Cross Creek Church Blog

The Silent Man

[Written by Christine Cox]

As I set out our Nativity crèche, I recalled the time when my daughter as a toddler loved to play ‘house’ with our Nativity set. The figurines were so realistic, and, fragile. Only one guess what happened to one of the figurines – there he lay on the floor, shattered. The Nativity scene was so lost, looked so sad, without Joseph.

Joseph is the Silent Man, the stoic man; often under-rated, too often misunderstood, but the faithful guardian of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, protector of his family, and, like the rest of us, a sinner, in need of God’s grace for salvation.

Reflecting on a devotional reading originally from Rev. Gray Bean, PhD, we can learn and grow in virtues that Joseph, a man who spoke no words in Scripture, had exemplified.

Model of faith and compassion: In the angelic dream, Matthew 1, Joseph was troubled that his betrothed Mary was pregnant but being a ‘just man’ he desired to ‘send her away quietly’. However, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” As Joseph immediately follows the command, we see his faith in God’s word and his obedience. We also see how he exemplified gentleness and compassion to Mary, to someone he thought, at first, had betrayed him.

Model of silence and adoration: Matthew 2 relates the visit of the Magi. Though not mentioned here in Scripture, but visible in all our Nativity scenes, we can imagine that Joseph was there in the background, diligently watchful, with awe and wonderment. “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) Joseph would need this time of quietness, for the trials that were to come.

Model of strength and courage: Continuing in Matthew 2, Joseph is commanded by an angel to flee into Egypt for Herod was “about to search for the Child, to destroy Him.” In obedience, Joseph courageously leaves everything behind – everything! – his home, his livelihood, his friends and other relationships to move his family to a foreign land in order to protect them from the diabolical threat. How willing are we to leave everything behind for our Lord? “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Model of fatherhood and daily work:  Though Scripture is somewhat silent on the life of Jesus as a child, we can glean from Scripture, that Joseph was indeed a godly family man with deep love for his Son.
As a godly man, he followed the Law of Moses bringing Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord at the time of His purification. As father and leader of his family, Joseph, provided for his family as a carpenter (Matthew 13, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” and taught his Son the trade of his livelihood. (Mark 6, “Isn’t this the carpenter?”).  His fatherhood and deep love is so visible when Joseph and Mary lost their Son in Jerusalem after the Feast of the Passover when in ‘great distress they went in search for Him.’ Through all this, Jesus, God and King, was submissive to His earthly parents (Luke 2). We too can find dignity in our work and daily tasks, to share our talents, to know and do His will in our lives – “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

And, yes, I still put out the old Nativity set – several of the animals are missing an ear, or a tail, one Magi clearly glued, but with a new and much bigger Joseph … a sweet reminder, a sweet memory.

 

Street-scape, Under Contruction

[Written by Christine Cox]

The ‘street-scape’ outside our office has changed. Where once I saw hills of Hoover, now houses to be homes. For years we saw the open field and wondered when the construction would commence. Plans were on the books, but nothing had been happening. Then one day I saw the ‘tools’ in place: trucks, pipes, and more trucks. It was interesting to observe this change –gradual but yet in another way, it was quick.

For days on end, trucks were going back and forth moving dirt which, from my perspective, I wondered why so long, how could the crew tolerate the monotony of back and forth – looked done to me; but, they saw something I didn’t. Then the precision of building! Everything was done so methodically – the measuring, the laying of a solid foundation, the hammering, the drilling, the brick-laying ‘dance’ – it seemed like a choreographed crew of four bricklayers. Almost in unison, a repetitive motion of scooping up and smoothing out cement on the wall and then with the other hand, laying a brick; a workflow supported by yet another man heaving piles of wet cement onto the bricklayers’ work platform.

Having never built anything, it is quite amazing to witness!

Actually, we all ‘build.’

Like the houses going up across the street, our ‘house’ needs a solid foundation.
Some of us may have been blessed with a foundation of a loving childhood home; others, experienced struggles, turmoil, and setbacks. Unlike the houses, we have an opportunity to correct a misaligned ‘plumb-line of life’ but only if we have Christ in our hearts and truly trust Him. For if our ‘house’ is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20) “we will not be shamed” and our ‘plumb line’ will be righted and healed. (1 Peter 2:6,24).

Just as the houses across the street go up brick by brick laid against the meticulous framework, with some bricks cast aside if defective, ‘our house’ is also laid brick by brick. Each of our life experiences is a brick, a building block. Some experiences cause us to grow like trees planted by streams of water, yielding much love, joy, peace (Ps 1; Galatians 5:22), in both times of happiness and in times of suffering. Yet, some experiences, we simply need to cast aside and remember that Jesus Christ heals all our wounds. (Isaiah 53)

This, however, requires work and cooperation. As I watch the construction crew, each had its particular role, cooperating with each other, not moving ahead or falling behind. We too need to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling…without grumbling” (Philippians 2:12)    In 1 Peter 2, Saint Peter gives the specifics of putting away all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander; abstain from passions of the flesh; keeping honorable conduct, living as servants of God.’ This can only be achieved if we cooperate with God’s fundamental plan for mankind – first, to love Him with all your heart, soul and mind and love others as yourself, so simply said by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:37-39).

I now look forward to the experience of meeting new neighbors across the street, inviting them to God’s house of worship, worshiping Him together every Sunday morning; encouraging them to grow in Truth of His Word, to live out the Gospel in our community and to serve Him by serving one another.

worship and the gospel

Worship and the Gospel Story

[Written by Jeff Koonce]

Do you ever think about why our worship service at Cross Creek is the way that it is? Why do we do the things we do, pray the things we pray, or sing the songs we sing?

Every week we tell the story of the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ was sent to rescue God’s people from sin and death. It’s not enough for us to just tell this story once and move on. We need to hear the narrative of the gospel every single week. Why do we need to be reminded of this all the time? Martin Luther said, “Every sin since the beginning of the world has been unbelief and ignorance of Christ”.

Since it’s our nature to turn away from Christ and back toward ourselves, we forget the story of God’s creation, Adam’s Fall, the redemptive work of Christ and our hope for the restoration of all things by God almost as quickly as we hear it. Every week we tell the story of the gospel again with the goal that our worship service is habit-forming, aiming our hearts and minds toward the right end, Jesus Christ.

To this end, we weave a thread of gospel narrative through our liturgy, the form of our worship – the readings, songs, prayers and other elements –  retelling the gospel story through the theme of a service. In particular, we choose songs for their substance over their style, popularity, or personal preference. As a result, our singing in worship is not a diversion of beautiful sounds between moments of talking but continues the gospel story by engaging our hearts, our minds and even our bodies in worship.

And by hearts, I do mean emotions. I know we, as Presbyterians, sometimes scoff at that word, but emotions are not bad; they are part of our God-given make-up. In his book, The Worship Pastor, Zac Hicks states, “Emotionless worship is just as toxic to our faith as haphazardly emotional worship. We are gut- and heart-based creatures before we are head-based intellectuals.” Our emotions simply need to be directed in the right place at the right time.

In worship, we realign our love and emotions toward God. Historian and theologian Dr. Ashley Null says, “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” Our hearts lead the way and it is through music that we can express a full range of true emotions: joy, grief, sorrow, relief, and thankfulness. The Christian life is not easy, but it is good. We should take our cues from the Psalms, which are full of varied emotions, and, with truth and confidence, worship our Lord with the full range of our hearts.

We start with our hearts and emotions, but we do not end there. Our minds and our intellects are engaged during worship as well. Through their the richness and depth, the hymn texts we sing articulate and teach the gospel from a different perspective. Words combined with music illuminate a new depth of meaning that words alone cannot do while singing focuses our attention and aids in remembering. How many times have you walked out of service whistling the sermon?

Singing also physically engages our bodies in worship. We come to know the story of the gospel, not only by having it articulated verbally and conceptually to us but by participating in it. So it is through song that we share in the life and activity of the church by coming together as one body to lift one voice in prayer and praise to God, our Creator, and Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Singing is praying, and congregational singing is corporate prayer. Augustine is credited with saying “Whoever sings prays twice.” When we don’t know what to pray, we let the words of the songs we sing guide us and teach us to pray.

Therefore, when words alone are not enough to express our awe and wonder over who God is and what he has done sing:

“The heavens declare Thy glory,
The firmament Thy power;
Day unto day the story
Repeats from hour to hour;
Night unto night replying,
Proclaims in every land,
O Lord, with voice undying,
The wonders of Thy hand.”
The Heavens Declare Thy Glory

or to express, grief and shame over our sins sing:

“From the depths of woe, I raise to Thee
The voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
And hear my supplication;
If Thou iniquities dost mark,
Our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O who shall stand before Thee?
O who shall stand before Thee?”
Psalm 130 (From the Depths of Woe)

or to express our joy and gratitude for our salvation through Jesus sing:

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.”
Amazing Grace

or to express our longing and hope for God making all things new sing:

’Mid toil and tribulation, And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious, Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious Shall be the Church at rest.
The Church’s One Foundation

Sing, Cross Creek Church, and sing loudly!

“Oh, sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.”
Psalm 96:1-2

The Journey

[Written by Liz Getz]

We have all heard the saying “it’s the journey, not the destination” and the older I have gotten the truer that has become.  Interestingly enough my life’s work is focused on the beginning and the end of that journey.  I love working with young children in our church nursery and seeing the inquisitive and growing minds as they see, do, feel and experience new things.  The simple joys of seeing children respond to you with smiles and laughs.  Although I will say the Halbrooks cuties are all pretty tough customers in the laugh department but don’t worry girls Miss Liz will eventually solve that mystery!  🙂

I spend the majority of my time around the seniors in the skilled nursing facility where I work as an HR Manager.  Even though they all seem very similar now we do try to remember they were once teachers, housewives, one was a court reporter, a dentist, career military men and even one that counted money in the cash room at Pizitz Department Store.  The one thing I have learned and see every single day is the amazing and truly unpredictable nature of the human mind.  I see these residents -many of whom have some degree of Alzheimer’s or dementia- having good days and bad days.  I see them in the course of a normal day go from being totally there to being confused and talking about people, places, and events that although real might have happened 50 years ago as if was today to back to being in the present.  They’ve told me they had just given birth to a baby girl…  to saying their parents are coming to pick them up to yelling out for a husband that has long since passed away.

You have to find humor where you can when dealing with this population because it can be hard to watch people at what is an end of life stage.  So it comical to see a 92-year-old woman sitting in a wheelchair talking about waiting to be picked up for school but worried about going because she did not have her books and did not do her lessons.  We smile at them and generally just play along as it is no longer recommended to try and bring them back to reality it can be jarring and is largely unsuccessful.  That is honestly what she thinks is happening right now.  There was a woman who told me every single day until she passed away that her husband had just died.  In her mind, she really could not get past that point and although it is not uncommon it is still incredibly sad.  We cannot decide for ourselves what events or memories our minds will be stuck on or where our mind will travel back to time after time.  I can think of plenty of things I hope I won’t be going back to again and again when I am in their shoes!

The lesson I hope to get out of this is that I want…I need… is to pay more attention to my journey.  I want to focus on the things that really matter in life.  I want the things that fill my heart and mind to not necessarily be the things that fill many of my hours like my career.  I do not want to be defined by what I do or what I am on paper.  I want to remind myself not to get too focused on any one bill to pay or deadline to meet as there will always be more where that came from.  The obligations will continue, the unexpected will happen, but I can choose how to respond in those times.  I will have to ‘adult’ on a regular basis – like it or not.   Yet the things I stress over today will usually not matter in even a month much less a year or 10 years.  I want to see the beauty in each day and never forget it is fleeting.  I want to laugh and make others laugh.  I want to feel great at the end of the day because of how I feel and made others feel and not what I have accomplished.  I want to love unapologetically both myself and others.  Above all, I want to focus on my relationship with Christ as that is the most important relationship we will ever have.

We can turn to scripture for some reminders:

“ So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

I hope we will all spend more time on our journey no matter if we are towards the beginning, the middle or the end.  Love more and fight less.  See flaws as beautiful not as failures.  Get up stronger whenever we fall.  Help someone around us even if they have not asked for it.  Give of our time not take time away from those we love.  Smile more and stress less.  This list of all the ways we can nurture ourselves and our journey is almost endless.  If we make our journey all it possibly can be then when we do get to that final destination of spending eternity in Heaven with our Lord and Savior it will be just that much sweeter!

Suburbia - Death By Suburb

Satisfying Our Souls In Suburbia

It was the middle of a winter night, perhaps 10 years ago. The dry air circulated by the furnace in our house left me parched. I rolled over in bed grabbing for my trusty bottled water on the night stand and clumsily removed the lid, taking a quick swallow. The immediate painful burning sensation in my mouth and throat made me choke and cough my way from grogginess, to fully awake. My first thought, “I’ve just poisoned myself!” While reaching for the lamp, I called out loudly to my bride.

There on the night stand was my bottle of water, and there in my hands was the similar shaped container of HYDROGEN PEROXIDE! Ah the burn! As a pastor, sometimes you take the call in the middle of the night, and sometimes you make the call in the middle of the night. My poor M.D. friends have received more than one. What a relief to find out, that although hydrogen peroxide will certainly clean you out, it won’t take you out.

Some things seem toxic, when in fact they are not.  Other things seem harmless and in fact can be toxic.

We recently launched a new Adult Sunday School semester with the same title as this blog post.  As I teach each week my plan is to draw from David Goetz’s book, “Death by Suburb.”  Whether someone lives in actual suburbia or is simply a member of lower-upper middle-class American society, the application points are powerful and relevant. Suburbia seems harmless but can be deadly for our souls, or at least highly detrimental to our spiritual growth.

It did not take us long in a class of 30 adults to come up with a list of things in our suburban society that doesn’t look all that bad on the surface, but in fact, threaten to strangle our pursuit of what Goetz calls the “thinker” spiritual life – a closer relationship with God.

Busyness, Comparison, Selfishness, Conformity, Materialism, and yes, even religious activity.

What is a person, sincerely wishing to know God and walk with God, to do? Head for the monastery? Find a quiet rural town? Sign up for the next Nasa launch to the moon? Goetz says, “No,” and I agree. He puts it this way, “Even in suburbia all moments are infused with the Sacred. God really is present where I live on Ranch Road. Reality is not flat, but thick, deep, full… You don’t have to hole up in a monastery to experience the fullness of God. Your cul-de-sac and subdivision are as good a place as any.”

The solution, he argues, is to partake of the spiritual antidotes which have stood the test of time and offer to offset the toxins we find unavoidable to imbibe.

If you can be with us for our series this semester, we will journey through the following, and if not, I highly recommend the book:

  • Feb 5 – Introduction to the “Thicker” life
  • Feb 12 – Toxin – I am in control – Antidote – Prayer
  • Feb 19 – Toxin – I am what I do or own – Antidote – Battle self
  • Feb 26 – Toxin – I want my neighbor’s life – Antidote – Friends with needy
  • Mar 5 – Toxin – I need to make a difference – Antidote – Actions, not results
  • Mar 12 – Toxin – My church is my problem – Antidote – Staying put
  • Mar 19 – Toxin – I need more time – Antidote – In love with a day

But I Live in Birmingham

[Written by Ben Halbrooks]

Missions Month at Cross Creek Church just came to a close this past Sunday – so now we can all finally stop living missionally and get back to our regular lives.

Just kidding.

Of course, there’s no separating God’s people from His mission, no matter what the time, no matter what the place, no matter who the person, no matter what the context. But you already knew that. And our theme verse for the month makes that message clear:

“Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:2-3)

But, you say – “Day to day?”… “Among the nations?”… “All the peoples?”…But I live in Birmingham, Alabama – the second most Bible-minded city in America! There are more churches here than Alexander Shunnarah billboards in the Southeast!

I hear you. I get it. I’ve thought the same. (And I’ve seen the billboards.)

But lest you think this pond’s been fished out, and our work here is done, or that maybe Jesus meant to say, “The harvest is few but the laborers are plentiful,”… let me show you something. In the last few weeks, I’ve been filming a series of street interviews a few blocks from Fixed Point Foundation’s downtown office just to get a sampling of answers to spiritual questions. I thought, It’s Birmingham. I know what I’m gonna get. Right?

Turns out I was dead wrong. Case in point: here’s ten random people answering the question, “What do you think happens after death?”

Wow. Such uncertainty! Why does it feel like many of these individuals have never deeply considered the question at all? And where is their hope? My heart aches for them. Friends, this is Birmingham, Alabama!

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.’” (Matthew 9:36-37)

No, Jesus didn’t get it wrong. There’s a lost world, a hurting world, a broken world – a mission field – in our own backyard. And you, me, the church – we are the few. I’ll close with a passage of scripture Pastor Chris spoke of this week. It’s fitting:

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15)

2017 Church-wide Daily Spiritual Growth Plan – “Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds”

As the story goes, a disgruntled man wrote an editorial, published in the local newspaper, about his plans to quit participating in church.  He pronounced, “I’ve been going to church about 50 Sundays each year for decades and I don’t know if I can recall what the message was last week let alone 2 years ago.  I don’t think it is having any impact on my spiritual health so I’m finished!”  A few days later another fella wrote into the same paper and shared, “I’ve been eating the meals my wife has prepared for 365 days each year for decades, and I don’t know if I can recall what the meal was last week, let alone 2 years ago.  But I know I’d be dead if I did not eat!”  A humorous reminder of the nature of spiritual growth.

Like organic growth, spiritual growth is sometimes not all that visible.  My four boys are age 13 down to 8.  We have fed them similar types of meals for years and for the youngest physical growth is so gradual we can hardly see it.  But all of the sudden, my oldest is eating more of those same meals, and growing at a much more rapid rate.  In the same way, you and I cannot know when and how the Lord might produce significant periods of spiritual growth and when He might have us in a place of more gradual development, but if the nutrients of the Gospel message are not there, we will likely lack the raw spiritual materials for gradual growth, and certainly for substantial growth.

As we enter 2017 this certainly applies to Sunday morning worship services, Sunday school, and small groups.  However, one of the areas we want to invite our congregation to “put ourselves in the way of God’s grace” this year (to have a meal to enjoy throughout the week) is through daily devotional material.  We are happy for folks to use whatever sound method of spiritual development works for them to get into Scripture.  But frequently one of the reasons we do not get on a pathway spiritually individually, as a couple, or as a household, is because we do not know how to cook our spiritual meals very well.

A few years ago we participated collectively as a church body (at least 30 bought the book) in spiritual growth on the home-front, using Starr Meade’s book, Training Hearts, Teaching Minds.  In a similar manner, but for just 1 year duration, we are making her newer book, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds, available for purchase on Sunday mornings.  The format is very user-friendly, with one spiritual growth question (catechism is the church word for that) from a carefully written document, The Heidelberg Catechism, which believers have found Biblically sound and beneficial for centuries.

To help fuse the life of our church body during the week with our worship services on Sunday, we will include the focal question for the week in our service every Sunday, and then the book walks through short readings, including Scripture, each day.  In past years, when we utilized the previous book at the Peters household, we just kept it right by the dinner table.  Like a lot of families with busy activity schedules, we only end up sitting down all together 3-4 evenings of the week.  So if we missed Monday, we just moved on to Tuesday.  If we missed a whole week, we just started with the current week.

Maybe as an individual, couple or household, you will be able to be a bit more organized with it, or maybe you have another plan already.  But if not, or if you just want to join the journey of our collective church family, I hope you will pick up a book this Sunday and dive in.  We will even provide a card to guide you if you get lost on what week we are on!  My sincere wish as your pastor is that this will bless your family, and especially for those with little ones, these time-tested questions and answers about the Lord will give them really healthy spiritual meals that they can build Gospel health from an early age, for lifelong spiritual vibrancy.

If you like Kindle and want to save a penny or know you will be out for a few weeks and want to order it directly, here is the link.

And to read an article from Christianity Today about the impact of this approach for churches, go here.

Burnt Orange Pine Trees – Harnessing the Means of Grace in the New Year

A serious drought struck our region of the country, beginning back in August and extending until just a few weeks ago.  I imagine a lot of spiritual lessons could be drawn from observing and considering the impact of no rain for weeks and weeks on end.  It certainly gets everyone’s attention when we realize that something essential for all life, that is usually available in plenteous supply, might actually run out – a reminder that God’s presence and His saving grace are blessings He chooses to give as a gift.  And the picture of how hardened the earth becomes when it has not been watered drives one to think on the hardness of our souls without spiritual moisture in the forms of Word, Sacrament, and Prayer.

But what struck me lately, in this Christmas Season, was the mix of burnt orange dead pine trees on the hillsides, intermingled with the usual vibrant green ones.  Like other parts of the country, Alabama’s leafy trees (my “forestry” major sister would not be excited with that terminology!) get brown and lose their leaves in the fall, even when moisture is overflowing.  But the pine trees in our region rarely shift colors from their steadfast green.  Since pine trees sprout up here like dandelions do in other regions, it is hard to avoid the sight of the burnt orange blighted scenery.

As I think about my spiritual life this last year, and look to the upcoming year, I am convicted about the message these scorched “never-greens” send about growth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I cannot say that I have ever had a stellar year of spiritual vibrancy, and in some ways, this past year has probably been better than others.  Spiritual growth is not something we can put on a scale to weigh or time around a race track, so only God ultimately knows what is happening in each of our souls.  But this past year has certainly been a battle to maintain the means of grace:

  • to keep up with my good plan to read through the whole Bible for the first time in several years (my app tells me I’m at 38% and yes I started in January, not July! Ha)
  • to carve out regular focused time in prayer (I’m glad there is no app to tell how I’ve done with that!)
  • and to draw close to God in worship, including the sacraments God provides (as a pastor, my attendance record is usually pretty strong, but heart and body are not always in the same place).

What a joy, then, to realize that the security of my salvation is not dependent on my perfect follow-through on these, or any other good spiritual practices – that the tree of Jesus’ righteous life and sacrifice for me is the most remarkable green, and I have his vibrancy credited to me by faith.  And what a joy to realize that although sun-charred pine trees may not recover in the new year, God’s gracious empowering can renew me and anyone else who needs it.  And what a conviction, that God is always offering rain – word, prayer, sacraments – for His people, and we are foolish to extend our roots in the direction of the world’s dryness, when his streams of water abound.

“Still, Still, Still …”

[Written by Christine Cox]

Whenever I hear this Austrian Christmas carol, I see my mother leaning back in her armchair, listening to her favorite German Christmas carol record. A sweet stillness caressed over her, the sound of the music soothingly filling the room. As a child I ‘thought like a child’, (1 Corinthians 13:11-14), wondering what she was thinking and feeling, why the music was so soothing; now I know fully the spiritual depth of the music – that in this peaceful manger scene, as mother cradles the infant Jesus, she knows that He is the hope of salvation who now had been brought to mankind through The Incarnation.

Tradition, both written and pictorial, shows that in the stillness of prayer, Mary was greeted by the angel Gabriel. In the stillness of deep sleep, her earthly spouse, Joseph, was visited by an angel in a dream – twice. He should not fear to take Mary as his wife and then later warned him to take his family and flee to Egypt for Herod was about to destroy the Child. In the stillness of the night, our Savior was born. Still, yet the heavens were filled with angelic hosts, declaring the Glory of the Lord singing great Hosannas, Glory to the King!
In the stillness of the Upper Room, our Lord ushered in the New Covenant – a respite before they all would experience the greatest trial in history. After the Crucifixion, darkness and, I imagine, a still eeriness and a loneliness engulfed the whole land, until the Lord burst forth from the grave. It was a stillness preparing the way for His Resurrection. Saul – Paul had to be still before God was able to work through him. Peter, too, in the stillness of prayer saw the heavens open and the Lord calling him to minister to all peoples, showing no partiality that the Good News is for all nations!

In this Advent season, let us take this wonderful opportunity to break from the busyness of the season to embrace ‘stillness.’ Ponder upon His Word penetrating our souls, our interior life. And as we await with joyful expectation of this year’s Christmas celebrations, let it also be preparation as we await His second coming.

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

———————————————————————————————————————–
Audio  link,
Traditional Melody 1819
Lyrics and Translation by Tradition by Action and German Way

Still, still, still,
Weil’s Kindlein schlafen will.
Maria tut es niedersingen
Ihre keusche Brust darbringen,
Still, still, still,
Weil Kindlein schlafen will.
Still, still, still,
Let Baby sleep its fill.
Maria sings a lullaby sweet
And lays her true heart at Your feet
Still, still, still,
Let Baby sleep its fill.
Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf,
Mein liebes Kindlein, schlaf.
Die Englein tun schön musizieren
Bei dem Kindlein jubilieren,
Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf,
Mein liebes Kindlein, schlaf.
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
My precious Baby sleep.
The Angels are all music making
By the Manger jubilating
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
My precious Baby sleep.
Groß, groß, groß,
die Lieb’ ist übergroß!
Gott hat den Himmelsthron verlassen,
und muss reisen auf der Strassen.
Groß, groß, groß,
die Lieb’ ist übergroß.
Great, great, great,
the love is enormous!
God has left his heavenly throne
and must travel on the road.
Great, great, great,
the love is enormous!
Auf, auf, auf,
Ihr Adamskinder auf.
Fallet Jesum all zu Füssen,
Weil er für uns d’Sünd tut büssen.
Auf, auf, auf,
Ihr Adamskinder auf.
Rise, rise, rise,
All Adam’s children rise.
O, kneel at the feet of Jesus now,
Our sins to atone He did vow.
Rise, rise, rise,
All Adam’s children rise.
Wir, wir, wir,
Wir rufen all zu Dir:
Tu uns des Himmels Reich aufschliessen,
Wenn wir einmal sterben müssen.
Wir, wir, wir,
Wir rufen all zu Dir.

We, we, we,
We all implore Thee:
Open for us heaven’s gate
Let Your Kingdom be our fate.
We, we, we,
We all implore Thee.