L O A D I N G

Advent Devotional

December 17: Carol II, The Silent Stars Go By (Instrumental)

Today, we come to the fifth track of our new Advent/Christmas album, which is an instrumental medley arranged and skillfully played by our own Kevin Johnson. And while this track doesn’t have any words, we are going to reflect on the lyrics from one of the songs included …

What Child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ, the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here; the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high, the Virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born, the Babe, the Son of Mary.
-Lyrics: William Chatterton Dix

Scripture Reading

PSALM 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

ISAIAH 8:11-17

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.

ISAIAH 40:27-41

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Devotional: Dorothy Bennett

With this week’s beautiful medley, we probably hear the familiar lyrics unbidden as we listen. In What Child is This?, I’m struck by “Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross he bore for me, for you”. That overlay of upcoming crucifixion onto current celebration fascinates me. There is a 19th century painting that I adore by William Bouguereau, called Madonna and the Lillies. Bouguerau depicts Mary as the Seat of Wisdom, her expression thoughtful, holding the Christ child close. His infant arms are wide, foreshadowing the cross, and his right-hand fingers are in the shape of blessing. Bouguereau’s corresponding painting, Pieta, depicts an older Mary, holding the body of the crucified Christ tight as she turns her haunting gaze to the viewer. The two paintings vibrate with visual similarities. Both of these events, I assume, were life-altering for Mary—events that line faces with grief and bellies with stretch marks. But they must have also been life-altering to anticipate. Mary anticipated the Son of God as he grew in her body, maybe making her nauseated or giving little kicks. She also anticipated the crucifixion, even if only from the bottom of Golgotha to the top. Regardless, she exemplifies someone who waited on the plans of God. 

Why is it difficult to wait? Perhaps because to wait is to acknowledge that we’re not in control—of our lives or our times.  

Twice this year, I have found myself waiting for a miscarriage to end. It was bleak. My attention naturally turned inward to what was no longer happening in my body. Even though both were early, I knew I was empty again. I am quickly emotional when thinking about it, and ever-thankful for my husband, who often assured me I was more than this moment. We had a relatively short time of two-week-waits and pregnancy tests. But it was still impactful, as all waiting is. What became curious to me is how my personal waiting seemed to be the abstraction for the cosmic waiting on Christ, not the other way around. Being mindful of the overarching divine narrative eased my instinct to tunnel deeper into myself. And my longing for something I couldn’t fulfill in my own power enlivened Paul’s words: “creation groaned”.

I had a painful desire that was made gentle by re-focusing my identity in Christ. When we wait on God, the object of our desire is to be our focus. Like the virgins with their oil lamps, we are to be ever-ready. Included in this week’s medley is also We Three Kings. The wise men lived in a time of divine silence, were intent on a supernatural event that wasn’t even in their birthright tradition, and pursued (physically and financially) the evidence of God’s movement. It takes my breath away. We are called to an active waiting.

This Advent we anticipate the arrival of sweet life, knowing in a few months we will contemplate the crucifixion. As in Bouguereau’s incredible paintings, the events are inextricably linked. Mary holds infant Jesus, and then cradles his corpse. But, Christ rose again. We are guaranteed eternal life and relationship. As we wait, whether in good times or bad, whether for lovely things or hard, we will always have a God who became flesh and defeated death. How wondrous and fortifying that is!

Coloring Sheet: Dorothy Bennett

Members in our church have created coloring pages, which are designed for all ages and artistic ability, as a way to help you further engage with the lyrics and music. We invite you to slow down and meditate on the beauty and depth of this Advent season.

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[ Previous Devotionals ]

Dec. 15, Dec. 10, Dec. 8, Dec. 3Dec. 1

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