Mary’s Maiden Bliss

I felt a bit overwhelmed this week so I sought solace from an old friend (or rather friends).  Being the third week of Advent, I knew the focus at most local churches would be on Mary (represented by the pink candle in the Advent Wreath).  Talk about a woman who overcame overwhelmingness!

I ventured to a church just down the hill from me (Crossroads UMC).  It was good to see so many familiar faces.  An island of calm and comfort amid my recent stormy seas.  Halfway through the service, after the reading of the Magnificat (also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary), I realized the absence of the regular pastor.  Instead of what I’m sure would have been a sermon based on Luke 1:46-55, the Worship Leader gave a testimonial and short lesson (and an announcement to the congregation about his stepping back), followed by a video tour and teaching by Adam Hamilton of present day Bethlehem.  After the video, another church member read the poem “The Soldier’s Night Before Christmas” (which he named ‘Standing Guard’ – Follow the link for the text of the poem and more information about it’s non-anonymous authorship).

The final hymn listed in the bulletin, sung just before the Benediction, happened to be one of my favorite carols.  As usual, I could only sing the first three and a half verses.  By the time I reached the line “But His mother only, in her maiden bliss, Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.” I could no longer sing for the tears.  I whispered the final verse, blurred beyond readability, but indelibly etched upon my heart.

In the Bleak Midwinter

Words by Christina Rosetti (1872)

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Expectant Waiting

Advent Wreath

For my twenty-seventh installment of my ‘Thirty Days of Thankfulness‘ series and the final (fourth) Sunday, I will focus on the season of Advent.

“Advent is a period of spiritual preparation in which many Christians make themselves ready for the coming, or birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. During this time, Christians observe a season of prayer, fasting and repentance, followed by anticipation, hope and joy. Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ’s first coming to Earth as a baby, but also for his presence among us today through the Holy Spirit, and in preparation and anticipation of his final coming at the end of time.”  All About Advent,

Being raised a Methodist, I remember with fondness the anticipation of lighting each successive candle in the Advent Wreath on each Sunday leading up to Christmas eve, when the final white Christ candle shone bright with love and hope. I even celebrated advent at home with my husband and children for a couple of years, but being empty nesters now, it’s harder to motivate myself.

For this first week of Advent 2011, I will share excerpts from the ‘2011 Advent Home Worship‘ by MaryJane Pierce Norton:


Advent is a time of waiting and of hoping. We wait for the day when we celebrate again the birth of Jesus. We hope that everyone will come to know God and to worship God.

God promised to send a Savior to the people. When we read the Scripture reading, we hear what the prophet Isaiah wrote about God. God is the potter who molds us. We know that the gospel witness is one that helps us understand that God is loving and just. God brings peace. This gives us hope. We anticipate again the birth of the baby Jesus remembering that Jesus helps us know God’s love for us.

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64:8 (NRS)

Think about a potter. A potter takes clay and forms it in a way that is pleasing. That is what God is able to do with each person. We are reminded that we are all the work of God’s hand. How do we use these gifts that God has formed in us?

Dear God: Thank you for your son, Jesus. Thank you for the words of the Prophet Isaiah that remind us that you are the source of our hope. Help us to live each day allowing you to form us in a way that brings about your kingdom here on earth. AMEN.

* * *

The Advent Home Worship also provides daily meditations and actions to take to convey hope to others.  For example, today’s item:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011: Is there someone you know who needs to hear words of hope? Make or select a card for that person and mail it today.

* * *

May all your days be filled with hope and love.