Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Awaiting The Child
writers (in order of appearance): Ray Schnur, Betty Cook, David Barnett, Mary Zimmer, Doug McCall, Cindy Ralston, Janet Tharpe, Elaine Parker, Sharleen Birkimer, Lewis Miller, Malinda Fillingim x 3, Hannah Ryan, Sheryl Sisk, Gaye Rountree, Maureen O'Connor, Joseph Goldammer, Donna Barnett x 3, Beth Ryan, Peggy Schmidt, Lelia Gentle, Bill Thomason x 3, Pam Ratcliffe, Marv Knox, Jana Brocious, Lindsay Knox, William Hendricks, Wesley Edwards, Marjorie Ash, Beth Wade, Tracy Black, Bobbie Thomason x 2, Chuck Leach
editor: Bill Thomason
artist: Beth Ryan
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
Sunday, November 27, 1994 (Ray Schnur)
AWAITING THE PASTOR
Hope is an ambivalent thing. It can make you glad or sad, brighten your day, or make the brightest day dark if it is lost. Our nature is to hope, but sometimes we're afraid to hope too much. We anticipate a coming event, yet dread it at the same time, because our dreams might not come true, and we'll be disappointed all over again.
So it was with the Pastor Search Committee. We started out full of hope. Our initial contacts were positive but slowly disintegrated in the face of reality. One person turned us down; others didn't quite measure up to our expectations, and suddenly we were back at the beginning again. The journey looked dark and without end. As we started what we came to call "phase two," I was afraid to hope too much for fear of being let down again. (In retrospect, however, that first year was not the time for a new pastor to come to us.)
We started again and pared the list down to a manageable few. One person started to emerge and gain our attention. I remember thinking it seemed too good to be true: someone all nine of us agreed was the best person to be our pastor. The ambivalence started again--hope on the one hand combined with fear of too much hope. We turned this matter over to God, as we had everything else, and the hope developed into a certainty that transcended the fear of failure,
You know the rest of the story, Ron Sisk is our pastor, and our hope for the future of Crescent Hill is in the Lord who renews our strength.
We feel, O Lord, the renewal of our hope. May we live that hope out in faithful commitment to You. Amen.
-- Ray Schnur
Monday, November 28, 1994 (Betty Cook)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
HOPE FOR TODAY- STRENGTH FOR TOMORROW
The weekend of July 15th had been filled with excitement and expectation as the Sisks had visited our church. Earlier in the week I had told our Crescent Hill congregation at Brownsboro Hills that on Tuesday afternoon I would bring a tape of the Sunday service, and we would listen to Dr. Sisk's message together.
I first went by Evelyn Harlamert's apartment, and we wheeled over to the apartment of Joe and Ann Howard. Alene Crutcher, Alma David Culley and Julia Wigginton joined
How I wish all of you, and especially Ron and Sheryl, could have seen this expectant gathering as we listened. I was the only one not in a wheelchair. All listened with rapt attention, closed eyes, a nod now and then and tears creeping down our cheeks. As we got the message of our brother Abraham's leap into the dark, letting go of the trapeze and flying out in faith, we felt that we too would be caught and sustained.
These dear ones felt, as one, that they had been in church and were hearing God's appointed one for our church. With the strains of our Crescent Hill hymn--"Not our choice the wind's direction, unforeseen the calm or gate"--ringing in our cars and giving courage for these days ahead, the service ended. They expressed their approval for this one whom God was sending us. "Plunge us on with hope and courage, 'til thy Harbor is our home."
"Amen, amen," said our little Crescent Hill flock at Brownsboro Hills.
We thank thee, our Lord, for the hope we feel for the future. We are grateful for these dear ones who have planted their lives in the soil of thy Kingdom. We pray for thy sustaining presence always for whatever struggles we must face. Amen.
-- Betty Cook
Tuesday, November 29, 1994 (David L. Barnett)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
SYMBOLS OF HOPE
The African-American spiritual is a form of music that expresses the heartfelt pain of hopelessness in people beset by tragedy. The farms of the South produced bounties
for many years as a result of the human machinery in the fields. The workers, doing labor necessary for the profits of the owner, knew the fruits of their toil would be enjoyed by another. Hour by hour, day upon day, year upon year the only acceptable symbol the slaves could use to express heartfelt emotion was the spiritual. Words from the soul expressed their inner-most thoughts: "Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel, then why not every man?" But when would hope arrive? It seemed even the Lord had forgotten them.
The end of slavery brought with it the freedom of an entire race. The liberation of slaves from their bondage gave birth to a new symbolic expression called Gospel music. Although real liberation was still over 100 years away, the idea had been birthed. Gospel music began to express new thoughts about God. "The storm is passing over us, hallelujah! " Each decade produced another volume of theology expressed by melodies. The symbolic language of hopelessness moved toward symbols of hope.
Liberation came for many different reasons. It was not only the result of a great missionary movement or the love of God that brought freedom, but also the desire of a president to preserve the Union. God always includes human effort to bring hope to the world.
The coming of Christ was a liberating experience. An entire community can be transformed from hopelessness to hope. "Hallelujah! "
Dear God, May the coming of Christ continue to call us toward hope. Amen.
-- David L. Bamett
Wednesday, November 30, 1994 (Mary Zimmer)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
"COME THOU LONG EXPECTED JESUS"
The first Wednesday of Advent, 1993, my son called from school to tell me that three boys had been expelled for possession of handguns. One had offered to let Michael hold his. Michael refused. What alarmed me was that he wasn't scared, since "the gun was unloaded, Mom."
I wondered how we could teach hope in a world where guns come to schools in backpacks. The beginning of an answer came on a drizzly morning two days later as I walked across Southern Seminary's campus. On a stretch of dogwood branches there were plump raindrops clinging to bare twigs. I thought about rain and moisture and how fear makes both our mouths and our hearts go dry. What we need are the drops of moist hope in a scary world.
It seems an incredible comparison, an impossible standoff- drops of rain against the dark metal of guns and bullets. But that's all hope is. It is intangible, because it
comes from the unknown of God in our lives. Hope comes from beyond us, from not- yet-imagined possibilities.
We all need hope, Hope to live by. Hope to get by, Hope that tomorrow will be better. Hope that one day we will hope again. Hope is as fragile as raindrops against guns, as God's moisture in the face of human rage.
All we can do for hope is be open to it. We cannot create it for ourselves or others, though we may serve as streambeds of hope for one another. For the coming of hope into any dark day we must be able to open our hearts to the not-yet-imagined unknown of God, to the fragility of raindrops on dogwood twigs, to a daily prayer of possibility.
Come thou long-expected Jesus, fill our lives with Your hope, Amen.
-- Mary Zimmer
Thursday, December 1, 1994 (Doug McCall)
ADVENT ONE. HOPE
FROM RUSSIA WITH HOPE
II Thessalonians 2:16-17
When Julia, my wife, and I were in Russia in September, 1993, we were impressed with how many of the Russians carefully looked after their children. During our visit we learned that any couple who gets married is expected to have only one or two children.
One morning we had a young woman come to the dental clinic for numerous fillings in her front teeth. While talking with her through an interpreter, we learned that she was five months pregnant. She was about five feet nine inches tall and very thin. A registered nurse working in our clinic became very concerned that the baby was so small. She obtained an armload of prenatal vitamins from our pharmacist, and spent the next hour doing nutritional and prenatal counseling.
Later that afternoon an older woman came into the dental clinic with a tray full of apples. She expressed her love and appreciation that we cared for her daughter and her expected first grandchild. Apples in Russia are not plentiful and are expensive. With a limited access to food we were very grateful for such a thoughtful gift.
Dear God, With Hope and Love we can find joy. With Joy we can find peace. In this Advent season we should be sensitive to and care about the families we contact, and share the Hope of Jesus so that others may have Joy and Peace. Amen.
-- Dr. Douglas H. McCall
Friday, December 2, 1994 (Cindy Ralston)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
WORTH THE WAIT
His name is "Eddie." He is seven years old. When I asked him what he wants for Christmas, he said, "I want all the Power Rangers." Yet, I think I know what his real wish is, because he talks about it frequently on my home visits. I think he wants for him and his siblings to be adopted. As the social worker assigned to these children, it is my job to assist them through the transitions of being in foster care. It's not easy.
As I reflected on the phrase "awaiting the child in hope," my mind filled with faces of children I have known through the years. Most of these children could write volumes about waiting in hope. They wait to be reunited with loved ones. Perhaps, like Eddie and his siblings, they wait in hope for a permanent family. It's not easy.
As I await our celebration of the birth of the Christ child this Advent season, I think of all I have learned from my young friends about waiting. Luke 21:19 says: "By your endurance you will gain your lives. " Their hope of a permanent family sustains these children when times get tough, From the book of Hebrews we learn that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. How I need to remember the hope of Advent when my times get tough. I need to remember by my endurance I will gain "life." After all, Eddie and you and I are always waiting in hope for something. It's not easy.
Gracious God, Thank You for children who teach us how to wait. Thank You for this holy season, for the gift of Your Son, who teaches us all how to hope. Amen.
-- Cindy Ralston
Saturday, December 3, 1994 (Janet Tharpe)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
GOD OF "NUTS" AND PROPHETS
"Wait for me!" She was one block and two years behind me: my red-headed, freckle- faced little sister, Susan, tagging along. AGAIN! It was a scene repeated hundreds of times in my childhood. Over the years, she caught up with me and, in some ways, passed me by. Today, I enjoy spending time with her, and now there is never enough of it.
In May she wrote from Germany, where her husband is stationed: "This has been the most amazing year. God has worked in wonderful ways in my life--too many to write --I would not change anything ... even if I could. It may sound nuts, but it's true," The context? She had, only days before, received a diagnosis confirming she had a terminal liver disease, survivable only through a transplant.
In that context her words are "nuts"--as "nuts" as Jeremiah purchasing a plot of land very soon to be seized by an invading army. Scripture has another word for "nuts" like my sister and Jeremiah: "prophets," those who bear witness to a future hope, based on their experience of God's goodness and mercy to that moment.
I confess joining the fellowship of "nuts" this past spring, adding two new rose bushes to my flower garden--yellow for my sister, red for that yet unknown person who will
restore her life and health by donating their liver to her.
This Christmas I will fly to Germany to be with my sister. One of my gifts for her will be dried rose pews from the first roses on these two bushes, They, like an ancient plot of land or words written in a letter, will be tangible expressions of enacted faith waiting anew an incarnation.
And this time, I will wait with my sister.
God of "Nuts" and Prophets: Help us now to bear bold witness to Your unstoppable, unending Love. Amen.
-- Janet Tharpe
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
Sunday, December 4, 1994 (Elaine Parker)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
CHRISTMAS PEACE ?
Here it is, the eighth day of Advent and only twenty shopping days left till Christmas. And what is the state of your inner peace at this point? Are you feeling the familiar holiday stress? Do you dread Christmas as many do because it brings on the blues? I confess to occasional after-Christmas letdowns because of my unreasonable expectations. Each year I think all life's problems will suddenly disappear at Christmas and a miraculous peace will float down around us like soft feathery snow on a quiet winter night. Alas, it seldom happens.
This picture of Christmas comes from the King James version of Luke 2:14--"on earth peace, good will to men." Newer translations, however, say something like "to all
with whom God is pleased" or "on whom God's favor rests." No wonder our Christmas peace is threatened. Am I pleasing to God? Does unconditional love mean God's favor rests on me no matter? It looks like there is more for me to do than watch the snow fall and wait around for Christmas peace to cover me.
Maybe I should begin each day of Advent by asking, "What can I do, God, to become pleasing in your sight?" This may take some courage. There's the risk that if I pause for a quiet moment or two in the midst of all the Christmas rush, I just might beat God's voice asking, "Forgive those who hurt you, love your enemies, sell what you have and give to the poor."
Well, I think I'll give it a try--after I finish my Christmas cards.
Please don't let us wait until all our chores are done to seek Your peace, Lord Amen.
-- Elaine Parker
Monday, December 5, 1994
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
FORGIVENESS BRINGS PEACE
One Friday last year I sat at a downtown Hardees drinking coffee and watching humanity in all sizes, shapes and apparent emotional states go by the window. I suddenly became aware I had started praying for them to have a sense of peace and joy in their lives. The physical presence of God was so real to me that I thought I was actually praying out loud, and I shook myself into the reality of the moment to assure myself that I was not the object of everyone's attention for talking to an imaginary companion. Then I allowed a powerful sense of God-given peace to encompass me. I left the restaurant knowing that among the French fries and hamburgers I had become a different person.
Later as I pondered the experience, I realized my sense of peace and openness to God was the result of having offered and received forgiveness several times in the previous weeks. The most vivid of these experiences had occurred just the previous Wednesday evening at church. Amidst the noise of tables being cleared, I had asked for and received forgiveness for some harsh words I had spoken to a friend.
The sense of peace that came from giving and receiving forgiveness has never totally left me since then. It has allowed me to remain calm as I talk with abused women and their children, to have hope despite the unrest at work and church, and to find peace in the midst of illness in some friends and family members. Forgiveness given and received truly brings peace.
God, Thank you for forgiveness and peace that can come at unexpected times--in the midst of the clatter of dishes and as we find a baby lying in a manger. Amen.
-- Sharleen Johnson Birkimer
Tuesday, December 6, 1994 (Lewis Miller)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
A NEW BEGINNING, AGAIN
Luke 2:8 -12
Imagine the smile on God's face, at all this animal imagery in our faith stories of new beginnings. An ark full of animals (mate and female selected he them), sheep grazing on a Judean hillside, and assorted, curious animals looking into the manger where Jesus was born. What to make of this (stained) (glass) menagerie?
At her best, the church looks a lot like a zoo--preparing the way of the Lord, as John did, wearing camel's hair and eating locusts--every species represented in this jungle adventure. Look: lions and lambs coexisting, along with giraffes, cheetahs, gazelles and polar bears.
We re-enact the Christmas story to the degree we reflect this Edenic diversity. When we are real church, Rush Limbaugh sings carols with Hillary Clinton, and Louis Farrakhan trims the tree beside David Duke. Phyllis Schlafly sings harmony with k.d. lang in the holiday choir, with the parts of Joseph and Mary played by Bob Dole and Madonna.
Far-fetched? Of course. But to those who say it's too much to hope and pray for, I say, "Baaah, humbug!"
O Creator of love and joy, grant us hope and peace this season. Amen.
-- Lewis Miller
Wednesday, December 7, 1994 (Malinda Fillingim)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
HAVE YOURSELF A VERY small CHRISTMAS
"Did you have a big Christmas?" she asked me in a hurried manner.
"What exactly is a BIG Christmas" I inquired, not knowing Christmas came in different sizes.
"Well, it means, I guess it means," she stumbled over her words, "did you get a lot of stuff, have a big party, that kinda big?"
"I had time with my family, we laughed, talked about God and Jesus and acted out the Nativity and exchanged a few presents. Does that make a BIG Christmas?"
"There's no reason to get uptight about it. I just wondered."
End of conversation, but beginning of my wanderings. How do you measure a BIG Christmas? How much bigger can Christmas be than God giving the priceless gift of the Son, Jesus? Can you top that gift? I doubt it. In fact, I know you can't.
Maybe that is why for some, Christmas is so hectic, depressing, distorted, Everyone is trying to top God's gift, and nobody can do it. Some want a BIG Christmas without Jesus. I hear lots of folks say they are glad Christmas is over. They are glad all the tacky decorations are gone, They are glad to have a normal routine.
The peace of Christmas just did not impact them. The BIGNESS did--but it is a bigness that pops like a balloon. God's peace came in a very small package.
Dear God, May we have a very small Christmas with a very small baby Jesus, born in a very small manger, in the small town of Bethlehem. Amen.
-- Malinda Fillingim
Thursday, December 8, 1994 (Malinda Fillingim)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
Matthew 2:1-2; Luke 2:4-5
Watching my lively two year-old, Hannah, play with her nativity set was fun. Like most two year-olds, things are hard for Hannah to keep up with. Jesus was no exception.
"I can't find Jesus!" Hannah cried out.
"Where are you looking?" I inquired.
"I'm looking where I thinked he should be."
"Look somewhere else, and maybe you'll find him."
A few minutes later, Hannah informed me Jesus was under a sofa cushion.
Jesus was not where Hannah thought he should be. The wise men thought Jesus should be in Jerusalem, the capital, since he was a king. But Jesus was in Bethlehem. Not a fancy place, but there in the middle of a stable, a home for animals. There in a manger, a place where few would look for a king. Right there, where he should be.
How many times have I looked for Jesus in places where I think he should be and end up finding him in unexpected places and people? Serendipity? Miracle? How many times have I looked for love and meaning in places, things, and people that are a veneer--short-sighted and temporary? How many times have I lost God's image in me? Do I get in a rut looking for Jesus in the same ways of praying, worship, or service?
Maybe I ought to look somewhere else and find a different part of Jesus I have never known. Maybe I should look at Jesus through the eyes of someone who sleeps in the street, someone struggling with depression, someone growing old alone. Maybe while I dance, sing, or watch the sun go to rest.
Where is Jesus for you?
Dear God, Help us look for Jesus in the unexpected where we done "thanked" he should be. Amen.
-- Malinda Fillingim
Friday, December 9, 1994 (Malinda Fillingim)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
A GIFT OF PEACE
My daughters attend a small playgroup of children, all off-spring of religious folks, at the seminary. Santa was visiting, and they were excited. We had just finished eating a cake for Jesus' birthday, and now Santa's fat lap was available.
The six year-old son of a proudly conservative man jumped up first. Santa inquired what he wanted for Christmas.
"A bow and arrow and a few guns!"
Santa looked puzzled. "That sounds a bit dangerous. Why do you want that?"
"So I can shoot my mother and daddy" came the sincere reply.
I did not feel so festive anymore. That birthday cake seemed a bit sour now. Violence is not fun, whether wrapped under a tree or in the hands of an adult. The Prince of Peace was not born to have children receive guns and weapons for the celebration of His birth.
Peacemaking should begin at home, where conflict is reconciled through just means, where all voices are heard and respected, and fear of speaking is obsolete. Peacemaking should be demonstrated and modeled in our behavior, our way of living, and our gifts to one another. How does a parent expect a child to be a person of peace when guns replace love? How do parents justify encouraging shooting, even if it is only "pretend"?
U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders says, "Toy guns are not child's play. To help prevent violence we must start by keeping toy guns away from our children."
Peace is not the absence of conflict. Conflict is a part of life we cannot avoid. Learning how to be peaceful within conflict is not easy--it must be taught. Teaching peace means not giving toys that promote violence.
Dear God, May Jesus be the Prince of Peace even in a child's wish list to Santa. Amen.
-- Malinda Fillingim
Saturday, December 10, 1994 (Hannah Ryan)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
JESUS' BIRTH THROUGH A CHILD'S EYES
I remember the birth of Christ well. I was seven at the time. My father was a shepherd. He was out with some of the other men in the fields watching the sheep, so Mother and I were by ourselves. I had just gotten down for the night when I heard my father rush in and say, "Everyone, GET UP! Angels came to us in the hills and told us to go into town to see our Savior!" I remember my mother pulling me out of bed and with my father we ran toward a sheep and cow stable behind an inn in the town down the hill. I couldn't understand why our king, our Savior, would be in a run-down stable.
When we reached the manger where the baby lay, my father and mother knelt down on their knees and prayed, I looked over the side of the manger and thought: how could this wide-eyed baby born in a manger with the animals be our Savior? His mother leaned over me and said, "Ks name is Jesus." That's when I realized how important this day was, and that this baby was Christ, God's Son. It didn't matter where he was born, he was here in our lives. I felt so happy and peaceful. Christ put a song in my heart that night I can't forget, It plays in my head and goes like this:
The Eternal Song
The song of the universe. The only eternal song.
Everything takes place in this joyous hymn
The birds, the antelope, the humans and the wind,
and everything in-between.
Singing, dancing, sighing, living.
It's all part of the Eternal Song. Amen
-- Hannah Ryan
ADVENT THREE: JOY
Sunday, December 11, 1994 (Sheryl Sisk)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
ACTING "AS IF" AND "IN SPITE OF..."
For many couples who are trying unsuccessfully to have children, the emotional roller- coaster can go on for months, sometimes years. For me, the peaks of expectation and the lows of disappointment had evened out, and I had come to an acceptance of--no, a resignation to--the fact that we would never have children.
On November 13, 1992, we sat in our final interview with Kristi, our worker at the Gladney Center in Fort Worth. She told us we had been approved and were on the list for a baby. It usually takes a year for them to place a baby, so we were looking
toward being parents in the fall of 1993. 1 told Kristi even though we had been approved, I didn't feel any real excitement or expectation; I had stopped hoping long ago. I was afraid even to get the nursery ready or buy baby clothes, because I didn't want to be disappointed again.
Kristi leaned across her desk and said, "Sheryl, it is going to happen. You are going to get a baby. Get the nursery ready and buy clothes. You're going to get a baby."
So I spent the next few months painting furniture, hanging a border, and making
curtains, not because I really expected anything, but because Kristi had said, "it will happen."
When the phone rang March 31, 1993, and we brought Douglas home, I was grateful there was a nursery ready! I wonder how many people through the years waited for the Messiah, not feeling hope, but acting as if they did. God had promised, and they believed God.
God of promises, Give us grace to live as You have taught us, regardless of how we
feel. Give us strength to keep on keeping on, even when it seems futile. Help us live our hope, because You have promised to give us Yourself. Amen.
-- Sheryl Sisk
Monday, December 12, 1994 (Gaye Rountree)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
Last December, rather than being lost in the wonders of Advent, I was lost in the wonders of being pregnant--feeling my baby move, dealing with all the discomforts of the last month of pregnancy, being excited that Wyc and I were going to be parents, knowing that our life was about to change drastically forever.
Did Mary experience the wonder of that first Christmas? Or was she lost in the wonder of her new child? As Mary looked into the face of her son, did she hear the angels' chorus of "gloria in excelsis Deo"? Surely she was praising God for the safe birth of her baby, but I think Mary's song was different from the angels' song. The angels mg of a Savior; Mary sang a lullaby. Mary wasn't just a vessel by which Jesus was delivered into this world; she was his mother, and I imagine that the things she treasured about that first Christmas were the perfect little hands that grasped her finger. I doubt that she could begin to fathom that one day those hands would be pierced by nails as Jesus poured out his life for the salvation of humanity.
In my mind Advent will always be associated with being pregnant, of waiting for the arrival of our first child. But, isn't that what Advent has always been about-.waiting for the arrival of the Child, the Child who would grow up to change the world forever?
Dear God, Remind us of the true wonder of Advent, the wonder of the Child who grew up to be Savior and who, if we'll let him, will change us forever. Amen.
-- Gaye Tyner Rountree
Tuesday, December 13, 1994 (Maureen O'Connor)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
A GIFT OF JOY FROM GOD
In March, 1982, I was pregnant and, to put it bluntly, I was not awaiting my child with joy. An unwed waitress with no foreseeable good-luck future for myself, let alone for a new life coming into the world, I knew I wasn't going to keep this child. I had decided to give it up for adoption at birth, to give him/her a "better chance" than what I had to offer. I was not a teenager. I was 24 years old, with an apartment of my own and a desire to be as free and careless as I had always been. A dog and two cats were enough for me to manage.
My pregnancy was turbulent, and I found myself crying a lot. At the end of nine months, however, I knew I would be free to return to the irresponsible, carefree existence I had always known.
On December 29, 1982, a boy was born. I stayed in the hospital for several days. The attorney arranging the adoption came to see me to say that things had gone temporarily awry; that the couple waiting were wanting a girl, but that, not to worry, there were lots of couples who would want a boy.
Each day in the hospital I held my child. When, after two days, the nurses had to start prying him away from me to take him to his bed, I knew I had to keep him. I knew I had to give him what I had to offer.
I asked for a name book and came upon "Timothy"--meaning "a gift from God." Another child was born, a gift of joy from God.
Dear God, Thank you for the gift of joy you send into our lives. Amen.
Wednesday, December 14, 1994 (Joseph Goldammer)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
THE STORY OF CHRISTMAS FROM JOSEPH'S POINT OF VIEW
Matthew 1, 18-25
Well, here is the story of my son's birth. One night I was dreaming and suddenly a bright person with huge shoulder blades said, "Your wife will have a baby. You must move to Bethlehem." I woke up. Mary was making breakfast. I said, "We have to move," "Why?" Mary said. "We have to pay taxes and do that census thing."
So, the next day we hopped on the donkey and put the hoof to the dirt. About half way, there was a guy named Earl selling jacuzzis. I said, "I don't have room for one on my donkey, as you can see." "We deliver," Earl said. "I don't want one, OK?"
We got to the Bethlehem Hyatt. The man at the front desk said, "No more rooms." I said, "Listen, bub, my wife is going to have a baby, and if I don't get a room, I'll ... I'll. . . ." He called security. After we were kicked out--and I mean kicked out--we tried the Holiday Inn. The man said, "No more rooms." This time I learned my lesson. As we left, we met Earl. "Have you changed your mind? They're on sale, only $99.99." 1 said, "Look Earl, no. OK?"
We saw a Super 8. Same old story. "But you can have the garage out back," the guy said, "for only $29.99. It's roomy. I hope you don't mind a few animals." We said, "OK."
The garage is where Mary had her baby. He was wrapped in cloth and laid in a wheelbarrow. We named him Jesus.
Then the door opened. It was Earl. "I have a gift for you." We stepped outside, and there was a jacuzzi.
Dear God, Help us to give gifts freely in the same way You gave Your great Gift, Jesus, to us. Amen.
--Joseph Goldammer, age 10
Thursday, December 15, 1994 (Donna Barnett)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
AWAITING "JOHN KENDRICK": PART I
The news was exciting. My younger sister Cathy was told that her expected child was going to be a boy. Our family was delighted to hear that a second grandchild was on the way. My older sister Vicky had just given birth to the first grandson in my family, and now we could all eagerly await the second.
My husband David and I were thrilled for both of my sisters, especially since we did not plan to have children of our own. We could focus on the joys of Cathy's giving birth instead of on the question why I would not.
Cathy and her husband Phil were especially pleased that the child was going to be a boy. Phil immediately wanted to name his son after his only brother, John Kendrick, a fine marine who had died just a few years earlier. Cathy agreed that that name would be fine, and it would mean so much to Phil. Phil's mother was also very pleased. She was the widow of a lieutenant colonel, and with only one son left, passing on the Murphy name was very important to her as well.
Cathy is an artist, and we all knew the nursery would be beautiful. The theme for the nursery would be carousel horses. She painted the walls a wonderful shade of blue and furnished and accessorized to the last detail. The focal point was a water-color painting of a carousel horse, signed by the artist, The inscription, "To John Kendrick Murphy," was a reminder of Phil's brother Johnny, and hope for us all as we anticipated the birth.
Dear God May we prepare our hearts for You as carefully as we prepare for the coming of our children into our lives, Amen.
-- Donna T. Barnett
Friday, December 16, 1994 (Donna Barnett)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
AWAITING "JOHN KENDRICK": PART II
Cathy's pregnancy was difficult. The baby was due on February 14, but Cathy was put to bed on December 23, We changed our Christmas plans at the last moment, and our family headed to St. Simons Island where Cathy and Phil lived. She stayed in bed or on a beach lounge chair in the kitchen as we all prepared for the Christmas feast. Cathy was feeling better, and we were all relieved. After Christmas we said our good- byes and were excited that the next time we would be together was at John Kendrick's birth.
On Friday night, January 15, the call carne. Cathy was headed for the hospital. We were all nervous. John Kendrick was arriving about five weeks early.
Vicky and I were driving together the next morning from Atlanta, and she had taken a long time to pack. I was very anxious and ready for us to be on our way. The drive would take about six hours, but Vicky assured me we would arrive in plenty of time to see Cathy before she went into delivery. Being a new mother, Vicky was now an expert on such things.
I'm sure that Mary's and Joseph's families were as excited as my family. There is definitely something about a new baby that automatically makes people smile with joy and gives a sense of hope even in the darkest times.
Dear God, May we greet the birth of Your Son with as much excitement as we do the birth of our own children. Amen.
-- Donna T. Barnett
Saturday, December 17, 1994 (Donna Barnett)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
AWAITING "JOHN KENDRICK": PART III
I couldn't stand the drive. We stopped at a phone to call. The nurse said Cathy had just come out of delivery and connected me to her room. I was full of conflicting emotions--angry at Vicky for delaying us and thrilled for Cathy, When Cathy answered the phone, she sounded great.
Excitedly I asked, "Are you OK? is John Kendrick OK? How's Phil?" Cathy started laughing. "He is a girl," she said, "What did you says A big truck passed by, and I thought you said he is a girl?" Cathy kept laughing. "Just get here. I can't wait for you to see our beautiful daughter!" The rest of the drive seemed to take forever. I wasn't angry with Vicky anymore because we both were in shock.
We finally arrived and went straight to the nursery. My niece was so tiny, being premature. But the doctors were confident that she just needed to gain weight before leaving the hospital. Cathy was delighted to see us and told us how surprised she and Phil were in the delivery room when the doctor announced they were the proud parents of a red-headed little girl!
Cara English Murphy is now in the first grade. Her signed carousel painting hangs in her bedroom to this day. She is a beautiful child of God.
I have always thought of Jesus as a child of God. I wonder if our thoughts as Christians would be different if Jesus had been a girl. I hope for the day when each of us is just a child of God.
Dear God, May every child, whether girl or boy, simply be to us Your child. Amen.
-- Donna T. Barnett
ADVENT FOUR: LOVE
Sunday, December 18, 1994 (Beth Ryan)
ADVENT FOUR: LOVE
OF STARS, BABIES, AND NAMES
My living room was filled with the quiet intensity of a hospital operating room. I over the form of a small "star" in my lap, meticulously sewing, stitching, snipping, restoring. It was long over-due, this star repair business.
This particular star was a cloth-bodied newborn baby doll I'd received on my fifth birthday. Every child has a star--a favorite blanket, a teddy bear, This doll I'd named "Baby Dear" was the star in my childhood. I'd slept with her nightly, her soft, stuffed body the recipient of years of grime, tears, and whispered secrets. Yet, after all those years of burning brightly in my life, she refused to bum out.
"Baby Dear' rekindled ten years ago when I placed her in a makeshift manger to demonstrate to my toddler, Hannah, how God gave us the Christ child that First Christmas. As Hannah's star, "SHE" became "ME," and "Baby Dear" became "Baby Jesus.' Since then "Baby Dear/Baby Jesus" has made her way into the arms and hearts of both my children, and also into several church Christmas plays.
Being a star--giving and receiving much love--takes its toll, however. So it was I
came to be sewing up this small, dingy doll which reminded me of circumstances in my life and the life of our church. When we are stars that refusal to bum out, assuming new roles, re-emerging and serving in new ways, we become weary and our stuffing may come out. We long for the Creator to restore us ... then one day find ourselves in the lap of God, where wounds are bound, broken hearts are healed, and stars are rekindled to bum brightly.
O Lord, You do indeed restore Jerusalem and call us, Your stars, by name. Amen.
-- Beth Ryan
Monday, December 19, 1994 (Peggy Schmidt)
ADVENT FOUR: LOVE
A MOST CREATIVE CHRISTMAS GIFT
I Corinthians 12:4-7
Three bad days for a terminally ill neighbor, topped by a particularly bad Christmas Eve, kept her and her husband homebound. Not the Christmas he had wanted to give her. He had planned a more festive day.
Three women down the block met to share the morning. The packages had been opened, the secrets shared and celebrated, and they had headed to the kitchen to begin working wonders there. A phone call from this disappointed husband informed them of their neighbor's bad night, and the Christmas plans they had had to cancel.
Three women returned that call to say "plans are changed, not canceled" and began their most creative Christmas gift. They diced and chopped and cleaned and cut. They measured and mixed and poured and stored. Then they filled and packed and carried and stacked two camping coolers and boxes of miscellaneous ingredients into a Jeep. Five houses later, the filling and packing, carrying and stacking were reversed, and--
Three women mixed and fixed and tasted and cooked. Using her china, they set and served and visited and laughed. They served the gift of Christmas shared, at her table. Then they sat and savored, Following the clean-up, the wipe down, and re-storing of her dishes, they headed home to clean up and wipe down their own kitchens ... and to reflect on the Gift of Self they'd never thought of sharing.
Dear God, Christmas is the time when You sent Your Son and set an example-to reach down deep and share that which we've never considered sharing before. Amen.
-- Peggy Schmidt
Tuesday, December 20, 1994 (Lelia Gentle)
ADVENT FOUR: LOVE
LOVING THE UNLOVABLE
The Bible makes it perfectly clear that we are to minister to those less fortunate than ourselves, The "least of these," Jesus called them--the homeless, the hungry, the poverty-stricken, the prisoner. Loving the unlovable--that's where the Gospel calls us!
But that's not where the challenge stops. Christ was more inclusive when he referred to the LEAST--including the LEAST LOVABLE as well, those who regardless of their financial status or relationship to us, we find unlovable. The grouchy neighbor, complaining co-worker, fault-finding friend, disgruntled spouse, rebellious child. People with attitudes, difficult and disagreeable people, overbearing and opinionated people. God calls us to love all of them.
This kind of love challenges us and makes us realize: WE NEED LOVE MOST WHEN WE DESERVE IT LEAST. Who among us hasn't had a bad day when we are impossible to be around or live with?? Those are the times we need the love and care of those around us more than ever! But who wants to love us under such circumstances??
Holidays often have good Christian folks burning short fuses. We grouch at those we love most because our holiday standards overwhelm us. Being over-extended and lashing out at others becomes all too prevalent in the holiday rush. So, the next time you encounter someone you deem unlovable--LOVE THEM ANYWAY! Stop and say a prayer for them, say a kind word, look at them as one of God's children experiencing a difficulty--one who needs love and who, maybe, doesn't deserve it just now.
Lord, Help us to be slow in judging others. Help us to understand that those who are difficult to love need it most. Help us to be the representatives of Your love to those in need Amen.
Wednesday, December 21, 1994 (Bill Thomason)
ADVENT FOUR: LOVE
A LOVING INVASION
"It is Christ the Lord who is everlastingly in the world reconciling it to God, and it is he who acts through a faithful human agent whenever, by the power of agape, one soul lovingly invades another." (Carroll E. Simcox, quoted by Isabel Anders.)
This image of a "loving invasion" startles and jars us. How can an invasion be loving? Invasions by their very nature are intrusive, violent, a violation of the one invaded. Is this phrase an oxymoron or a paradox? Oxymoron: the joining of two really incompatible terms--"airline food," "jumbo shrimp." Paradox: an apparently self- contradictory statement that is nevertheless true--"Light is both wave and particle," "Christ is fully human, fully divine."
"Loving invasion" is a paradox. Its apparent contradiction perfectly expresses what we affirm in our celebration of Advent and Christmas. God has invaded our world, hostile territory, with love, agape. The invading army consists of one baby, newly-born to a marginalized couple, in a backwater of the world. God's invasion does not consist of legions of angels which vanquish the legions of Rome in battle. AU God's angels do in this invasion is sing!
The power in this invasion is the power of agape--not the power of armies, bombers, tanks, or rockets. Its effectiveness is not measured in the destruction of God's enemies, but in their reconciliation with God and their redemption.
We lovingly invade others' lives when our involvement with them is part of their reconciliation and redemption.
Dear God, Help us to love others with the same self-giving love You have shown to its in Christ. Amen.
-- Bill Thomason
Thursday, December 22, 1994 (Pam Ratcliffe)
ADVENT FOUR: LOVE
FOSTERING GOD'S LOVE
I have been blessed the past six years to have worked with foster families--most
recently as a Foster Care Specialist at Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children. I have never witnessed agape as much as in some of these special families, confronted with children scarred by abuse and neglect. Foster parents take in displaced children and youth, love them as their own, work to bring about healing, then let them go. What sacrifice!--Agape.
A gentle, widowed mother of seven grown children recently lost her mother whom she had nursed for several years. She decided within days she had more love to share, and she is: with a six foot tall, 17 year old boy who has learning difficulties and is often withdrawn. On one of my recent home visits, Anthony walked in the door after being out of town for several days, and she exclaimed with joy on her face, "My baby's home"--Agape.
Several members of our congregation are foster parents. One couple has become a Godsend to me, providing weekend respite for some of the foster parents with whom I work. Another member recently accepted her first foster child--a 10 year old boy whose smile lights up any room. Her family and friends have joined in the effort to insure this boy learns how special and capable he is.--Agape.
I could write volumes about this special group of servants and the children for whom they care. As God gives unconditionally to us, so must foster parents pour out love, patience, and understanding knowing results may not be immediately evident, but that they are doing Kingdom work-. --Agape.
Thank You, Lord, for foster parents. Give them strength, especially in this holiday
Season, to help each child handle painful memories and the loneliness of separation. Help us to learn from this self-giving love. Amen.
-- Pam Ratcliffe
Friday, December 23, 1994 (Marv Knox)
ADVENT FOUR: LOVE
ANTICIPATION: ONE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHRIST AND KETCHUP
Seldom had the words to a pop tune described so closely the characteristics of a commercial product.
Carly Simon belted out the lyrics to a Carol King hit: "An-tis-i-pay-ay-ay-ee-shan!' Meanwhile, the perfect bottle of ketchup--the essence of ketchupness-hovered deliciously over the first bite of a succulent hotdog. Even if you were a mustard-on- your-hotdog person, you could hardly wait for that ketchup to drip out of that bottle and plop onto that steaming 'dog.
Clever, huh? Some Madison Avenue wiseacre really knew what she was doing. Combine a wildly popular song with an evocative image to reinterpret the greatest weakness of the advertiser's product. Suddenly, all America felt grateful Heinz ketchup wouldn't pour. Anticipation made the wait worthwhile.
That commercial first aired a couple of decades ago, but it always comes to mind at Advent. We're waiting. Sometimes patiently; often, not-so-patiently. But we wait.
Our anticipation of the Christ makes us one with the world. With the Jews of Jesus' day, who eagerly sought a messiah, a Savior. With Mary, who felt her Son stretching her body even as God stretched her soul. With children who anxiously count down the days. With hurting people everywhere, who long for sweet release. With the angels, who wait to sing "Hallelujah!'
So, during Advent, as with all who have gone before, we wait. Anticipation makes the wait sweeter still. It's a lot like waiting for ketchup on that hotdog. Only this time, it's worth the wait.
Dear God, in whom all time stands still Prepare our hearts for hope, peace, joy and love as we wait the celebration of the birth of Your Promised One, our Messiah. Amen.
-- Marv Knox
Saturday, December 24, 1994 (Jana Brocious)
ADVENT FOUR: LOVE
Every Christmas Eve it seems like the only thing that interferes with my Christmas is that I never get enough sleep. I stay up the entire night waiting for 6:00 AM. That's the time when I love to barge in and wake my parents up, even though I have to literally drag them out of bed. It takes about a half hour before they get up. Then they make me stay with my brother, Kory, a three-year-old, while they get dressed. So then, my dad decides to get the video camera, of course.
As the tension mounts, Kory wakes up, and we proceed to the next room. We all look at the large, colorful Christmas tree and then at the endless piles of presents for us under the tree and in our stockings. With huge smiles on our faces, Kory starts ripping open presents--some of which are ours. Now I think of some other little boys and girls and adults in the world who can't buy or share toys, candy, clothes, and a big Christmas dinner with friends and family.
Dear God, As we celebrate our Savior's birth tomorrow, please take care of those very special People in the world who can't afford to do some of the things we will do. Let them know that You are with them and that to celebrate Christmas you don't need any fancy things--just to know that You are there is enough. Amen.
--Jana L. Brocious, age 12
Sunday, December 25, 1994
SAYING "YES" TO THE CHILD WE HAVE AWAITED
"In this time of the year it is natural to reflect on the incarnation, to expect some overlapping of time and eternity in our thoughts. At this beginnning of the church year, we embark on the tracing of the mystery of the birth, life, and death of our Lord in God's time and in our history. We acknowledge that the process of intermingling is sustained not only by the will of God, but by our participation. The power of human consent to God's plan has always mattered, from the 'yes' of Abraham to follow God's call to a land he knew not . . . From Abraham to Mary, to the glorious consent of a young woman to bear a child into the world, we have a long line of those who have said 'yes' to God and brought to fulfillment the centuries of prophecy and hope. . . We may sometimes forget that faith was always required of them, too, and that the outcome of their stories was not written in holy books before it occurred. All hung in the balance of human consent to the divine will. . ."
Awaiting the Child, pp. 39-40
Monday, December 26, 1994 (Lindsay Knox)
THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER
My best Christmas ever was the Christmas of 1993. It all started early in the morning.
I woke up and so did my sister. Then we ran to wake up my parents. Everybody went down stairs to open presents. After we decided to go from youngest to oldest, we started opening. Molly, my sister, started. She opened one, then I opened one, then my mom and my dad.
After we were done my mom went to cook bacon and eggs for breakfast, while Molly and I played with our toys.
After breakfast we played a few games and played with our presents. For lunch we ate meat, green bean casserole, and a few other things.
That afternoon, I got to talk to Genny, my best friend, who had just moved to Georgia. Next I talked to my grandparents. We played four games of Life, and then we went to go see Christmas lights. We got lost in a huge neighborhood.
Then it was time for bed. We had a great day.
Dear God, Thank you for families that we can have fun with on Christmas. Thank you for the bright lights and fun games. Amen.
--Lindsay Knox, age 11
Tuesday, December 27, 1994 (William Hendricks)
"We are expecting." These are three of the most fragile, hope-filled words in any language. What if there is something "wrong" with the baby--a malformation, an impairment? What then? Can we still speak of hope? How can we say yes to a child we have awaited, if that child seems like a root out of dry ground--no form or comeliness that we should desire it?
I was pastor to a young couple in just that situation. Their first born child had a terrible defect, with no hope the child could live long. They brought the child to church for a bittersweet dedication ceremony. The sweet part was their courageous faith. They said yes to the child they expected, although the child was not expected to live; and it did not. Saying yes to an awaited child who appears as a root out of dry ground is not easy.
In the long look, from an eternal dimension, we can sing "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus." But the human community did not readily accept the child who was "Without form or comeliness." In fact, they treated him shabbily, getting him off the scene as soon as possible. Not a pretty story. But even at Christmas we must be realistic.
What a comfort to all born with disabilities and deficiencies! God knows something of this, too. Christ was a homeless child. The world which awaited him did not really want him, at least when it became evident he would not fulfill its expectations. Saying yes to the child we have awaited" is our obligation and opportunity, even when the child has "something wrong with it."
Dear God, All of us are seriously flawed. Help us to say yes to all children, as You have said yes to us in Your Holy Child. Amen.
-- Dr. William L. Hendricks
Wednesday, December 28, 1994 (Wes Edwards)
BAELY NEEDS A RAINBOW
We were sitting on the floor, alone, Baely and I, waiting for big church. This was the Sunday when the kindergartners visit the worship hour. We had been looking at and talking about our group picture of places girls and boys could pray. The subject of beauty and color had surfaced. "I have never seen a rainbow," Baely announced-- sadly. "I keep trying to, but I haven't seen one. Every time it rains, I look for one," she continued forlornly. "Every time it rains, I go to the window. Sometimes, I sit under a chair on the porch. I look everywhere but don't see one. Some day, I hope I will see one."
I promised to show her some photographs, but she dejectedly replied, "That won't be my rainbow."
On Baely went. Her five-minute-forever-waits always came up empty-handed. Yet, out of the unfulfilled blush of colors, a new hope kept springing up. Her five-year-old simplicity carried an almost adult-like patience and persistence, akin perhaps to the aged Anna and Simeon at the Jerusalem Temple, endlessly, yet continuously waiting at the Temple for their own rainbow, the promised Messiah.
And Baely's five innocent years, or all that she can remember, have been unblessed by a rainbow, I'll never see another rainbow without my heart standing beside Baely, wishing she could finally find her own special Technicolor dream--alive in a rainbow.
O God, May our small spectrum of light reflect beyond ourselves to Your permanent rainbow-Jesus. Amen.
-- Wes Edwards
Thursday, December 29, 1994 (Marjorie Ash)
THE LEAST IN THE KINGDOM
On my treasure shelf are an orange pottery sugar bowl and cream pitcher--gifts to my mother from my sister and me for my eighth Christmas. We had gone one cold December afternoon to Mrs. Hill's little store and chosen them. Each of us paid a nickel. I thought they were beautiful. Mother thought so, too.
She valued those dishes so much that they had a prominent place in her china cabinet. When I took at them now, I feel they are indeed a treasure, for they represent not only the simplicity and innocence of another time in my life, but also my mother's pleasure that Christmas morning and the value she placed on something of so little intrinsic worth, value given only through her love.
Christ's love did the same for people. He valued the world's unvalued, giving sight to the blind, making the lame walk, healing the deaf, cleansing lepers, bringing good news to the poor. What a Christmas it must have been for those who came in contact with him! What a Christmas it must have been for John the Baptist when, hearing what Jesus was doing, he realized the Messiah he had heralded had indeed already come!
And what a Christmas it can be for us when we internalize Christ's words, when we hear him say that "among those born of women, no one has risen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater then he." That's good news for me and others like me, for it means we have an unexpected value and, therefore, a place on God's treasure shelf. Is it any wonder that we await with joy the rebirth of the Christ child?
Teach us, Lord, to see beauty and value in the least in Your kingdom. Amen.
-- Marjorie Ash
Friday, December 30, 1994 (Beth Wade)
THE MIRACLE OF LIFE
Three a.m. and the beeper sounds--a C-section--just what I wanted at this time of night--as I stumble out of bed and dress and drive to the hospital.
When I arrive there is a very excited but anxious father waiting to go into surgery. The mother is already on the table being prepped and is very quiet. Now that I'm awake I'm excited but anxious too ... Will the baby cry and breathe on its own, or will it be one who needs help? In our anxiousness the obstetrician and I joke with the parents and nurses. The baby is born and cries lustily, needing very little help from me. The father proudly looks at and shyly touches his newborn. The mother looks at her child and breaks into a wonderful smile as she is reassured that her baby is doing well.
And the miracle of life begins, and new hope and new joy for the world is again affirmed in a new beginning. And I'm no longer sleepy, but smiling, as I head home.
Father, Thank You for new life, for new hope, and new joy, and most of all for the birth of a newborn in a stable so many years ago. Amen.
Saturday, December 31, 1994 (Tracy Black)
Nobody thinks of Mary at Christmas. They think of Christ, God, and presents. The mother of Christ is just as important. Mary gave birth to Christ, At Christmas, I think of sheep, cows, wise men, shepherds, a manger, and Christ, but I never thought of Mary before.
Mary gave birth to Christ in a barn out back from a hotel inn. Christ was wrapped in cloth and laid in a manger.
Mary rode on the same donkey day after day trying to get to Bethlehem. Then finally they reached Bethlehem after so many weeks.
It wasn't easy being Mary.
Dear God, We praise Christ, and Mary is a part of Christ. So we praise them both like they are one. Amen.
-- Tracy Black, age 10
Sunday, January 1, 1995 (Bill Thomason)
NOTHING NEW ABOUT NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
II Corinthians 5: 17
As far back as we have historical records, the New Year has been a time of renewal of basic values. There's nothing new about New Year's resolutions. But with Christ, something new has entered history--the sanctifying of our earthly lives by his presence in them. "So if anyone is in Christ," Paul wrote the Corinthians, "there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new." These are audacious words indeed written to one of the most wrangling, contentious congregations in church history. But, Paul contends, faith in Christ begins a process of renewal that's genuine, even in people such as these.
This is the promise of the Christian faith--power for the renewal of life, power (if you please) to keep our New Year's resolutions. This individual renewal is a foretaste of what God has in store for the whole creation. In fact, our renewal is pan of the wider act of new creation God is bringing about. The Bible begins with creation and ends with the promise of a new creation. "I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away," John the seer wrote. "And the one seated on the throne said, 'See, I am making all things new."' (Revelation 21:1, 5)
Our attempts at renewal with New Year's resolutions need not frustrate or intimidate us. We have confidence renewal is possible, because of the new life we're already experiencing in Christ. It is not in our own power that we keep our resolutions to do better, but rather in the power of Christ who is making all things--including us--new.
God of Creation and New Creation: Make us new we pray. A men.
-- Bill Thomason
Monday, January 2, 1995 (Bobbie Thomason)
WAITING FOR THE CROCUSES
Every spring a friend and I eagerly await the blossoming of the crocus field on the Sacred Heart campus on Lexington Road. Every February, without fail this field erupts with pale purple crocuses. When the time approaches, something jogs my memory and for several days I check on the field: then, one day, I turn the comer of the campus and almost gasp in wonder.
When it is in bloom, there is nothing quite like it. I like to sit down right in the middle of the field and just exist in the beauty of it all. Nothing is as perfect as sitting there feasting my eyes, while a breeze blows through my hair.
This last winter, when we had the heavy snow and ice, I pretty much had given up on my crocuses. But sure enough, even though they were a few weeks late, there they were!
This spring I know the day will suddenly come when I'll say, "Mary, the crocus field is in bloom! Do you want to walk this afternoon?" And we will go, and the whole field will remind us of God's faithfulness, steadfastness, and promises, even in the middle of our chaos, uncertainty, and doubt.
Isn't it always so?
Dear God, Help us to haw faith in the middle of our winters that the crocuses will always return. Amen.
-- Bobbie Thomason
Tuesday, January 3, 1995 (Bobbie Thomason)
HOME IMPROVEMENT AND SALVATION
This summer and fall we had some major work done on our house. Construction workers took over--making messes, banging and sawing, invading our privacy. The house filled with dry wall dust, wood shavings, misplaced furniture and belongings, and the smell of paint fumes. We even experienced a drenching of major proportions when it stormed one night and the new roof wasn't yet on! Not only that, our dog has probably been traumatized and in need of the services of a dog psychologist.
Everything has been topsy-turvy. We've even slept in different rooms of the house as work progressed from one room to the other--all of this by choice, mind you, to improve the quality of our life in this house. Everyone we know (and even a few strangers) told us that the experience would be extremely stressful. But now we know just how stressful, and we know it firsthand.
Everyone we know also told us something else--that we would love our house when it was finished, and that if we could just hang in there and endure it all, we would think it was all worth it. That too has proven to be true.
It is so hard to wait for something. Instant gratification is so much nicer, Why can't we have what we want when we want it? Waiting for something worthwhile, however, is worth the time and the stress involved. Likewise, waiting on God is difficult, but we know that all of the mess and stress is worth it. We must believe that if we can just endure to the end, we shall be saved.
Dear God, When we got discouraged, help us endure whatever comes with the strong faith that You will get us through. Amen.
-- Bobbie Thomason
Wednesday, January 4, 1995 (Bill Thomason)
THE CHRISTIAN YEAR, DISCIPLESHIP, AND WAITING
Have you ever thought about how much of the Christian year and Christian life involves waiting? The year begins with Advent, four weeks of preparation awaiting the birth of Jesus. The 12 days of Christmas celebrate that birth, then give way to Epiphany in which we wait for Jesus to manifest the coming rule of God. Lent follows, a time during which we prepare our hearts and minds to receive the fullest manifestation of that rule in the Cross and the Empty Tomb. During Eastertide we wait for the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. And Pentecost, the last season of the year, celebrates the life of the Christian community lived in anticipation of Christ's return.
Waiting. It's not something we're good at in this country. We're the ones who invented "instant" everything--instant orange juice, instant mashed potatoes, instant replay, instant TV dinners. Christian discipleship is, in part, a school of waiting, where we learn how to take into account our past and present and prepare for our future. We believe God has a future for us. Our waiting for that future is an active waiting of preparing for it by discerning what God requires of us now.
Our waiting for God's future may be short or long. In either case, our waiting is sure, because the One we are awaiting is the Lord of all time--past, present, and future. "God may not come when we want God to, but God always comes in time."
Dear God, Help us to wait actively for Your future by doing now what we need to do, so that when Your future is ready for us, we may be ready for it Amen.
-- Bill Thomason
Thursday, January 5, 1995 (Chuck Leach)
LOOKING FOR MESSIAH
Some look for shelter in the stormy blast; some for shelter from the stormy blast. My deepest hurts have been related to childhood beliefs that God comes and takes true believers out of all the trouble. If you really believe, you can stand in the fiery furnace and sip coffee while those who stoke the fire get fatally singed.
I've been a True Believer--and yet have gotten my share of bums. So, either I am on the wrong side of the door or that is not what Messiah is about.
It may very well be that looking for Messiah is not unlike looking for a pastor, If we need magic, it is only prelude to disaster. Can any good come out of Arkansas, or Beechwood? Probably. Not my urgent childhood fantasies but perhaps something deeper. Perhaps God may need to shine in dark comers by different means,-not just on me but through me. It was so much easier when it was all up to Messiah.
Dear God, You are indeed our shelter in the stormy blast Help us to be doers of Your word, not hearers only. Amen.
-- Chuck Leach
return to Advent Meditation Index
© 1994 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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