First Week Meditations...HOPE
Second Week Meditations...PEACE
Third Week Meditations...JOY
Fourth Week Meditations...LOVE
Although I have contributed to advent booklets in previous years, this year did not seem to be "right" for a meditation. I pondered the possibilities, but nothing seemed to stir my mind toward writing. In late September, however, a series of events caused me to remember again that God is a promise-fulfilling God. God's promises are bound up in God's very nature, so the promises come to us on the authority of God.
The most meaningful promises are those which speak to us in the midst of life, bringing us the awareness of God's healing presence in sorrow and grief. Following the end of my ministry to the Southern Seminary Community at the Seminary library, God's promises became alive for me in a new way. A Chinese Christian read Matthew 28:19-20 and became very excited because the promise was directed to him by his name: Lo. The passage specifically says: "Lo, I am with you." Even though our names are not actually in the text, God calls each one of us by name, and this is what the Promise of Advent is all about.
For your promises, O God, we are grateful; especially the fulfilled promise of a Savior who is ever present. Amen.
Paul M. Debusman
Make a Christmas list and a gift budget
remember:John David Hopper (Retired, Czech Republic (CBF)
They were cousins caught up together
In the consummation of a covenant
Elizabeth, the elder
Her spouse struck silent,
And Mary, merely a maiden
Engaged to a country carpenter.
Each woman consented to carry
Within her own womb a wonder,
The miracle and mystery
Of a holy baby boy who was
Announced and named by an angel
John and Jesus
One a prophet, the other the Promised One
Crescent Hill Writer's Support Group
Share some homemade goodies with a friend or, better yet, a stranger
remember: Dan Crawley, Ghana (SBC)
This summer brought the anxiety and anticipation of our second child's birth. With the joy and excitement of preparation came the fear of labor pains. Pregnant women worry about whether everything will be ready physically, mentally, and emotionally when the baby comes.
On August 7th labor began and a midwife assisted the delivery. Visual aids, mental imagery and a cold hand in mine were all that took me though the delivery. That evening an overwhelming gratitude flooded me as I held our baby girl and reflected on the day's experience. My thoughts drifted to Mary and the baby Jesus. We both knew the same anxieties, pain and joy, the fear and the sense of having no control, followed by the overwhelming peace when the baby was healthy.
We don't know the details of Jesus' actual delivery. Mary hoped for everything to turn out well. We do know that she traveled through anticipation, pain of delivery, and peace of fulfillment.
Lord we continue to ask for faith in your fulfillment of promises, through seasons of fear, feeling out of control and overwhelmed. As in labor, we struggle through, eyes focused, awaiting the peace. Amen.
Erin McGee Ferrel
Enjoy an hour of Christmas music by candlelight
Remember: Ann Henry Clemmons, Zaire (ABC)
"Hope, Mama, hope!" It was Advent and Emma was almost two: busy trying to assert her independence, refusing offers of assistance, not quite capable of doing all she wanted to do. I would go about my business and patiently watch as she tried to put on her socks or pour her cereal or whatever task she had decided she should be able to accomplish on her own. And I would wait for the inevitable cry for help – "Hope, Mama, hope me!"
From our earliest days we long for our independence; we strive for it. We do it as individuals; the Israelites did it as a nation. Time after time, forgetting who they were, the Israelites turned away from God. They said in effect, "We don't need you, God, we can do it ourselves." Then when things would go wrong, they would call out to God for help. Finally they were forced into exile where the message of the prophets was that the people must learn not just to cry for help but to hope in their God.
Unlike our own children whom we help to move toward independence, as God's children we should strive for further dependence on God. That is where we find our true selves and our true security. When we cry "hope, God, hope," God reaches toward us, not just with help for the moment, but with hope for now and all eternity.
"O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Be Thou our guard while life shall last, And our eternal home." Thank you, God, for the gift of hope found in Jesus. Amen.
Gaye Tyner Rountree
Pray for foster parents and send a note of encouragement
Remember: Buddy Debright (Mexico--SBC)
The last three years have been the darkest, hardest years I've known. No great tragedy, catastrophe, or cataclysm. Just a struggle with issues which resist resolution.
And there have been disappointments: personal relationships, professional decisions that seemed right but were wrong.
Such darkness and difficulty are not new. I knew them when I was ten. The difference is they never took up residence before. Now they seem like permanent house guests.
One of my jobs when I was ten was taking out the garbage—this in the days before Glad Bags and garbage disposals—a smelly, distasteful task. I remembered that onerous job late one night, when in a particularly dark mood. As I turned the corner of our house heading west toward the garbage cans with the garbage sacks in hand, I looked up and saw the planet Venus, brilliant like a diamond, a pure white light, serene, calm, indifferent to my unhappiness.
My unhappiness evaporated. For a time, there was no time. I stood there in awe. This was my first experience of Beauty and (now I know) of Grace. As I write these words in late October, 1997, Venus is the Evening Star. It will be gone by the time you read these words. Venus is always there, though we cannot always see it.
God promises us Grace that will always be there and will always be sufficient, though we may not always feel it. The Evening Star has reminded me of Grace.
Dear God, Help us trust your bright Grace even in the dark times. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Do a random act of kindness
Remember: Elizabeth Richards (Asia--CBF)
What was that hardy, little ladybug doing on my window that cold, drizzly day in late October? She kept flying away to do whatever ladybugs do in the rain and then returning to peer at me (or so I imagined) as I kept warm and dry in my rocking chair with hot chocolate and an afghan. I finally quit counting her return trips but continued to wonder about her "mission." I usually associate ladybugs with warming Spring rather than chilly Autumn. That's it! She's a cheery promise of Spring! I had also just planted crocus bulbs...another promise, a rainbow-hued promise of Spring. Those promises are important ones in the midst of Louisville winters. I long for light in the sky instead of the dull, gray which seems to envelop us. So, I'll hold on to memories of ladybugs and crocus bulbs...promises of new life and light to come.
As important as those promises may seem in winter, the Promise for all the seasons of our lives is the One we celebrate during Advent. You remember...and the Lord himself will give you a sign. And He will be called Immanuel...a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord...for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whomever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life...I am the light of the world...Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest...I am the resurrection and life. He who believes in me will live...Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you...And I will as the Father and he will give you another Comforter.
These are the promises we can hold on to...winter, spring, summer or fall.
We are grateful, Lord, for the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives. Thank you for the promise of light and new life and comfort that Jesus offers each of us. May we, in turn, be reminders to others of your promises. Amen.
Invite a friend or stranger to share a meal with your family
Remember: Calvin Winters (Scandanavia--SBC)
My favorite Old Testament scholar and good friend, J. J. Owens, contends that Isaiah 53 actually begins with verse 13 of Chapter 52: "Behold my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up. I can picture an old Rabbi intoning words of comfort for a weary people hungry for some good news. They had endured much and the hope for a Messiah was a mainstay of their lives. Could he have been trying to tell them the savior might not be exactly the kind of powerful leader they were imagining?
When I was young I always wanted something to look forward to. I became so oriented toward deferred gratification that I was essentially existing for the future and not fully living in, or appreciating, the now. As you can imagine, I set myself up for disappointment time after time. Even Christmas was sometimes spoiled because all the happiness I expected to feel when the big day came just wasn't there. I'm reminded of a cartoon of a little boy sitting amid piles of boxes, wrappings, and toys asking, "Is that all there is?"
As I grew older I learned that few things ever turn out as expected. They may be much better, sometimes much worse, but most always very different from what we imagine.
Jesus was not what the people expected. Many never forgave Him for that. Others understood, partially at least, what He was about and did not find Him lacking. In order to keep the real meaning of Christmas this holiday season, I plan to say each day:
Oh God, help me to avoid as much as possible the intrusive commercial aspects of this blessed time. Help me to celebrate Christ's birth and life by following His example throughout this day and the days to come, for it is in His name I pray. Amen.
Make a list of your blessings and give thanks for them
Remember: Sam Simpson (New York City--SBC)
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Recently I was in a beautiful old Louisville home on Cherokee Road. The owners had completely "done over" the old kitchen and installed an "all white" modern one with everything one could possibly want for cooking and entertaining. My thoughts were "This is truly the most heavenly kitchen I have ever experienced."
However, when I think of a "truly heavenly kitchen" it is always the one my grandmother had. For it created such heavenly food. It was a very large room with two stoves--the big old black wood-burning stove and a more modern gas stove standing side by side
The magic that was created in this big old kitchen will forever remain in my memory. Loaves of bread were baked twice a week, big sugar cookies, fresh coconut layer cakes and my favorite jam cake with Grandmother's own "tuttie-fruity" icing. Grandmother never needed a cook book it seemed, and her recipes never failed.
Christmas cooking began two weeks ahead of the big day. First the pull candy and the children could each have a small bit to pull . The stuffed dates rolled in sugar, divinity cream candy and chocolate fudge. The country ham was baked ahead of time to free the oven for baking the turkey Christmas Day. When that day arrived there were at least 20 mouths to feed--sometimes more--the men and children ate at the first table and grandmother and her five daughters made up the "second feeding."
Truly this gathering with all the love we experienced was "heaven on earth" as we celebrated the birth of the Christ Child.
Thank you God for Grandmother's heavenly kitchen. Amen.
Make some Christmas Goodies
Remember: Miriam Nunez (Peru--SBC)
Even as the word "cancer" struck a horrifying blow to our household in the fall of 1996, Bob and I decided to put up the big flocked Christmas tree and do it early in December. The tree would be there all aglow when Bob returned home from the hospital. He was scheduled for colon cancer surgery on December 1, but two hours into the procedure the exploratory turned up quite a malignant mass in the liver.
After eight days recuperation, Bob returned to face a "shadow of death" type Christmas season. But we were given hope that chemotherapy would probably contain the cancer for a while.
So there were many highs and lows during that Christmas month, but on the 29th of December, I invited friends in for ice cream cake to celebrate Bob's 79th birthday. It was a good evening in the beauty of the Christmas decoration and the gladness of friends to see the sparkle in our eyes even though a tear was hard to hold back.
You know the rest of the story—months of chemotherapy, times of remission, three hospitalizations, three and a half final weeks languishing in a nursing home, and then on October 5, the end. But I have some special memories of last Christmas which I will cherish.
So I plan to put up the big tree again this year even though I will be out of town with my daughter's family for 5 days. And on the 29th I may decide to have a party to celebrate Bob's 80th birthday in his heavenly home.
Dear Lord, we thank you for dear and blessed memories of those who have departed from us. Let us call it a temporary separation, and give us peace as we move into the season of hope, peace, joy and love. Amen.
Write an Advent meditation for next year's book
Remember: Frances J. Crane (Dominican Republic--ABC)
What would the Virgin Mary have thought if she had not only felt the babe leap in her womb but seen the joyful Jesus on a computer screen? Of course, her miraculous pregnancy would probably have been classified "an act of God" by the insurance provider who would thus refuse to pay for an ultrasound. Mary had received the promise of God that she would deliver a healthy baby boy and that may have been sufficient cause for peace and reassurance. I rather suspect, though, that Mary sat on pins and needles like most first-time mothers, wondering what to expect and hoping for the best.
Recently, my wife, Michelle, and I had our first glimpse of the twenty-week old fetus that is our first child. Amazingly, through the ripples and waves, we began to distinguish a tiny human being whom we have already begun to cherish. It is a powerful and moving experience to observe the beating heart, the fragile limbs, the graceful spine, and the impressions of a doll-like face, and it brings a sense of reality to the pregnancy—evidence that the promise of new life is true. One almost feels privileged for a few moments to share the vision of God, from whom "my frame was not hidden...when I was being made in secret.." (Psalm 139:15)
In those times when all seems well and in those times when the world seems to crumble, the glimpses we have had of God's love are to be treasured.
Thank you, O God, for the glimpses you give us that build our faith in your promise. Amen.
Gift yourself with an hour nap
Remember: Debbie S. Steele (Slovenia--SBC)
In the everyday living of life, probably most things are routine...routine in the sense of the necessary chores that keep our lives running smoothly. Then suddenly, or so it seems, the smoothness develops into a rat race. A non-stop hustle bustle of events: grocery shopping, Christmas shopping and baking, extra school activities, illness and/or grieving a loved one who has died. The list could go on and on.
In my work as a nurse in a psychiatric unit, I've met a lot of people who are seeking peace out of chaos. "Josh" was one such person. He came to us very disturbed by internal struggles. He was in and out of the hospital, worked with several doctors, and was offered a variety of medications and spiritual/emotional counseling. Some staff felt there was no hope for him. But about a year after his last admission, he returned to our unit to visit another patient. Josh was a completely different person--full of smiles and thanking everybody for their support in helping him find freedom from his struggles—inner peace.
As the world around us becomes chaotic, so can the thoughts and feelings inside us become confused and afraid--leaving us, like Josh, quite vulnerable and easy prey for both the known and unknown.
But in the midst of madness, let us stop and remember the most important one--the One who came to help us find inner peace--The Prince of Peace.
Our Father, we pray for peace. Your peace in the hearts and minds of men, women, and children everywhere. In your name, the Prince of Peace. Amen
Make a contribution to a Salvation Army bell ringer
Remember: Ann Sharpe (Yemen--SBC)
Advent can get me into a real dither. It's not the penitential season of Advent itself, mind you. It's just that it happens to come right before Christmas. Each year, as I sit in my living room, gazing dazed at my tree a few days after Christmas, I have all the good intentions imaginable about how I'll do it differently next year. Next year, I'll start Christmas shopping in October so that I won't feel so stressed out the four weeks before Christmas. Next year, I'll start making holiday treats much earlier. Next year, I'll make sure to have some time for reflection. Next year, I'll have an Advent wreath made by the first Sunday of Advent, not the third. Next year, the family will gather quietly together and take turns reading the Advent mediations aloud. In my dreams!
I view my life as border-line chaotic. Though I constantly endeavor to keep life manageable, I accept the fact that organization is not one of my strong points, especially at this time in life, when each member of my family is involved in different activities, including the dog (scratching) and the cat (swatting ornaments off the tree).
How can one achieve peace in such an atmosphere? In my dazed state I realize that I do, from time to time, in the middle of my chaos, find peace inside myself, even in the last weeks before Christmas, by being there. What I mean is, as I'm frantically hurrying to get some chocolates finished within a ridiculously small amount of time, I can just enjoy working with the chocolate. I can enjoy the warmth of it, the texture of it, the smell of it. By focusing on what I'm doing rather than all that I have to do, there is peace. By being fully present with tasks or with people, there is peace. And who was more fully present that the Prince of Peace?
Fully present God, help me to be mindful and focused today, fully present to my tasks, my fun, my distractions, and to others. Amen.
Laura Lea Duckworth
Look for God's Messengers
Remember: Steve Musen (Philippines--SBC)
It was the third year we were buying our Christmas tree here. Two years ago I met the owner and last year we had invited him to dinner in our home. He was an old man from the mountains of North Carolina who came to Charlotte each December to sell Christmas trees. We became friends and I looked forward to seeing him again.
Last year as I was driving him back to his trailer after dinner with us, he quietly said that he was getting too old to do this and that he was ready to meet his Maker. I remember how simply and peacefully he spoke it, untroubled, unafraid. Then we were back at his trailer. Spurgeon Green was a farmer with huge weathered hands, always dressed in his green work pants and shirt, wearing a red cap. There was an unpolished kindness about him and for some reason we connected as human beings.
As I got out of my car now, a surge of anticipation and excitement pulsed through me. Walking toward the row of trees, a lady greeted me and I asked to see Mr. Green. She paused, lowered her head, and softly said, "Uncle Spurgeon died in February." Stunned, I mumbled a belated sympathy to her and wandered back toward my car. As I drove away I recalled his words of last Christmas. And in my heart of hearts I knew he had died into his wish to meet his Maker. Then the peace of his words of last Christmas became my peace now, knowing he was with the Prince of peace. And each Christmas since 1981, I think of Spurgeon Green and celebrate in a more informed way the coming of the Prince of peace. Thanks be to God.
Thank you, O God, for coming to us in the Prince of Peace and that one day we may come home to you, our Prince of peace, untroubled and unafraid. Amen.
William M. Johnson
Invite someone to help decorate your tree
Remember: Leslie S. Williams (Nigeria, retired--SBC)
I have been rushing, it seems, forever. Rushing to school, to work, to the grocery, to children's practices and games, to kids' parties, to adult's parties (sometimes), to meetings and, even, to church. And then I rush home. But at Christmas I think of the Holy Family. I have always had the impression that Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus never rushed. They hurried, of course. Jesus, like many babies, had his time of arrival planned, but didn't clue in Mom and Dad. And even the flight into Egypt was, well, a serene sounding flight—not a scramble, dash or charge.
I guess that is why God has inspired so many composers to write lullabies for Christmas carols. Even in older, simpler times, quieting songs were needed by people consumed by the "rush" of completing the harvest and preparing for winter.
The beautiful melodies of Christmas lullabies quiet even my rushing. God quiets all our hearts to prepare us for the celebration of His promised arrival. Listen with me to these beautiful, peaceful words: "all is calm, all is bright" "Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie...deep and dreamless sleep...silent stars go by" "What child is this...on Mary's lap is sleeping" "The little lord Jesus asleep on the hay" "Let all mortal flesh keep silence".
Lord, help us this Advent to sing your inspired lullabies and slow down the rush of our lives. Prepare our hearts for the joyous anthems of Your promise fulfilled on Christmas Day. Amen.
Constance Eddens Boyer
Take a walk and enjoy the Christmas lights
Remember: Tom Cleary (Poland--CBF)
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When I think of God's promise of JOY, I can't help but think of laughter. There is just nothing like a good laugh. When was the last time you had a good laugh? I think of the prototype of a good laugh in the story of Abraham and Sarah. If you will reminisce with me....God promised Abraham and Sarah a son as a part of a covenant between God and Abraham. Surely this was not possible! I mean, Abraham and Sarah were 100 and 90 years old respectively. Can you imagine the laugh that they had over this? But this was not a laughter of joy; instead, it was a laughter of disbelief as the Hebrew word so interprets. The Genesis story unfolds to tell us that God delivered God's promise. Abraham and Sarah had a child, Isaac, meaning "he laughs"...this time of JOY!
I wonder how many times our laughter of disbelief of God's working in our own lives has ironically turned to laughter of joy? God makes us promises: providing for our needs if we trust, using us in the advancement of God's kingdom if we are willing. God promises, but we must believe and participate. When we do these things, watch out for much laughter of joy!
Take a few moments to read the passages above to be reminded of the amazing works of God in the lives of Abraham and Sarah. After reading, take time to reflect upon the times of JOY God has fulfilled in your own life.
O God of Joy, help me to see your desire to work in my life; to recognize your promises; to believe and participate. Thank you for your love. Thank you for laughter. Thank you for the peace that results from the presence of joy. Amen.
Take an elderly person who cannot drive Christmas shopping
Remember: Gerald McNeely (Retired, Spain--SBC)
There she was! I was walking along my favorite route at Sacred Heart campus thinking about how my current class of eager and energetic first graders were shaping up. When I turned the corner I noticed a group of 6 and 7 year olds out in the field having their football practice. There in the middle of them all was a little girl wearing pink leotards, a lacy tutu, sneakers, and her dark green football helmet, kicking that football with all of her might. Surely this was a Kodak moment, but unfortunately no camera was in sight.
It was a joyful and unexpected event—I laughed right out loud at the incongruity and beauty of it all. Many thoughts came to mind—among them that this little girl will not be stopped by anything. She intends to do it all. God will not be stopped by anything either, especially by forms and expectations and rules. I am reminded of just a few of God's unexpected promises—become as a little child if you want to enter the kingdom of heaven, blessed are the hungry for they shall be filled, the first shall be last and the last shall be first, let anyone who would be great among you be the servant of all.
I finished my walk with a smile on my face and plenty to think about. Why not pink tights and a football helmet? Why not God's incongruous promises? Why not, indeed?
God of Joy, keep our hearts and minds open to your glad surprising. Amen.
Meditate upon the words of "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
Remember: Roger Capps (Bulgaria--SBC)
"We celebrate Christmas and Jesus."
"We do an Advent wreath. I can blow out the candles. The candles reminds of Jesus."
"I have a Manger scene in my room. I pick up the donkey first, then the child, then the sheep. After I play with them I put them back in the right spot. Some in the back and some in the front."
"I help decorate the tree with Charlie Brown ornaments."
"The song Baby Jesus in a Manger."
"Ornaments for Hanging of the Greens."
"Making Christmas cookies with Mom--Gingerbread cookies."
"It's Jesus birthday—we should sing Happy Birthday but I like to sing Little Gray Donkey."
Lord, thank you for all the joys and pleasures of Advent and Christmas. Amen.
The Class of 2010
Enjoy a quiet game or reading with your family
Remember: Ira Winstead (China--CBF)
December 25, 1996 was a day I will never forget. Having been invited "to the farm" with my dearest friend, we watched the family, complete with food and gifts, begin arriving around 4 p.m. on the 24th. Each was greeted with a hug, given by a woman with a festive apron, who smelled as good as all she was baking. To those who grew up at the farm, and to those invited to celebrate there, she is affectionately known as "the Woman who makes the rules."
The presents stacked in the living room, and those under the tree could be peeked at, but that was all. By noon on Christmas Day, 29 relatives and me were assembled, the meal was prepared and a large happy circle of family held hands in a prayer of thanks.
Photos of accomplishments, stories of feats and fun, plans for the future, and lots of philosophizing filled the afternoon. There were games for the kids, and games for the adults. There were family pictures to be made and stories to be told. And there was laughter!
Still, not a present had been opened. Looking around I was aware of limited seating space in certain areas, as the packages continued to be unloaded from what had begun to look like a parking lot. Everyone, kids included, continued through the laughter and the fun, more attentive to each other than to a single wrapped gift.
And the presents were fun...but this day was about family. The warmth, the comfort, and the peace that fills your soul, at a depth that is only experienced with family. That was the gift from the "Woman who makes the rules." As it is the gift from the God who created Family.
Lord, thank you for family--whatever shape or size, inherited, chosen or borrowed. Amen.
Share the story of an "Angel" you have known with a friend
Kathy Smith (Albania--CBF)
When I sat down to start thinking about Advent, I didn't think for long about gift giving or shopping or even the Christmas story itself. Instead, I found myself thinking about all of the experiences that make the Christmas spirit seem real to me each year and the memories that came unbidden were memories of the Story translated by artists. And nearly all of those were somehow related to Crescent Hill. So when I think of Advent, I hear voices from Crescent Hill.
Whenever I think of Christmas Eve, I think of hundreds of candles and voices from the darkness, joined in singing Silent Night. And the strong voice and guitar in the lead, of course, belong to Darrell Adams.
Whenever I think of Advent, I think of evergreen decorations and Chrismons and children bringing canned goods. I think of the ritual of the Hanging of the Greens. And whenever I hear the ceremony, I hear Bill Leonard's "voice" in the words he wrote. I hear other voices, too, the voices of all those who have participated over the years: Annie Hammon and Laura Chipe and Rick Forest and Deke Slaton and so many more.
At home, Advent always means two pieces of music, the Christmas sections of Celebrate Life and Messiah. Our recording of Celebrate Life brings me the voices of Crescent Hill in Ragan & Cynthia. The Messiah recording reminds me of the Crescent Hill choir and of Louie Bailey (well, his back, anyway) molding the choir into one voice.
O Holy Night has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs. Since last Christmas, every time I hear it I think of the beautiful tenor voice of Ian Hooper. I think of the little boy he was when we first met him and of the fine young man he has become. That makes me think of that Other Little Boy and of the Fine Young Man he became. And somehow, it is Christmas.
Lord, help us to praise you with all our arts and talents. Amen.
M. Christopher Boyer
Make an ornament for your tree
Remember: Thomas Eason (New Mexico--SBC)
The singing of these words never fail to make me dance again, at least in my memory where I return in time to a familiar immediacy.
It is dark and the lights in the sanctuary have been extinguished. The congregation is hushed and a lone male voice accompanied by guitar is singing the words with a soft intensity that fills the room. I am there once more among friends, all of whom have since moved away. Each beloved face is framed in an individual sphere of gentle candlelight.
We begin to move in two concentric circles, one moves clockwise, one counter-clockwise as we weave in, out, passing one another, two beats at a time. Step-in; step-pause. Step-out; step-pause. And with each pause, we meet and hold, for the briefest of moments, the eyes of the partner we are passing. Those tender and intimate gazes have not faded with time; they are as vivid now passing through my visual memory in succession as when we actually danced together a number of years ago:
"...Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth..." and as the choreography is completed I return to the present, mysteriously connected to each of them anew through these transcendent lines.
Eternal God, make all of our faces shine this Advent season with the light of Your redeeming grace. Amen.
Janet G. Tharpe
Become a Big Sister or Brother to a foster child
Bradley Brown (Liberia--SBC)
Nine year old Bo Bradbury was being raised in Suburbia, USA. Bo had plenty of nice clothes and in-style shoes to wear. He attended a great school, had decent parents, a warm house, and good friends. This Christmas young Bo, whose birthday was also on Christmas, was planning to visit his Uncle Bo, for whom he had been named.
He craved a Robby Robot toy more than anything he had ever wanted before. He had promised his parents he would walk the dog every day for a month without complaining if he found a Robby Robot with his name on it under the tree.
On Christmas Eve the family began the three hour trek to Uncle Bob's. Bo was well aware that the presents were packed in the car. Halfway to Uncle Bo's the car stalled. There were no other cars in sight.
About thirty minutes had passed when Bo's family saw a small man walking slowly near their car. The Bradbury's shouted to him and asked him for help. He reluctantly agreed. The Bradburys learned that his name was Jim. He used to be a mechanic at AAMCO and would be able to fix their car in plenty of time.
While Jim worked on the car, young Bo chatted with him. When Bo asked him what his son wanted for Christmas, Bo was not prepared for the answer. Jim explained that it had been a very hard year for his family and they had decided to skip on bought gifts this year.
About this time, the car engine turned over and they were ready to restart their trip. As they were pulling away from Jim's house, Bo asked his Dad to stop the car and open the trunk. Without a word Bo confidently searched the trunk and found the Robby Robot that could have been his. Bo placed it on Jim's front porch and silently jumped back into the car.
Lord, let us realize like Young Bo that Christmas and birthdays are not about the presents you are getting. Help us to know that it is about the giving, and that unselfish giving to others is the best gift we can give to ourselves. Amen.
Give to Toys for Tots or buy a gift for an Angel Tree child
Remember: Monica Rich (Asia--CBF)
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Everything seemed to be going wrong that day. My mood had moved from bad to worse. The trouble began when I discovered that our water heater had sprung a leak and water was standing in the basement. Naturally, it was on a weekend--the worst possible time to get plumbing fixed. The rest of the day didn't go much better. I was still feeling less than civil when the phone rang.
When I answered the phone, a tender voice on the other end said, "Mom, I just wanted to tell you that I love you!" Those words turned my whole day around. The problems of the day still remained, but my mood surely changed. The unpleasant experiences are more tolerable when someone reassures you with loving words.
The words "I love you," spoken by one who cares about you, can be the most reassuring words in life. A home that is filled with love can survive many crises. Some family members say "I love you" to each other everyday. Others express it in words less often, but they show by their actions that they love each other. Actions, too, are part of love.
God's sending of His Son to earth was God's way of saying "I love you." God loved us enough to send His Son to show us the way to eternal life. He didn't promise we would never face hard days. God promised instead that His love would sustain us, even in the discouraging times. The coming of the baby Jesus symbolized God's love for us.
During this Advent season, let us thank God for showing us He loves us.
Thank you, God, for your gift of Love. Amen.
Mary Frances Owens
Give to the Global Missions Offering
Remember: Katie Dobbs (Florida--CBF)
Isaiah foretold God's Promise
to a forgetful people
walking in deepest darkness: a Son, Immanuel.
And so the ancient Simeon, waiting in the temple,
knew the Babe was the Promise,
a Light for revelation and a Glory to his people,
from Everlasting to Everlasting.
Dorothy Poole Spurr
Turn off all lights but those on the tree and enjoy
Joyce H. Catoe (France--SBC)
The Christmas tree in the office where I work at the Presbyterian Center is decorated in the same way each year: an evergreen (admittedly artificial) in whose branches are intertwined a collection of dolls from around the world. The various skin colors, expressions and costumes appear as a visual rendering of "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world; red, brown, yellow, black and white ...." Gradually, for me, the tree has come to illuminate not only those whom Jesus loves, but also those who love Jesus.
Isaiah's lyrical praise in 52:7-10 concludes with "and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God." What a glorious and unimaginable promise! Despite "the hosts of evil round us," my hope and sense is that this promise is coming true. We live in an amazing time of the burgeoning of God's Spirit, where people from all ends of the earth have come and are coming to love Jesus. No longer is the Church of Jesus Christ majority white and Western. It is now majority brown, yellow, black and Asian, African and Latin American. The churches in countries as diverse as South Korea, India, Ghana, Fiji, Nigeria and South Africa now send more missionaries than they receive. The churches in Brazil, Kenya and the Philippines will soon be doing the same. Ten of the twenty largest congregations in the world are in South Korea. Researchers have estimated the number of Christians in China between 30 and 75 million.
Admittedly millions, if not billions, of people in this world have never heard of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, we live in a time when more persons from all ends of the earth have seen "the salvation of our God." In this season, these ends of the earth join in celebrating the birth of our Savior 2000 years ago. As I see the family of dolls on that Christmas tree, I hear them giving thanks that the promise of Isaiah 52:10 is coming true.
Make us mindful Lord of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world who labor to enable all to see your salvation. Amen.
Re-read Luke's Christmas story around your tree
Remember: Bill Burkhalter (SBC)
Listen for messages from God
Remember: Barton Starr (Hong Kong--SBC)
And so the child is born. The promise is renewed, again, as it has been so many Christmases before and will be next year and the next year and the next....
And perhaps, this day—when the tree has given up its presents, the dinner is over, and the children have settled down to see if they really did want what they thought they wanted--perhaps there will be time to give quiet thanks for the reality of the promise of God in your life.
"And she brought forth her firstborn son..." For Mary, you see, the realization of the angel's promise didn't mean a trouble-free life of quiet blessings. That's what many of us tend to think Christian peace ought to be. In many ways, that's the myth we associate with Christmas.
But as soon as we blow out the candles after singing Silent Night, we know that's not what it actually is, at least in your life and mine. Instead, for me Christmas turns out to be much more as it was for the mother of Jesus--laughter and hope that lead to heartache that lead to hope again when hope is gone.
And so we unwrap our presents, undecorate our trees and put the Christmas trappings away for another year. But if you and I have been watching with the eyes and listening with the ears of faith, then something has been born in us this season which all the troubles of the year ahead cannot extinguish. What Mary had when she pondered in her heart the events of this day. The hope that what God promised so long ago, and birthed among us in Jesus Christ, and brings alive anew in every believer, and reminds us on this day the simple assurance that you and I are loved of God will never die.
Put out food for the wintering birds
Remember: Jan W. Langston (Botswana--SBC)
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Crescent Hill Baptist Church
2800 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
502/896-4425 Fax 502/896-9855