his head
in my lap to be petted;
Then, thoughts of whatever
which eventually bring anxiety--
I have to do this
and I have to do that-,
How will I find time or
how will I fill time?
and finally, rest--
till the images of dreams surface
from the primordial deep,
and sleep begins to convert
active listening to passive slumber
while one image lingers--
the personification of hope
and the message:
Hope must be clothed
in some concrete form;
Hope can be as simple
as the doodled list
of tasks to accomplish
and friends to remember
on a yet unlived day--
Hope of the Savior,
wrapped in swaddling clothes,
who promises that our labors,
she not be in vain.
Just me in the house
and ancient silence
and the stuff of life
and of dreams.
Friday, December 10, 1993 (Beth Ryan)
A PUERTO RICAN ANGEL
VERSE: He will give his angels charge over thee. Psalms
Earlier this year my ninety year old grandmother, Alpha Shipp, was facing major surgery requiring her to undergo extensive blood work. Blessed with good health throughout her life, Alpha was not one to frequent hospitals. Sitting in the cold, forbidding lab on the morning prior to surgery, she felt her anxiety level increasing as the technician at her side prepared for the tedious process of drawing and testing blood. Alpha closed her eyes and quietly began paraphrasing one of her favorite psalms, "HE will give his angels CHARGE over me... He will give his ANGELS charge over ME! " The words, repeated mentally, had a calming effect as Alpha knew her Father would never leave her to face her fears alone.
Soon Alpha heard the technician beside her calling, "Angel, please come here and help me with this patient." Alpha opened her eyes in amazement to stare into the smiling eyes of a handsome young Puerto Rican man. "Mrs. Shipp, my name is Angel and I am here to take very good care of you. You must not worry for everything will be fine." Needless to say, the subsequent bloodwork went well as Angel truly lived up to his name and his loving, supportive presence sustained her.
Thank you God for the Angels in our midst, both seen and unseen. Your power and presence is manifest even in the coldest and most isolated of environments. Through your Angels the most forbidding circumstances are transformed into holy experiences as we call to you in faith, knowing you never leave us comfortless. Instead, you continually catch us by surprise, turning our tears into laughter, delighting us anew.
Saturday, December 11, 1993 (Lewis Miller)
Acts 10: 1-8
He would twist up his face into a wrinkled scowl if he thought anyone night refer to him as an angel. He is, in fact, a flesh-and-blood friend who maintains a tentative relationship with the church, and who struggles to enjoy and affirm life in spite of a full measure of life's hard parts showing up on his doorstep unbidden. When I think about him, I cannot forget the abundance of pain and grief that have visited him -- chronic and acute illnesses, unexpected and senseless death in his family, and more than his share of stress from all the normal sources.
But when I'm with him, it's his enthusiasm and joy that define him, making me forget that life has frequently knocked him over. And it's this forgetting that makes me say really dumb things at times.
We sat around the table after dinner one night, several of us enjoying coffee and conversation, and I heard myself complaining about how dull and ordinary life sometimes seemed to us middle-aged men. "The really scary thing is," I said, "that life may be just day after day of the same thing for the rest of our lives." I paused for sympathetic agreement.
"Only if we're lucky," he said, and I remembered how kind life had been to me in its predictability and how unkind most of its surprises had been to him.
It was an altogether angelic sort of thing for them to say. Not the "Be not afraid!" message of Advent, but the "Be grateful!" of Epiphany.
Lord of day after day, we are blessed by your presence with us, and we give thanks' Amen.
Sunday, December 12, 1993 (Walter Wangerin, Jr. - 1989)
Oh, she jumped from her bed, and the giggles tickled her throat. Oh, she clapped her hands and twirled about, and her dark hair flew like a glory around her head. Oh, the virgin was laughing now, for the virgin was going to have a baby!
So who had news for the telling now? And who would burst if she couldn't tell it? Mary!
So now there was a blameless, beautiful woman running through the world, the dark world, as fast as she could go. None of the people noticed her go. She didn't mind. She was grinning and full of good news. South she ran, to a particular province named Judea, to a particular hill, and on that hill to one particular house and one particular woman in that house, her friend, her cousin Elizabeth.
Just as the angel had greeted Mary, Mary greeted Elizabeth, and Elizabeth began immediately to laugh.
And just as the angel had sung his celestial song for her, she sang a song for Elizabeth.
"My soul," sang Mary, "O cousin, my soul doth magnify the Lord. My spirit rejoiceth in God my Savior. He is keeping his promises to us. Elizabeth! I'm going to have a baby!"
So then--in the middle of the gloomy world there were two women laughing. They laughed till they couldn't laugh any more, and then they began to weep for gladness.
And God looked down from heaven and saw them. And the Lord God smiled.
--Walter Wangerin, Jr. (1989)
Laughing God, grant us this day the Joy of You and persons with whom to share it. Amen.
Monday, December 13, 1993 (Lelia Gentle)
II Thessalonians 1:2
Grace unto YOU, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I was at work and it was one of those nobody-appreciates-me, why-am-f-here kind of days. Then in walks an angel. How do I know he was an angel -- because he brought me a startling message from God (that's what the angels did in the Bible, isn't it? They brought startling messages from God!)
I did not initially recognize John as an angel. He certainly did not look like an angel
(perhaps more like a fallen angel to use George Badey's term). John had suffered a stroke and the left side of his face was disfigured. He moved slowly and his speech came cautiously and deliberately.
Things were quiet, so I took a moment to chat with him. Then came my startling message from God. John began to tell me how good God had been to him. He mentioned so many things for which he was grateful -- blessings he called them. John smiled with childlike excitement as we exchanged a few stories, and then he bestowed God's blessings upon me as he departed.
Since that first meeting, I have come to know John as an angel -- the bearer of good news! Merely by his presence, John reminds me, whatever my station in life, to be grateful and give thanks.
John still comes by once a week or so. He has now been diagnosed with cancer, and his eyesight is failing. But I've never heard him complain. In fact, John is still counting his blessings!
God Our Father,
In the face of all life's obstacles -- help us to count our blessings. Grant us peace amid our daily struggles and make us grateful for each new day. Amen.
-- Lelia Gentle
Tuesday, December 14, 1993 (Bobbie Thomason)
Several years back I went to a German film called Wings of Desire. The film was strange--it was partly color, partly black and white; it involved a tight-rope walker at a circus; it had noisy rock singers; and Peter Falk played an angel to the backdrop of a graffiti covered Berlin Wall. In the midst of all this strangeness was a scene which will always be a part of me. It took place in a gigantic library where people were doing reference work, reading, and browsing. Throughout the library were angels (not filmy, beautiful creatures but middle-aged men--of all things). As the people went about their business, the angels hovered around them, blessing them, it seemed. As all of this occurred, there was the most fascinating music--a kind of sustained magical sound. Later when the credits rolled by, I would discover that it was called Angel Music. As I sat there and watched the scene, I felt a wonderful peace and blessing myself On the following Sunday when I went to church, our choir was to sing from the balcony. As I stood up there with the choir waiting for the service to begin (everyone was talking-- you know how it sounds--kind of like an orchestra warming up in a way), I suddenly had the strangest feeling. I became aware of the presence of the angels--the very ones that had been at the library in the film. As I looked down at and around the sanctuary, the noise faded out and I could hear the angel music again. Somehow I could see invisible angels hovering over and embracing people in the congregation--people lonely, people hurting, people sad, people laughing, people worried, people talking with their friends. It was peaceful. It was like a blessing. For a moment it was possible to envision like Julian of Norwich that "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well."
Almighty God, who has brought us safely to the present day, guide our thoughts and minds toward hope and courage and strength.
Wednesday, December 15, 1993 (William L. Hendricks and Micah Wilkinson)
A famous man said, "If you can't believe in angels, you will have trouble believing in God." What he meant was that both God and angels are "spiritual beings." There are lots of things that we believe in that we have never seen: atoms, germs, and gravity, to name a few. The world would be a poorer place without our vision of angels. Artists have given angels haloes, wings, long golden hair, and shining white robes. Angels are indispensable to Christmas pageants, Christmas tree tops, and Christmas cards. We call people who bless us angels. Children are confused with cherubs. Michael is the name of the warrior angel. Gabriel is the angel of good news. Christmas is the time "to rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing." But what are angels for? To make heaven a fun place! Come on, be serious. Are there really angels? Are there dreams? Is imagination possible? Might there be more things around than we have supposed? Nothing works if you don't believe in it. Angels, why not? Maybe if you could see a picture, your understanding of angels would be clearer. Okay, here's a picture, courtesy of Micah Wilkinson.
(drawing of angel)
How can the world of spiritual beings ever be brought together with the world of everyday affairs? It happened once. We call it Christmas; and the angels sang. Join them. It might make the world a happier place!
-- William L. Hendricks and Micah Wilkinson
Thursday, December 16, 1993 (Phyllis Skonicki)
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Lewis Smedes defines joy as an intermezzo of gratitude that interrupts the routine motion of life. That interruption came to me one day during the Easter season, as Jenny and I were spending the afternoon together telling each other stories. She told me the following story:
"Neeno, I know about Easter." Expecting to hear about the candy eggs and a bunny, I replied, "You do, Jenny; tell me about Easter."
"Well," she said, "Baby Jesus grew up to be a man and got killed and died, but he didn't stay dead. Three days and he was alive again so when we die we can go to heaven."
From Christmas to Easter it is truly the "Glad tidings of great joy..." summed up with the understanding of a three year old.
Thank you for the gift of your son and the gift of all children who remind us of the true meaning of the Good News.
-- Phyllis Skonicki
Friday, December 17, 1993 (Marv Knox)
Angels amaze me. They almost always show up when you least expect them.
When you're 90 and barren and a winged guy announces you're going to have a baby. Or barely more than a kid, and a holy messenger asks if you'd birth The Baby. Or when you're minding your sheep business, and a whole host of 'em introduce the Messiah.
Angels must get a kick out of appearing out of thin air. You'd never write "listen to angels" on your kitchen calendar.
Christmas is when we expect angels. But my most unexpected angel-sighting happened last Easter, of all times, in Russia, of all places.
We worshipped in Second Baptist Church of Moscow. The church-house was run- down and dusty. It used to be a kindergarten, where stem teachers programmed stout little communists. But when the building wore out and the birth rate slowed, "the authorities" turned the place over to a bunch of Baptists.
They turned out Easter morning for two hours of worship. Three sermons. A zillion prayers. Announcements, even.
The angels arrived near the end. They had been there all along, of course. Climbing in and out of parents' laps. Fidgeting on long, hard benches. Traipsing to the bathroom. Then they formed a choir, up by the pulpit. About 15 Russian Baptist children, beaming and singing. "This is the day that the Lord has made ... We will rejoice and be glad in it. "
Suddenly, mamas, papas and Yankee guest joined their angelic chorus. We sang and rejoiced and praised God. For a resurrected Christ. For power over death. For triumph over evil. For hope.
Excuse the "Easterness" of this Advent meditation. But Easter's why Jesus came. And anyway, you can't control angels' timing.
Thank you, God, for Christmas joy, Easter hope and angelic surprise. Amen.
Saturday, December 18,1993 (Betty Cook)
You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
It was a small but loud cow bell. We placed it on the table beside my husband's bed as he lay dying. We knew he would feel more secure to have the means to summon help should we be in another part of the house. I don't remember hearing it ring. He was never out of earshot of his loving family.
After my husband's death the bell rested in the bottom drawer of my desk, a silent reminder of a sad and difficult time.
When I read the invitation for adults to bring their bells on Easter Sunday Morning to add to the Alleluias of the children's bells, I thought, "What a wonderful opportunity to endow our bell with a new task! "
Easter Sunday found our family passing the bell from mother to son to grandsons. We added our loud Alleluias to the Hymn to Joy. Our bell became a tangible resurrection message from death to life, from sadness to joy; and it said to me in clear notes, "He is Risen Indeed! " Our bell now rests back in the desk drawer surrounded with new memories.
Sunday, December 19, 1993 (Walter Wangerin, Jr. - 1989)
Gabriel," said God.
And the angel said, "What, Lord?"
"Go down," said God., "Go down right now. Tell Joseph the truth. The man is blinded by the darkness. He thinks that Mary has committed a sin. Go! Go! "
So a light grew bright in Joseph's sleep, and the brightness was a dream, but
the light was the angel Gabriel, so close to the man that he shined inside his mind.
"Joseph, son of David," said the angel. Joseph slept on; but Joseph heard and saw, and he remembered. And the more he heard, the happier he became, until there was a man in Nazareth who was smiling in his sleep.
"Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary for your wife," said the angel. "The baby conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Mary didn't sin. Mary doesn't lie. Mary is going to have a baby boy, and you shall call him Jesus, and this is what his name means: that he will save his people from their sins."
Listen, listen! Sin is the darkness of the world! This baby shall be its light, for he shaft shine in the dark and take its sin away. Emmanuel is the infant that shall be born, which means: God with us.
Joseph, God is keeping his promises. Joseph, something wonderful is happening.
Even in his sleep the man was smiling as broad as a barn. When he woke, he was positively grinning. The people in Nazareth noticed the change in him, and they became suspicious.
"Why do you smile all the time?" they asked. "Why are you always giggling?"
"Oh," said Joseph, "I'm getting married."
But even after they were married Mary and Joseph seemed odd to the people in darkness. "Why are you laughing all the time?" they demanded. :Why don't you fuss or fight? And what is that strange light in your eyes?"
"You'll see," they said. They giggled and said, "You'll see."
So Mary grew big and bigger with her child. And Joseph put his hand on her tummy and laughed because he felt the baby kick.
An God looked down from heaven too. And the Lord God smiled.
--Walter Wangerin, Jr. (1989)
O Love that will not let us go, this Season has left us weary. Take our weary hearts and let us rest in You this Sabbath day. Amen.
Monday, December 20, 1993 (Mary Zimmer)
JOSEPH AND HIS ANGELS
"Then Joseph thought to shun all shame
And Mary to forsake;
But God's dear angel in a dream
His mind did undertake:
Fear not, old Joseph, she's thy wife,
She's still a spotless maid;
There's no conceit or sin at all
Against her can be laid."
(from "Righteous Joseph", Oxford Book of Carols, 1964)
In the art of the Nativity, Joseph is often represented as an elderly man sitting in the corner of the painting, looking resentfully away from Mary and the Christ child. Ironically, in the texts, Joseph never speaks a word. What he does is listen to angels in his dreams and follow their instructions without a murmur of dissent.
Perhaps we have the same attitude toward Joseph as his community probably had. I would surmise that Joseph's fhends and family thought he was just a little touched in the head. After all, he married a young woman who claimed to be with child by the Holy Spirit of God. Joseph was a fool for love and he was enthralled by the messages of angels.
And Joseph was a wanderer. He left his homeland for Egypt because of another dream which warned of Herod's wrath and then returned when another angel in a dream told him it was safe to return.
We all know people who seem like Joseph. We don't understand why they are fools for love, why they seem enthralled by dreams and why they seem to wander about in this life. Perhaps we should get to know them better. Maybe they are listening to angels. Maybe they are guardian angels themselves like Joseph was to Mary and baby Jesus. Maybe they have an enthralled Advent story to tell us about dreams and angels, about birth and wanderings in distant lands.
Tuesday, December 21, 1993 (Francine Todd)
"Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you."
In January 1980, I gave birth to my firstborn son. What unspeakable joy!
In June 1983, I buried that son, who had died of liver failure before a donor could be found for a liver transplant for him. He probably had not felt really good a day in his life, yet he taught me how to live fully and with joy, as he had done, for whatever length of time God has for us on this earth. Nathan rarely complained. His whole life energy was directed toward enjoying family, friends, neighbors, activities he was able to do (swimming, special pre-school, church), his dog, helping whenever he could, and doing things by himself He did as much as he could and just let the rest go.
Ms courage, his smiles, his strength and prayers taught me to find happiness in each day and to praise our God for it. Life is good, and full, and I know it because a precious little child, an "angel"--a messenger of God--showed me.
This lesson has sustained me through a subsequent divorce and stroke. And now, my 5 year old daughter looks forward to the day when she can meet her brother, Nathan, in heaven.
Father, help us to see the joy you have for us in each day at life--and to look forward to being with you when our life on earth ends.
-- Francine Todd
Wednesday, December 22, 1993 (Lou Ann Iler)
Even the darkness is not dark to thee and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to thee. Psalm 129:12
As a child of eight, I was insatiably curious. It was as if I was embedded in the world and tickled pink about!
About this same time my father bought a farm near Raywick, Kentucky, with the Bill of Sale a seventeen year old blind mute named Pete.
Pete had been born on this farm; having worked it sighted, he knew its terrain with all his senses, i.e., where the gates were, path to the pond, pastures and back to the barnyard. Therefore any new construction was maneuvered around Pete's routes. I thought my father rather special for this.
Throughout the summer I watched Pete's daily routines; I fed him carrots and apples-- felt his prickly muzzle and the velvet warm breath with the roughness of his tongue while he nibbled his treats. His ears twitch as antennae tuned as he learned me by touch, sound and smell.
Then the day came, after countless pleadings, that I was placed on his broad bare sturdy back and viewed my wish from a different perspective of eighteen hands high. It is farther from ground zero than imagined.
Before the summer ended, Pete and I traveled his accustomed route many times. No matter how I tried to turn him this way or that, we went steadily, faithfully Pete's way. I thought I was part of a miracle.
The energy generated at the first departure was fear mingled with anticipation of the
unknown changed to one of trust, peace and the bonding of "the unseen with the seen. it
In the season of Advent when the holy family sets forth on their journey into the unknown ... the Darkness is forever changed... "Light via Christ" arrives and now both Darkness and Light are compatible companions.
Oh, loving compassionate creator, we are in your presence, for Christ is the image seen of You. You never leave us; we are carried by and in your love. You are the Way. Amen.
-- Lou Ann Iler
Thursday, December 23, 1993 (Bill Thomason)
We live in the modern world and believe in modern science and know that angels and devils and spiritual beings don't exist and don't interject themselves into modern lives.
The Bible is full of angels who are all the time interjecting themselves into human lives
(Jacob at Jabbok- Shadrach, Meschach, Abednego; Joseph and Mary). We expect angels in the Bible. But in secular movies, television, literature? Field of Dreams:
Kevin Costner hears voices in his cornfield and, sure enough, when "he builds it, they all come." L.A. Story: Steve Martin gets those cryptic, soteriological messages from that electronic freeway sign. ("Angel" means messenger, so the sign qualifies as an angel.)
The characters in Northern Exposure regularly receive unexplained messages through dreams, animals, each other. Angels are prominent in Buechner's novels about the charlatan preacher, Leo Bebb, who is also a saint and maybe an angel himself. Sophy Burnham has turned angels into a cottage industry with A Book of Angels, Letters on Angels, and Revelations.
What's going on here? Maybe this unexpected upsurge of angel sightings proves Hamlet's truism "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (though Hamlet was talking about ghosts, not angels).
I'm not sure there are angels with wings, ordered in the serried ranks of traditional angelology (cherubim, seraphim, arch-angel), thousands upon thousands, millions upon millions. However, if angels do exist and do interject themselves into our lives, wings would prove useful and there would need to be plenty of them.
Sometimes inexplicably good things happen to us, things we have no right to expect and things we can't explain afterwards in any rational way.
God of the Unexpected: Open our eyes and ears to the angels around us.
Friday, December 24, 1994 (Janet Tharpe)
Morbid. That was the word the theatre critic used to describe the ghost-spirits woven into the fabric of the Broadway play, The Secret Garden, which I had seen the previous evening on its opening night in Louisville. My response to the ghost-spirits, who mingled among the "living cast members" who grieved for them, was quite different. Silently, yet actively, the angel-like beings maintained a watchful presence among the living, sometimes prompting, sometimes guiding, sometimes comforting them in invisible but real ways.
Perhaps the reason I did not find the angel-like beings in The Secret Garden a morbid presence was because of my own similar experiences with that "great cloud of witnesses," those beloved persons who have passed through death to life eternal.
One such experience has been a recurrent one. It happens almost every Christmas
Eve, at the conclusion of worship, in the darkened CHBC sanctuary, when the hush is stirred only by a solo voice singing, "Silent night, holy night ....." The warm glow of candle light spreads from the face of one worshipper to another until the room is bathed in soft candle light. It is then that I "see" them with clarity, their ranks having grown larger every year. They are crowded, faces shining, into the balcony above. Many I do not recognize, some I do; there is Wayne ... Dale...John ... Sue ... Grady...Aunt Ruth ... Les...Jack ... Amy ... Helen ... and many, many others, united with us for a few moments, visible yet invisible, signs that the God of the Christmas cradle is the Tie that binds us, eternally.
And when they vanish, do I feel morbid? Hardly! For I experience the vision of that "cloud of witnesses" as gift and blessing.
Gracious God--Give us the eyes of faith to see visions of angels in Broadway plays and church balconies and may our grateful hearts join their chorus, "Gloria in excelsis deo! " Amen.
--Janet G. Tharpe
Saturday, December 25, 1993 (Walter Wangerin, Jr. - 1989)
And God turned to his angel. And God said, "Gabriel."
And the angel answered, "Yes, Lord?"
And the Lord God said, "Go down. All of the people must know what I am doing. Go tell a few to tell the others. "
And so it was that an angel of the Lord appeared to the weary shepherds. The angel said to them, "Don't be afraid. Shepherds, I bring you good news of great joy, and not only for you but for all of the people. Listen." (read Luke 2)
And you can talk now. Try your voices. Try to speak. Ah, God has given you generous voices, shepherds. Speak.
So, then, this is what the shepherds said to one another:
"Let us," they said, "go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."
So the shepherds got up and ran as fast as they could to the city of Bethlehem, to a particular stable in that city,and in that stable they gazed on one particular baby, lying in a manger.
And there was his mother, lying on straw listening to the noises of her child. "Joseph?" she murmured. And there was Joseph, as sturdy as a barn, just bending toward his Mary. "What?" he whispered.
And the shepherds' eyes were shining for what they saw.
Exactly as though it were morning and not the night, the shepherds went out into the city and began immediately to tell everyone what the angel had said about this child.
"Joseph?" she said without glancing up.
And Joseph said, "What?"
But Mary fell silent and said no more. She was keeping all these things--all that had happened between the darkness and the light--and pondering them in her heart.
--Walter Wangerin, Jr. (1989)
Hesed God, grant us some quiet time this glad day to ponder the Gift of all gifts, born today: Your Son, our Savior, Jesus. Amen.
Advent 93 © 1993 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.
CRESCENT HILL BAPTIST CHURCH
2800 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
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