Crescent Hill Baptist Church
Advent Meditations - 1995
The Faces of Advent and Christmas
This issue was dedicated to the memory of David Dwight Cobb (1941-1995)
Remembrances by Paula Roberts, James Pollard, Nicholas Laughlin, Betty & Ed Thornton, Betty Cook and June & Roy Honeycutt
Preface by Jim Stone
writers (in order of appearance): Mildred Burch, Kathryn Chapman, Edward Thornton, Luwilda Rogers, Bob Cunningham, Sharleen Birkimer, W. Dennis Tucker, Meme Tunnell, Cannan Hyde, Mary Gutwein, Leila Arnett, Maureen O'Connor, Jim George, Anne Claypool, Janet Miller, Malinda Fillingim, Mary Zimmer, Ted Hodge, Paul Debusman, Beth Wade, Janet Tharpe, Bobbie Thomason, Sheryl Sisk, Cate McCall, Rick Forest, Wesley Stewart, Bill Thomason, Jackie Pendergraph, Bill Mowery, Jo Vaughn, Cannan Hyde, Emily Mulloy, Peggy Schmidt, Mary Ann Bootes, Beth Ryan
editors: Bill Thomason, Pam Ratcliffe, Janet Tharpe; artist: Glynda Stone
My 18 years as organist were enriched by the beauty Dwight added to our services. I will always be grateful for the endless ways he dovetailed the efforts of many to create meaningful events at CHBC. Dwight added "the color and texture to the tapestry" of this place.
--Paula S. Roberts
Dwight will be remembered as a minister to this family of God--and as a dear friend who in darkness and in light reflected Advent in his life and death.
--James T. Pollard
On one visit to our home, Dwight noticed the abundance of colorful butterflies and extra large bumblebees and asked if I would capture them, since he used them in beautiful flower arrangements. He would pay me for the specimens, and being only in the first or second grade, I jumped at the chance for my very first business partnership. Dwight bent down to shake my hand, and we had a deal.
Mom and I noticed the bees in the jar did not seem particularly pleased. After a quick call, Dwight agreed that since I was close to the ground, I would be able to find bees and butterflies that had already had their time on earth. So our exchange continued, as did our friendship. Thanks, Dwight, I'll never forget you. Love,
We are reminded of his artistic brilliance, deep-seated humanity, gentle and generous spirit, quiet courage and strength.
--Betty & Edward Thornton
Dwight heard and lived John Claypool's words, "What happens to you makes a difference to me." As he lay dying and knew I was facing another of my many tests, he called from the hospital to encourage me. I was blessed by his life and am heartened by the memory of his presence.
Dwight Cobb was a true friend to us, as he was to so many in our congregation. We will miss him and remember his creative gifts throughout our celebration of Advent.
--June & Roy Honeycutt
The faces of Advent and Christmas. You will see them as you read these stories of hope, peace, joy, love. The faces of saints. Perfect faces? Hardly, but who's looking for perfection in a place Eke this. Faces of saintly sinners are found here, human faces. Faces of despair, sorrow, struggle, doubt, compassion, acceptance. Human faces that personify the grace of our Lord. Ah, could it be? Faces of Christ?
Faces in worship. As one relatively new to Crescent Hill Baptist Church, I have not had the rich experience of looking into the faces of many who have contributed to the culture of this congregation. Though I never knew Dwight Cobb, I see his face in the power of worship. Just imagine--evangelical and liturgical. Silence, time out to listen Time to look into the face of God. Faces of silence. Faces of the past.
Faces of the present, accepting and reaching out to new faces. Faces of change, service, ministry, caring, empathy, support, understanding. Tearful faces embracing those devastated by divorce. Smiling faces of those giving themselves and sharing their cherished symbols in celebration with friends becoming wife and husband. Faces of youth and wisdom, scholars and workers, clergy and laity. The face of a minister at our hospital bedside; of a pastor participating in an ecumenical service. Faces of hospitality. Friends breaking bread together with new faces warmly invited to the table. Faces of inclusion. Genuine faces.
Ah, faces of the Word made flesh.
These and many more faces will be seen as you read and experience the lives of our sisters and brothers in their own words in this collection of day readings for Advent and Christmas. This Advent you are invited not only to experience the day readings but also to take time for private worship. Using the brief outline provided, families and friends are encouraged to come together to worship in their homes each Advent Sunday and Christmas Day.
Is it worth your time, each day of Advent and Christmas? Let me ask you this: Is it worth your time to look into the faces of those who with their eyes look into your very soul? Is it worth your time to experience Christ with us? It's Advent. Thanks be to God.
-- Jim Stone
Advent One: HOPE
Sunday, December 3, 1995
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
DAVID DWIGHT COBB:
CREATOR OF BEAUTY--DEAR, DEVOTED FRIEND
I cannot recall the Advent season without thinking of Dwight. The season dearest to my heart was the year my grandmother's quilt graced the Communion table. Dwight had casually asked if I had on old quilt the committee could use, and I responded that I had two, both done in red and green on white background.
He chose the one with the Moravian Star pattern, presented it to the Worship Committee, and to quote Dwight, it "Sparked creative juices to flowing with all the committee who planned and produced. I cannot tell you how many people sought me out to say 'this was my favorite Advent' --referring to the quilt and the complete visual look of the season." (From a letter Dwight wrote to me.)
My clan (three generations, 20+ people) gathered each year at my grandparents' to celebrate Christ's birth. I remember my grandmother's delicate and delicious candies, jam cake with "tuttie-fruitie" icing (her name for it), the golden brown turkey cooked to perfection in the old wood stove oven, a table overflowing with wonderful food.
Grandmother was filled with fun and laughter and love. She dressed like Santa each year, arriving with pack on her back, jingle bells, and a "Ho! Ho! Ho!" to give out gifts. This went on until the youngest child recognized her shoes and shouted, "That's grandma!"
Thanks, Dwight, for honoring her quilt and this delightful, dear woman, devoted to Christ, who lived the spirit of Christmas year round.
Thank you, God, for people like Dwight and my grandmother who know how to create beauty.
-- Mildred Burch
Monday, December 4, 1995 (Kathryn Chapman)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
WHEN THE BILLS CAME . . .
It was the loneliest Christmas I could ever remember. Too sick from chemotherapy to attend church or receive company, I lay in bed on Christmas Eve and waited alone healing. But then the Bills came ....
No sooner had the request for blood donations gone out than Bill Johnson and his son, Chad, stepped in line. They truly gave the gift of life.
As the word "cancer" struck terror in my heart, Bill Chapman, beloved brother, appeared armed with greetings and support from home. Grief for the pain of an older sister flooded his face. Ms gift of love sustains my spirit even now.
Bill Rogers came early Monday morning after the crucial week-end diagnosis. Swiftly he moved to my bedside and embraced me. We cried while the silence surrounded us. No words--just the gift of presence.
My close colleague, Bill Cromer, worked overtime in our team-taught classes to cover my job. The gift of his faithfulness helped me tolerate baldness with humor and good grace.
Bill and Lois Hendricks, learning how I dreaded the onset of nightfall, helped relieve my fears by visiting at dusk. Their ministry of turning on lights to dispel the darkness offered a much needed gift of peace.
A year has passed. Complete remission. No more chemotherapy. No more fever, pain, and shots. The darkness of disease has lifted. The light has come.
Nothing is more personal than waiting for the birth of a child. I've waited, too, but for the advent of healing, hope, hair, and home. God bless the "Bills" who sustain us with gifts of life, love, presence, faithfulness, and peace.
O God, who lights our daily path, accompany us through corridors of waiting. Claim us unto Yourself for healing, hope, and home.
Tuesday, December 5, 1995 (Edward Thornton)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
IS HE FRIENDLY?
The journey started in an ambulance, Christmas week, 1950. My father was having a heart attack. 'Td," he gasped, "I'm going out there. I don't know if He's friendly!" "Of course God is friendly," I said in my best preacher-boy voice. With full voice, he came back: "How do you know?" I was dumbstruck. He was launched on a thirty year quest for the answer.
He began by reading the Gospels. Nothing else, just the Gospels, betting his life on finding in Jesus what he called "a faith to die by." When he was seventy-seven, I stood at his bedside again. In a special moment, he shared this story:
In the ambulance that night, Saint Peter met me at the gate of heaven. He looked me over and gave his order: 'He's not a keeper. Throw him back. Maybe he will grow some more.'
Enjoying the fishing imagery which he knew I would like, he added: "I know that I have grown spiritually since. I believe He will find me to be a keeper this time."
"Thanks, Dad," I said. It was an awesome moment.
Mary's question facing a birthing was, "How can this be?" My father's question facing dying was, "Who is out there? Is God friendly.?" These are the two great mysteries of life. They defy glib answers. Mary trusted, saying, "Let it be with me according to your word." My father changed his priorities. He sought passionately to grow a faith by which to trust the Word. Such a faith may seem easy--until we are nose to nose with the mystery itself. Advent may be prime time to probe the parentheses of life with the questions:
"Is God friendly?"
"How do you know?"
Your Presence, Lord, Your Presence! is our prayer.
Wednesday, December 6,1995 (Luwilda Rogers)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
ENFOLDED AND ENCIRCLED BY GOD
In 1995 Bill and I had the opportunity to spend three months in England, Wales, and Scotland, devoting a significant portion of our time and energy to a Celtic pilgrimage. Our travels took us to remote islands where we encountered the stories which symbolized the Celtic presence. The Celts had a profound impact on the spread and character of early Christianity in Great Britain and throughout Europe.
At the center of Celtic thought was the belief in God's abiding presence and protection in all of life. I was drawn to the simplicity and directness of this Celtic message. The strong emphasis on the interdependence observable in nature and the interconnectedness of events and relationships is reassuring in this transitional chapter of our lives.
On this journey of spiritual growth, we became acquainted with several historical
faces, the Celtic saints. In the British tradition, St. Brigit was the first women priest. (Apparently, "she was ordained by a short-sighted bishop"; unfortunately, we live in an age when short-sighted bishops do not ordain women.) She founded and presided
over a mixed gender monastery. St. Brigit is also venerated as the midwife of Christ, being the innkeeper in Bethlehem when Mary and Joseph arrived.
During Advent, we would be wise to make our own pilgrimage of faith and experience all its risks I and possibilities, enfolded and encircled by the constant guidance and protection of God.
I composed the following prayer sitting alone above the Cornish coast, observing the beauty of the scene, hearing the gulls above and the surf below.
O God of earth and sky and sea
All praise to Your wonders that are open to me.
The fragile flower-- the bird in flight,
Each gifts from You of Your grace and might.
In days beyond when my presence cannot be,
May visions and memories bind me ever to Thee.
Thursday, December 7, 1995 (Bob G. Cunningham)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
Christmas Eve. The candlelight service over. We left the sanctuary softly singing "Silent Night." Flames flickering from gently held candles. A tender moment etched in my memory. Christmas Eve, however, would not remain a "silent night."
An hour later we sat with Ann's husband at her bedside in the bone-marrow unit, amid diminishing hopes she could live. The soft singing of fellow believers replaced by the harsh sounds of a critical care unit- the gentle light of candles by the bright lights of a hospital room. The shrill beeping of my pager summoned me to the room where I worked to be with the family of an eight month old child who would die despite the frantic efforts of medical staff.
We went from singing praises to the Christ child to caring for those faced with the death of children: Ann, still really a child at age 28 & an eight month old who would never five to see a Christmas. A long and sad Christmas Eve. We arrived home around sunrise, crawled into bed, and slept most of Christmas day.
I don't recall anything I got for Christmas that year. Not tangible Presents anyway- I do recall a quiet afternoon with my wife opening gifts as we sat on the floor enjoying the lights of the Christmas tree, with a deep awareness of our love for each other and gratitude for the opportunity to express God's love for those in need. In the midst of
doing so, we encountered Christ. Frederick Buechner says, "Whenever you look beneath another's face to her deepest needs ... you have seen the Christ in her."
Dear God, You come to us in places and people where we would least expect to find
You. Even as we search, You have already found us. In Christ's name, Who loves us best. Amen.
--Bob G. Cunningham
Friday, December 8, 1995 (Sharleen Johnson Birkimer)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
Anna, the elderly temple prophet, is my favorite Christmas person. As a child I wondered who brought her food and if she ever saw the sky because she never left the temple. Now as an adult I wonder how she was able to retain a sense of hop that the Messiah would be born. How often did she want to quit praying and hope younger people would carry on the waiting for the prophesy to be fulfilled? The absence of much thoughtful dialogue in the world has sometimes made me lose my ability to be optimistic about our future. Within the last year a cousin was murdered, a close friend was depressed, and my elderly father was admitted to a nursing home. The only hope I sometimes had was to feel hope again soon.
Lately I have been remembering Anna and wondering if she remained optimistic by
watching children in the temple as she waited for that special child to be born. I feel
more confident about the future when I remember how close to God I felt when I held
Molly, John's granddaughter, in my arms and when I participated in a prayer meeting with third graders during Bible School. The future seems more positive when I recall
the attentive concentration of six boys and girls when I told them about the time I was five years old and I thought I saw God smile at me in a cloud. I also felt hope for our church as I watched Douglas Sisk joyfully exploring the world. Its enthusiasm made me optimistic his parents can successfully lead us into the next century.
God, Thank You for the joy Your infant son brought to the world, the salvation he brought as an adult, and the optimism his words and action can bring to all who listen to his voice today.
--Sharleen Johnson Birkimer
Saturday, December 9, 1995 (Dennis Tucker)
ADVENT ONE: HOPE
The Christmas pageant did not seem out of the ordinary. The children draped in oversized clothes and the large sheet held together by clothes pins only reinforced the feelings of continuity with Christmases past.
Our family just slipped in as the pageant began, having raced for nearly two hours to attend. This time we had not come to see the shepherds, the angels, or the plastic doll wrapped in a bathroom mat posing as Jesus. No, this Christmas, we had come to see our grandfather.
Grandfather had lost his first wife at a relatively young age, resorted to the warm embrace of alcohol, and had since struggled with his worth in the eyes of God. Rarely had he made God or the church his refuge. But at Christmas, there is always hope for a new season.
This Christmas pageant, contrary to appearances, was indeed out of the ordinary. For the first time in many Christmases, Pa (as we called him) found his way into the pageant as one of the three kings. He brought his strong tenor voice and, along with two others, closed that night with "We Three Kings."
Pa did not know we were there. We had told him we could not make it. But upon finishing the song, he turned around, and he saw us. His eyes glowed as a smile moved across his face. We had come. Much as shepherds and wise men had come, we had come to see this wonder. Indeed, a new season had come in the smiling face of my grandfather, I knew Christ had been born that night. He had been born into the cradle of life, and my grandfather had made room.
O God, Remind us that there is always hope for a new season and call us to stare into the cradle and tarry there. Amen.
--W. Dennis Tucker, Jr.
Advent Two: PEACE
Sunday, December 10, 1995 (Meme Tunnell)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
THE FLOATING LADY
My mother's nickname for me during my early childhood was "Screaming Meme." I dreaded my afternoon naps. To entertain myself, I created the face of an imaginary friend out of the swirls and patterns of the textured ceiling over my bed. I thought of the face as "the floating lady" and could always find her when I lay at just the right angle. "The lady's" perpetually astonished face listened to my chatter and often watched as I cried in frustration at being forced to take a "baby" nap.
I hadn't thought about "the lady" in at least thirty years, until a recent Christmas visit with my parents. I happened to be lying down, in my same childhood room, as my eight-year-old tried to fall asleep for the night. (My mother has given HIM the nickname "Payback"; I wonder why?) I suddenly remembered "the lady" and, after a lot of turning and searching, was amazed to find her. Robert was never quite able to see her and soon dropped off to sleep.
I lay there, looking at that familiar imaginary face and at the sweet sleeping face of my child, and thought of how wonderful it is that we have familiar, reassuring and safe sights in adulthood as well as in childhood. I thought of the faces of my late beloved grandparents, of the smile of a dear cousin who died too soon, and of my best friend from childhood who lives far away. God's face does shine upon us and give us peace.
Lord, Help me to turn my face toward You for strength, for comfort, and for forgiveness. Amen.
-- Meme Tunnell
Monday, December 11, 1995 (Dorothy Cannan Hyde)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
A CHRISTMAS LULLABY
How do you find a sense of peace or gratitude when it is the holiday season and your heart is breaking? Laura had spent Thanksgiving Day hooked up to a machine in a hospital getting the first of her chemotherapy treatments. Now, a few days after Christmas, she was recovering from major surgery and struggling to get to sleep. With all the tubes, it was difficult for her to get comfortable. I frantically tried to think of ways to get her relaxed so she could sleep. Then it came to me: why not sing to her the lullabies I sang when she was a baby and I rocked her to sleep?
I lay down on the bed beside her, and as I rubbed her back the words and tune came back to me like they did 25 years before:
Steep fairies are coming from rockaby land
A basket of beautiful dreams in their hands.
They peep in the windows all over the town
To find a little Laura in her snowy white gown.
The "snowy white gown" was now a hospital gown, the windows were in a cancer ward instead of a nursery. I lifted my head up from the pillow and looked into her face. She had a beautiful smile and it seemed, at least, like she was resting peacefully. What a gift! To be able to sing to her and feel the same sense of peace and intimacy we had experienced when she was my baby girl. I said a prayer of Thanksgiving and fell asleep myself.
It is hard when everyone seems to be so joyful and excited at Christmas and we are carrying pain or memories that keep us from celebrating. Help us to find beauty and light in even the most difficult of circumstances. Amen
-- Dorothy Cannan Hyde
Tuesday, December 12,1995 (Mary Gutwein)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
II Corinthians 1:3-7
When I think of people who have influenced me over the years, my dad is one person who stands out.
Dad was my high school band director. He also played the trumpet, and sometimes played on Christmas Eve at our church. He loved jazz, and by the time I was in high school, our family had seen both Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald in concert. He enjoyed the outdoors, and always had some sort of hobby, such as building model airplanes or tying fishing flies. He also loved to make my family laugh.
But there was a darker side to my dad. He suffered from manic depression, and was such a good actor that only my mom knew about it. On May 27, 1977, the darkness became too much for Dad to bear. He committed suicide, just nine days before my high school graduation.
I remember the first Christmas after Dad died. We were at my grandmother's small Episcopal church in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, (pop. 693), on Christmas Eve. "While we were singing "Silent Night," I became painfully aware of Dad's absence. I still think of Dad whenever I sing "Silent Night" at Christmas, and I usually shed a few tears.
Dad gave me many wonderful gifts. Among them are a sense of humor and a love for the outdoors. By God's grace, my struggle in dealing with Dad's death has helped me to empathize with people who suffer from depression. But the gift that I am the most thankful for is the ability to express myself musically. For this, I am ever grateful.
Dear Lord, Thank You for memories of Saints who have gone before us, and for the gifts they gave. Be with those who have suffered loss this year, and give them Your peace. Amen.
Wednesday, December 13, 1995 (Leila Arnett)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
A TALE OF TWO CHRISTMASES
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," wrote Charles Dickens in his Tale of Two Cities. These words could have been written about us. On this fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, as we remember the joy we felt on that first post-war Christmas, we realize that those were indeed the best of times.
The Christmas before, however, had been the worst of times for many families, ours included. My brother was already in the army when our country entered the war, an soon afterward my husband also volunteered. I followed him to various camps as long as possible, but just before the invasion of Normandy he was sent to England and I went to live with relatives.
Our first child was born two weeks after D-Day. When Christmas came that year, our son and I were fortunate to celebrate his first Christmas with other family members; but his father was far away, in the Battle of the Bulge. My brother was in Sicily. What a time of great anxiety! Sadly, many, many families lost loved ones in that war. We were more fortunate, though. After the war ended, both my husband and brother returned home safety before another Christmas. No wonder our hearts overflowed with happiness as we celebrated that special Christmas fifty years ago! Not only was, our country at peace and our loved ones back home, but we had a house to live in, a job in this community, and a new church home. Best of all, our own little family could celebrate together, for the first time, the birthday of the Prince of Peace!
"Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name."
--Leila Routh Arnett
Thursday, December 14, 1995 (Maureen O'Connor)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
I Corinthians 13:4a
I grew up in the Catholic school system, and I guess that's why I send my son to public schools. I had an undiagnosed learning disability and made poor grades. It didn't help matters that I didn't like the methods of the nuns and lay leaders.
In a my formative years of education, though, one teacher did stand out in a positive manner. Miss Kafore was my teacher for six months of my second grade year. In subtle, but deliberate ways, she made marks on my self-esteem which are with me to this day. She took an interest in me and made me feel special.
At Christmas of that year, our assignment was to draw a holiday scene. The day after it was due, I entered the room to see my picture hanging on the wall. Traditionally, only the pictures of the "bright" students were displayed in the classroom.
Unlike other teachers whose harsh language and physical punishment were oppressive, Miss Kafore's gentle touches and pats on the back were welcoming. Miss Kafore became my hero, and I wanted to be just like her some day. At the end of that six months, my grades were noticeably higher in academics and conduct.
I have never forgotten her for making me feel unique.
God, Thank You for teachers who see the good in each of their students You extend Yourself to all of Your children. May we strive to do the same. Amen.
-- Maureen O'Connor
Friday, December 15, 1995 (Jim George)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
I Corinthians 13:12-13
This mirror which is as large as a doorway hangs outside my apartment. Everytime I leave, I glance in it to see how I look. I usually don't like what I see, but I am usually also running late, so I hurry on. If only "Gra-Animals" were created for adults, I'd feel more secure. But who really cares how I look? Who's looking?
For three years I served as minister to children and there was one child who was constantly the thorn in my side. He was a wild child, absolutely without discipline. His father died before his birth. As time went on I became more and more strict with Wm. It seemed that more and more frequently the words "can't," "don't," and "won't" preceded most of what I said to him. I was sure he hated me. No doubt his mother made him come to church in order to get him out of the house. I began to think that I was doing nothing more than providing some free baby-sitting.
Then one day, he said, "I sure wish that you were my dad." My heart dropped. Someone was looking at me, and he was seeing something more than I had seen in him.
I began to wonder how God saw me? Did He see only the daily reflection that I saw of myself in the mirror or did God see something more? Christmas is a time when God reminds us of his love in the birth of Jesus who loves us beyond the reflection that we are in a mirror.
Dear God. In this season of Advent, may we renew our love for You by reflecting Your love to all of those around us. We may never know who is looking at us, but may they always see You. Amen.
Saturday, December 16, 1995 (Anne McCall Claypool)
ADVENT TWO: PEACE
GOD HAS A FACE
For me, the ocean has always been a spiritual place. Even now, it is there I feel closest to God. My earliest memory of having been introduced was one of awe and quiet comfort. Awe at its vastness and quiet comfort that despite s vastness, I was not afraid. There was an instant, vital, unconditional connection that remains to this day. The ocean is a place of power, endurance, life, beauty, solace, refuge, healing, serenity. It is a Place of God. It is a Face of God.
In that face, there is a reflection of family. For so many years, the sanity of my family was reassured by our beach trips. The chance for momentary release from a then unknown monster, alcoholism, was promised by those yearly migrations. The ocean helped us survive- it has aided our recovery; it remains a gathering - and growing - place for family. The ocean continues in its widespread grace; my own children are coming to know the ocean, already it is a place they love.
I can pull from a thousand mental pictures - two sisters and a little brother resolute in their endless wave-riding; small, sturdy legs among a tumble of waves, arms outspread hugging the Wonder; bright orange suit gliding through the water like some tropical fish or sea nymph; an old Golden gamely splashing, despite the cold; silver green beyond the breakers; first glimpse from the bridge, from the path, past sea oats to find the ocean still there, an old friend . . .
As I have grown and acquired ever so many more beach trips, I have gained confidence that the ocean is a direct connection to God, perhaps even a manifestation. It is there my mind clears; I know calm; I feel peace; I am restored. It is at the ocean, I have come to know myself; it is there I feet the closest to God.
God, You have a face, and I have seen it. Amen.
-- Anne McCall Claypool
Advent Three: JOY
Sunday, December 17, 1995 (Janet Miller)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
WHEN THE CHRISTMAS LIGHT CAME ON
When I was a kid, Christmas morning was so exciting for me. My three sisters and I had to wait at the top of the stairs for my parents to wake up. The anticipation was incredible. I knew that only a few feet away was a whole room full of presents for me. It wasn't actually a whole room and it wasn't all for me, but it felt that way. We sat on the steps wiggling and screaming with excitement.
When my parents finally gave us the word, we'd run downstairs, pushing each other out of the way. When we got to our gifts, it was a frenzy. Of course, we had to open them one at a time, but it was a wonderful shower of receiving.
We weren't church goers. At Christmas, we didn't talk about the birth of Jesus, the light of the world.
But one year, after I had been away to college, I discovered the real pleasure of Christmas was in giving, not receiving. It was like a light went on in me, that the true excitement came when I thought about my family and friends and what they would like to receive and then gave it to them, to the best of my ability.
I've enjoyed Christmas much more since then and for a different reason. The feeling of joy lasts much longer than just Christmas morning for me now. I am very thankful that that light went on in me. I now know Who that light is.
Dear God, We thank You for Jesus, the light of the world. Amen.
Monday, December 18, 1995 (Malinda Fillingim)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
It was wonderful news! Finally, my hopes became reality. My excitement and joy knew no containment. "I must call Denise!" I thought.
Denise and I have been friends since seminary. We've served together as chaplains, played volleyball together, and shared "mommy" stories. She would rejoice with me! She would reaffirm me! She would understand.
Mary had wonderful (if not shocking) news! She immediately went to her cousin, Elizabeth, to share the news of her angel encounter. Elizabeth would stand in solidarity with her. Elizabeth would rejoice with her. Elizabeth would understand.
How blessed are we to have friends .... To understand and to be understood, to cry and be comforted, to clap hands together and dance with the wind. The gift of friendship is to be celebrated this Christmastime.
Great God of Understanding, Create within us the capacity to have friends and to be a friend. Keep us secure in who we are in order that we might bring security to those about us. Amen.
Tuesday, December 19, 1995 (Mary Zimmer)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
AND BLESSED IS SHE WHO BELIEVED
It must have seemed like a long trip. Having just received the news of a lifetime from an angel, Mary set off to confer with Elizabeth since that same angel had mentioned
Elizabeth's unexpected pregnancy as evidence that "nothing is impossible with God."
Elizabeth is a character often overlooked in the Christmas stories. But she has had her very own miracle; having been barren for all of her life, she is now six months
Chances are, Mary was confused, even distraught by the news she had received. So she comes seeking comfort. But what she gets is confirmation. On one of the most intimate and luminous scenes in the Bible, Elizabeth is "filled with the Holy Spirit" and acts as priest to young Mary by offering a blessing on her and her pregnancy.
Elizabeth attributes her intuition of God's blessing on Mary to the fact that her own baby "leapt for joy" in her womb when she heard Mary's arrival greeting. She somehow knows that Mary's baby is the long awaited Messiah.
There is another reason for blessing: Mary has kept faith. She is blessed because she has believed that the prophecies of a Messiah to come would be fulfilled.
Dear God, "Blessed is she who believed. " Blessed are we who believe, one more time this Advent, in angels, shepherds, stars, a manger holding Immanuel--God with us. Amen.
Wednesday, December 20,1995 (Ted Hodge)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
Life savers, a whole box filled with a dozen packages helped make my Christmases when I was a child. More candy than I could possibly eat was available like no other time of year. It was every kid's paradise and every mom's nightmare--and it was wonderful.
Though this happened each year, there was a part of me that wanted to hold onto
these moments. As the oldest of three children in a rural minister's home, I learned early to eat my candy sparingly. There would not be much again for a while. I had a younger sister and brother who, to my thinking, "foolishly" devoured all their candy in record time, I soon found out the power I had to say "no" when they came begging for mine.
Obviously, I was not ready for the biblical truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive. It would take years for that to sink in, though much of that hoarded candy went bad before it could be eaten.
As I reflect back over the Christmas celebrations since my childhood, I realize that it has taken me a long time to grasp 'the deeper truth of Christmas that there is no shortage of God's love. There is no need to hoard the good gifts of life. God has not held back the most precious gift--God's son, Jesus Christ. It is hard to admit to myself, much less to my younger brother and sister, that maybe they had the right idea at Christmas. They have been my teachers as I now can enjoy partaking of and sharing whatever "Christmas candy" comes my way.
God of Christmas and candy, Thank You for life savers and for saving our life through Your son Jesus. Keep teaching us how to love and share. Amen.
-- Ted Hodge
Thursday, December 21, 1995 (Paul Debusman)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
AN UNEXPECTED BLESSING
Our 1994 Christmas tree was not going together well--the lights didn't look right at
all, and our tree would not be complete without lots of lights. We decided to add more. Extra lights were stored in a box, but the selection was limited. There was the "different" set--only half of the lights burned--plus other assorted non-functioning sets. Perhaps if we had all of the strings out of the box, it might be possible to find enough.
As I started to remove the lights from the box, something bright caught my eye. There it was! Amelia's ring that had been lost a year before at Thanksgiving! The ring had monetary and sentimental value, and we had searched in all of the logical places and many of the illogical--to no avail. We finally stopped looking and agreed that if the ring was still in the house, we would find it by serendipity. Now, the lost was found, and there was much rejoicing.
That was not all. After a few tries with replacement bulbs, even the "different" set of lights glowed just as it should.
Ordinarily there is not much significance in decorating a Christmas tree. But the events of Christmas 1994 reminded me of two truths important for the Christian faith.
One, in the economy of God, there are no "throwaway" persons. It might have saved time to discard the "different set of lights," but with patience the lights served a purpose. So with God's grace--God does not give up on any of us and continues to call us to fullness of life.
Two,weareoften"surprisedbyjoy,"toborrowthetitleofabookbyC.S.Lewis. An unexpected blessing can come at any time. But somehow, the surprises seem more wonderful at Christmas.
Dear God, Thank You for Your surprising gift to us, Your Son Jesus. Amen.
Friday, December 22, 1995 (Beth Wade)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
WHAT A SURPRISE!
The element of surprise has always been a part of Christmas, thanks to my mother. When I was three or four years old, I found all the packages and opened them before Christmas. There was nothing to put under the tree for Christmas morning ... or so I thought: Christmas morning there was a box of chocolate covered cherries.
As I grew older, Mom learned I was very good at opening and rewrapping gifts under the tree. She began hiding things and using lots of tape and larger or smaller boxes, placing things that would rattle or jingle inside the package.
When I began driving, Mom began taking me to motet rehearsals so she could go shopping. She didn't seem to have any luck finding anything, because she never had any packages when she picked me up after rehearsals. It was two months before I discovered my key to the trunk was missing and Mom had hidden Christmas in the trunk. I thought, If I could get her key ... But I couldn't. And then I thought that she couldn't possibly get into the house with the packages without my seeing or hearing her, but she did.
Now that she is older and doesn't shop by herself , I thought that surprises at Christmas were over. They're not. She tells me where to take her and goes into the shop by herself and gets things wrapped so I can't open them. The surprise, anticipation, excitement, and wonder of Christmas continues because of someone who loves me just as God loves the world and gave us his best surprise.
Dear God, What would Christmas be without surprises? In Jesus' name. Amen.
Saturday, December 23, 1995 (Janet Tharpe)
ADVENT THREE: JOY
VISITATION OF THE POWER RANGERS
Last year at Christmas, I visited my sister and her family in Germany. While there, we took a trip through Bavaria and stopped to see the magnificent cathedral in Ottobearer. In a room off of one of the side chapels there was an expansive Nativity scene. The town and countryside around Bethlehem had been re-created to depict that busy city 2,000 years ago. (The cathedral also had a gift shop for pilgrims and tourists.)
When we were settled back into our places in the car after our stop, my ten-year old nephew, Bucky, showed me his purchase from the church's gift shop. It was a small figure of the Baby Jesus, one of those arms-outstretched models. He explained he was going to collect figures for his own Nativity. Ottobearer's Nativity and Bucky's own love for "action figures" and had obviously combined and inspired his imagination.
It was later in the day, as we drove into the Alps through a light snow fall, that I heard Bucky beside me, talking softly as he played out a drama in a world of pretend. He supplied a different voice for each of the Power Rangers he had brought along to play with in the car. They were looking for the Baby Jesus. They wanted to give Him a report of their activities and get further orders from Him.
The Rangers found the Baby Jesus and the highlight of my day was to witness the Baby Jesus giving each Ranger a "high five" in greeting.
God of Imagination: Help us to use our creative powers wisely to find You and to follow Your "orders" with joy. Amen.
Advent Four: LOVE
Sunday, December 24, 1995 (Bobbie Thomason)
ADVENT FOUR: LOVE
NOT BEING THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL
I Samuel 16:7
In the little Oklahoma Baptist church where I grew up, there was a very important unwritten Christmas pageant rule--if you had dark straight hair and wore glasses, you could not be a Christmas angel. Even though I figured this out pretty early on, each year I held my breath and my heart beat a little faster when the teachers announced the cast. They always started with Mary and Joseph, then at the very end would announce the angels. I would picture myself in the filmy white robes with crepe paper wings and gold tinsel halo. Every year I would wait to be an angel. But true to form, it would always be the girls with golden curls and NO glasses. I would dejectedly take my
place in the chorus.
But miracles can happen, even when you are 50+ years old. A couple years ago I told this sad tale to my Sunday school class. I thought no more about it, but the next Christmas a good friend came over to my house with a big box. I opened it and did a double take, for there was an angel with white lacy clothes and wings AND dark straight pigtails and glasses. The angel has been one of my favorite gifts and has a special place in my house.
A word to wise teachers of children--never stereotype Mary, Joseph, and especially the angels. You might have surprising results.
Dear God, Help us to be sensitive to the feelings of children and not overlook even one of them. Help us remember that we tend to judge by outward appearances, but You judge us by what is in our hearts. Amen.
Monday, December 25, 1995 (Sheryl Sisk)
WILL THE REAL MARY PLEASE STAND UP?
We have a large crèche someone gave us years ago that we use at Christmas. It is porcelain, with all of the traditional people and animals, and some whom we haven't even figured out yet. I like it, except for one person. Mary is kneeling, supposedly next to the child in the manger, her hands crossed on her breast, with a look of dumb adoration on her face.
I want a different Mary. I want a Mary who is holding that new baby in her arms. I want a Mary who is proud and happy, hardly able to believe this little miracle of life.
I want a Mary who counts fingers and toes, and can't believe how tiny they are. And handles the new baby with some anxiety, lest he should break.
I want a Mary whose heart is full of love and wonder, whose eyes fin when she thinks how good God has been, how gracious to give this baby. A Mary who meets Joseph's eyes and shares her deepest feelings with him.
I want a Mary who is as human as the baby Jesus, who does the things a new mother does and feels all the things a new mother feels. This Christmas I want a Mary who reminds me that every child is a precious gift from God.
Dear God, Help us remember that Joseph and Mary were real people with real human emotions just like ours. In Jesus' name. Amen.
-- Sheryl Sisk
Tuesday, December 26, 1995 (Cate McCall)
I WONDER IF THERE WERE SHEPHERD GIRLS
You always hear about shepherd boys in the Christmas Story. I wonder if there were shepherd girls. And if there were, I wonder what they thought about Jesus....
Who is this baby? Why do people call Him the Son of God?
Was he supposed to be famous or something?
And why are people coming from so far to see him?
How did they know? How did everyone find Jesus?
If he is so special, why was he born in a stable?
What do his parents think about this? Did he have any brothers or sisters?
What would they say about this commotion?
How can a baby get so much attention?
What would Jesus be like?
Would he laugh and play? Would he go to school?
Would I like him? Would he like me?
What would he do when he's older? Would he tend sheep like me?
Would I ever meet this Jesus?
Would he be my friend?
If he is the Son of God, where would he live?
What would he do when he was grown up?
Would he be famous? Would he help people?
Would he ever help me?
What would he do if he was in trouble?
Could I help him?
God, it is strange to sit here at my computer on a hot summer day and think about a shepherd girl who lived so many years ago. Isn't it strange that we share the same questions?
Wednesday, December 27, 1995 (Rick Forest)
WHAT'S WANTED, WHAT'S NEEDED
Imagine his surprise! Simeon had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. The day finally came and the Spirit moved him to
go to the Temple. What should he find when he arrives but a man, his young wife, and a baby. Not the conquering hero that Simeon may have expected, as most did in that day, but a weak, helpless baby. But when he took the baby in his arms, everything became clear.
How often, when answering our prayer, does God give us what we really need instead of what we want. When Simeon picked up the baby Jesus he saw the salvation that had come for all people, not just for Israel. A conquering Messiah who would free the Jews from the yoke of Roman oppression would have been the immediate solution and what they wanted. Given the circumstances that would be understandable. But Simeon now saw beyond that to know that what they needed was a Messiah who would solve the larger problem of their reconciliation with God.
If we watch carefully, we can see this happening all around us. God is working with us, caring for us, giving us what we need and sometimes even what we want. If we pay attention, we can see that grace abounds in ways we could not have dreamed. It's there in the most unexpected and unusual places; even in the cry of a baby.
Lord, Give us ears to hear and eyes to see what You're doing all around us. Give us
hearts to feel Your unexpected call and give us grace to respond to that call with love and gratitude even when we don't understand. Amen.
Thursday, December 28, 1995 (Wesley Stewart)
THE SON OF GOD-HELPLESS, NEEDY
AND ONE OF THE LEAST-COMES
When will the Son of God come? How shall he be recognized? He will be very demanding, expecting us to meet his every need. For he will arrive helpless and weak and vulnerable. Will we welcome such an Anointed One?
When he is thirsty, we will be the ones who must provide something to quench his thirst. When he is hungry, we will be required to give him something to eat. He will depend on us for clothing and shelter. He will wet his diapers, cry, keep us up day and night attending to his needs. He will be a stranger in this world.
Since he will be unable to understand our language and ways, we must teach him. His education will be our responsibility. We will be obliged to protect him from harm and violence. We are to stand by him when he suffers. When corrupt political powers imprison him, torture him, and convict him of a crime punishable by death, it will be necessary for us to visit him in prison, protest his mistreatment, and seek his release. Some of us will be obliged to endure social and economic oppression for his sake.
Are we prepared to welcome the Son of God with warm smiles, extended hands, and open hearts? Will we recognize the Son of God when he is here? Not always. For "the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you. . .'?"
"Happy are those who do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!"
Come, Lord Jesus, come. O Son of God, help us to be ready for Your coming. Help us discover the joy of welcoming You whenever You come. Amen.
-- Wesley Stewart
Friday, December 29, 1995 (Bill Thomason)
THE FACE OF JESUS
"He had a face .... Whoever he was or was not, . . .he was a man once . . . and he had a man's face," Frederick Buechner writes.
What did Jesus look like? We've all played that game before. Was he tall? Was he short? Dark-skinned? Dark-eyed? We can be certain--as certain as it's possible to be--that he did not have fair skin and blue eyes. He did not look like Robert Redford.
Who did he took like?
What did he look like when he was born? Could we have told, right away, that he was different, special, that one day this babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger would change the world? We can be certain--as certain as it's possible to be-- that there was no halo around his head, and we can be certain that Mary's labor pains were real.
Isn't it curious that the New Testament nowhere tells us a single thing about the way Jesus looked. Yet, as Buechner says, the "New Testament itself is what he looked like, and we read his face there in the faces of all the ones he touched or failed to [touch]."
If the face of Jesus is in the faces of all he touched, then we see the face of Jesus every time we see another human being in need, including every time we look in the mirror.
Dear God, Help us become servants to the "least of these," because that is the surest way for us to see Your face. In Jesus' name. Amen.
-- Bill Thomason
Saturday, December 30, 1995 (Jackie Pendergraph)
WHAT'S YOUR TASK?
I grew up in a family with six brothers. All of my brothers were very protective of me. I was given very few difficult chores. However, as in all large families, each of us was assigned certain responsibilities. It was my job to water aft the potted plants in the house and on the porches. As I got older, I was assigned additional tasks like dusting the furniture and gathering the eggs in the evening. The chore I disliked the most (and still do) was polishing the silver. Nevertheless, I was taught that doing a task well developed character.
As I read the Gospel of Luke, I realize that Jesus was sent to this earth to do a task. His task was to show the way of salvation to all mankind. God sent his Son Jesus to earth to show all men, women, and children every where how to love, how to be kind, and to make clear that service is strength.
So what is you task and my task today? To show love, compassion, and to demonstrate that service is strength. We all will be much the stronger. Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
Dear God, May each of us find the time, strength, and courage to help someone this Christmas. In Jesus' name. Amen.
-- Jackie Pendergraph
Sunday, December 31, 1995 (Bill Mowery)
AND THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE
I Corinthians 13:13
Robert Fulghum made a fortune on his book All I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten, so maybe I should write a book entitled All I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned at My Mother's Knee. I don't need a fortune, however, because Mother gave me more than a fortune when she taught me about Jesus.
Mother loved to sing and often sang Gospel songs around the house or would sit at
the piano and sing song after song from the hymnal. She taught my sister and me
many lasting truths from these songs, such as this song of thanks:
"Can a little child like me thank the Father fittingly?
Yes, oh yes! Be good and true; faithful, kind in all you do.
Learn to share and do your part, learn to say with a your heart,
'Father, we thank Thee, Father we thank Thee, Father in heaven,
we thank Thee."'
Our bed-time was normally preceded by a Bible story and prayers. But mother and Dad also knelt beside their bed to thank God for the blessing of the day and to express their requests to Him. Over-hearing them pray, including petitions for our guidance, greatly influenced me for good.
Mother taught us that God and Jesus loved us and that we needed to express our love for Him in our daily lives, as expressed in this song:
I'm just a little helper for Jesus every day;
Doing deeds of kindness all along life's way.
For Him I will work, my duty I will not shirk.
I'm just a little helper for Jesus.
Robert Fulghum could lose his fortune, but I still have mine--Jesus is with me day and night.
Dear God, Thank You for Your great love for us and for giving us loving parents as well as Your loving Son. Amen.
Monday, January 1, 1996 (Jo Vaughn)
DADDY'S GREATEST GIFT
Joy: Warren M. White and Christmas--that's joy! My Daddy really knew how to celebrate Christmas. It was his job to find our Christmas tree. Happily he set out and would soon return with some scraggly cedar from the "woods" (we were never sure whose woods).
But the most joyful time for us all was the opening of Daddy's special gift on Christmas morning--a gift he had selected with care, wrapped an carefully placed under the tree on Christmas Eve, with a little song and dance routine, singing "And a little gift for Warren." The tag read "To Daddy from Daddy." No one but he knew its contents. Sometimes it was a practical gift like a tool, sometimes a frivolous one like a box of golf balls (Daddy was not a golfer) or maybe just some book he had wanted. But the surprise gift was always there.
I've often thought about this tradition and appreciated my Daddy for the fun and joy it brought our family. Maybe it was from this example I learned early in my life that nurturing oneself is important. I learned from my Daddy to value and honor myself occasionally with a little gift. Jesus nurtured himself when he withdrew from the crowds and went up into the mountains to pray. Over the years I've seen my Daddy do likewise. In these days of "parent bashing" and finding so many things wrong with our parents, this Advent season I want to thank God for Warren M. White and his gift to me of his nurturing example.
I'm glad Daddy now has his own "woods to cut his scraggly Christmas tree." It's a relief to know our 82 year old Baptist preacher father will not get arrested for Christmas tree theft.
Help us to love and nurture ourselves as we should. Amen.
-- Jo Vaughn
Tuesday, January 2, 1996 (Dorothy Cannan Hyde)
"A GOOD JOB"
Jenny and I have never had any kind of medical training. Yet there we were, responsible for our father's physical care, since we had chosen to let him die at home surrounded by family and loved ones. Mother had cared for him so tenderly all those years. Now, she was willing for us to take over.
We weren't professionals, but we did the best we could. Jenny became dad's nurse and took care of his medical needs. My job was to feed him ice chips as long as he could swallow. One afternoon shortly before he died, I announced to him, "Dad, it's me, Dottie, the ice chip girl. You know Jenny and I are having to guess what you need but we are doing the very best we can." His once strong hands barely squeezed my fingers as he tried to speak to me. I put my ear down to his lips and heard him whisper clearly, "Good job, good job."
The last words he ever spoke to us! In that sacred moment, we felt the presence of God speak through our dad. Dad couldn't say, "Well done, thou good and faithful daughters," but we felt the same sense of blessing with the simple words, "Good job." Without knowing it, dad gave us a present that day to last a lifetime. That first Christmas, without him was made more bearable by his enduring message to us, "Good job, good job."
God, Help us to be good and faithful sons and daughters in our family and our community. May we hear Your enduring affirmation of us as if we never received it from our own parents. When we come to the end of our lives, can we look back and say to ourselves, "Good job, good job? " Amen.
-- Dorothy Cannan Hyde
Wednesday, January 3, 1996 (Emily Mulloy)
I Corinthians 16:14
It was winter of 1993, and Christmas was in the air. December never fails to be one of my favorite times of the year. The adrenaline kicks in and a magical feeling surrounds me. But aside from the adrenaline and magic, I also felt an emptiness that year. Just a few months earlier, in September, my grandfather had died.
Grandpa was a wonderful, kind man, and I didn't truly realize the impact his absence would have on Christmas until one Saturday, when, for some unknown reason, I decided to watch old home videos. I flicked on the VCR and watched the scene unfold before my eyes ....
It was Christmas of 1991, and my mother's entire family (how we ever managed to get all 19 of us there is beyond me) had gathered at our grandparent's house for our annual Christmas Eve party. I had never been more excited about opening presents in my life. This year I had worked extra hard to prepare a gift for my grandpa. Somehow my family managed to migrate to the basement, and the ceremony began.
I waited until the right moment, and then approached my grandfather shyly. He looked at me with utter surprise, then delight when I handed him the package. He carefully undid the paper to reveal the homemade gift, and his face lit up with joy. His loving, strong arms enveloped me in a hug and he told me how much he loved me. I was filled with a warm feeling then, that I still feel today whenever I think back to that Christmas.
Although the void he left in my life is big, the memories he gave me are even bigger. I will never, ever forget my Grandpa.
Dear God, thank you for Grandpas whose faces light up with joy when they see us. Thank you for their strong, loving hugs that help us feel warm and safe.
Thursday, January 4, 1996 (Peggy Schmidt)
THE YEAR MY FATHER SANG
Growing up with a minister as a father, one of the consequences was never sitting side by side, start to finish, and sharing an entire worship service with him. Hence, I remember very distinctly, the exception. It was the Christmas season several years before his death, when just as he and I went to church for one of the performances of the Living Christmas Tree.
Seated halfway back, on the right-hand side of the church (a long way from our usual "family pew") we enjoyed a worship experience where he had no responsibilities to "minister." As the choir finished, the congregation stood to join them in one final carol.
I stood, and moved by the season, sang out, enveloped in my own thoughts. Then, I was aware of the man on my right--the man, who in all my 30 years, I had never heard sing--also singing!
They say your body remembers what your mind forgets. Each advent, as I join in singing the carols of the season, I find my throat tightening. It always brings a smile . . . as I remember ... the year my father sang!
May the memories of Christmas past bring both the smile and tear of peace.
Friday, January 5, 1996 (Mary Ann Bootes)
Christmas is love's encounter with humankind--it is anticipation and families and remembering.
My Daddy more than any other taught me love's lessons. A giant of a man, Daddy was a professional baseball player who could knock a fast ball to Kingdom Come. But he was also a man of humor and gentleness, who delighted his daughter with stories of Indians and mountains and magical people.
One Christmas Daddy told me that on our farm was a special tree that Santa Claus visited on his return to the North Pole. He would leave goodies for me. We made our way through the woods to the spot where the Santa Claus tree stood, and sure
enough, there were oranges, apples, and candy--Amazing!!!
Our social life was limited in the rural South. We went to town on Saturday, to
church on Sunday, and to the state fair in the Fall. Once I had a chance to go to the fair a second time, but Momma said, "No!" Memphis was far away, we didn't have the extra money, I had already been once, and besides there was the ironing she had asked me to do. Daddy said he would take care of Momma. He slipped me a few dollars and gave me his blessing. The next morning there were the consequences to face, as well as the ironing. But there in the laundry basket were the clothes, folded and wrinkled beyond recognition--but ironed for me by Daddy. It would have to be done over, of course--but to me it was a dear gift of love.
I remember my Father.
Dear God, Christmas heightens our awareness of those who have shaped our lives, enhances our gifts of the Spirit, and focuses us on the center of love renewed. Thank You for love's encounter with us. Amen.
-- Mary Ann Bootes
Saturday, January 6, 1996 (Beth Ryan)
FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY
Dark cold winter. Bleak frozen landscapes. I dislike winter days and especially despise winter nights, burrowing into my bed at sundown like a bear in serious hibernation. Nevertheless this past winter, I was awakened in the pre-dawn hours one January night by a compelling light which played on my face and tugged at my eyelids, gently persisting until my eyes opened.
Emanating from the large double window across from the foot of my bed were long gleaming streamers of pure white light. These mysterious streamers flowed between the cracks of the mini-blinds, forming an arc of light radiating from a central source somewhere beyond my window and landing directly on my face. I blinked rapidly to clear my eyes thinking my vision had blurred, yet the light gleams grew stronger, shimmering, dancing, playfully touching my face and bedcovers. I shook my head and pinched my arm, but it was no dream.
I got up and followed the gleams to the window where I knelt on the cushions of the window seat and separated the blinds to see outside. The gleams trailed upward through the jagged branches of my leafless maple tree, into the somber night sky, to meet their source--a huge, low-hanging full moon. I stared into the night sky for a long while. The frozen ground beneath me, the pattern of black limbs, and the luminous moon with its radiant streaks filled me with. . . holy solemnity.
Many years ago in the pre-dawn hours of a bleak winter night a child was born--a mystical time when love radiated from its source, shining through tent openings and slitted windows of thick-walled dwellings, seeking people, love's recipients.
May we this Christmas be followers of stars and sunbeams, awakened by winter moonbeams. May we never hesitate to move toward the light . . . our source. . . our Savior . . . our song. Amen.
-- Beth Ryan
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Advent 95 © 1995 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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