Advent Jewels

This gentle turning of the season into gray and cold and sometimes snow has been lightened now with words and music and berry trees. I want to share the wealth, be the town crier, tell you about the gems that sparkle for me. If they don’t shine for you, it’s ok. Words, and songs, like books, are for seasons that are not always now.

These mornings, I’m paging through Circle of Grace by Jan Richardson: a book of blessings for the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Epiphany. I find the verses thoughtful, infused with Jan’s experience of deep grief and hope.

I come back again and again to this favorite from Malcolm Guite: “O Emmanuel.” Guite plays with words and allusions with holy playfulness. The layered meanings of each word and line slows me down and fills me with awe at his skill. My favorite line is the second line: O long-sought With-ness for a world without. I love hearing artists talk about their work, and this podcast on Spotify has the author reading all seven of his Advent poems and some of the backstory of each. Go to 30:00 to hear him read this one:

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.

While I love all the carols of the season, (not the chintzy songs about chestnuts or holly!) Advent songs meet me right now like nothing else. I’d like to sing #121 in the Mennonite Hymnal every Sunday: “Comfort, Comfort Ye, My People.” For the glory of the Lord now on earth is shed abroad/And all flesh shall see the token that His word is never broken.

Two pieces on repeat these days:

  1. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Voces 8.
    LIsten to the long, plaintive first “O,” how the tenor voices shimmer throughout the song, and the strong, desperate quality of the voices calling.
  2. “O Radiant Dawn” by The Sixteen
    I heard this live twice last week, and each time, I couldn’t stop the tears. It’s raw, longs for light and justice, and calls COME because there’s nothing else to say.

A friend gave me this card, a painting by Liz Hess, because she knew I’d like it. I keep it on my desk because so much love how the kings of the earth are bringing their glory to the lion and the lamb at the manger.

Last year pastor John showed me what he was making for his daughters and I was cheeky enough to say I’d love one too. Soon one morning, I found this on my desk and of course I cried. I love its simplicity and these days, Mary’s arms are empty.

Blog post
Every year about this time, I reread and share this blog post by Lanier Ivester. I found it years ago during an especially dark season, and it gave me hope and light and a giant shift in perspective.

The sorrow had just never been so tangible, so odiously unavoidable. And my thorn had such an ugly name: Barrenness. It takes a good, stout Old Testament word to express the arid disgrace of it: the Bible is painfully good at looking things in the eye and calling them what they are, and those first faithful ones certainly knew a desert when they saw one.

The blog post also introduced me to the beautiful words attributed to Fra Giovanni in 1513: There is glory and beauty in the darkness, could we but see! And to see, we have only to look.

Advent is a season of waiting, watching, preparing. We light pink and purple and white Advent candles every week, and we wait for many things but I often think we know nothing of waiting like the Jews did for their Messiah and deliverance, or like refugees wait for their papers. But we still wait. The whole earth waits, weeping for justice and goodness and beauty.

This year, more than I could last year, I can enter into the season of hope in waiting. I’m ready for light to seep up from the horizon, ready for smiles to grow strong and confident, ready for faith to become sight. Ready.

11 thoughts on “Advent Jewels

  1. Anita, this so beautiful, and I am deeply moved. My favorite line of “O Emmanuel”: “And make a womb of all this wounded world.” Amen. There is so much weeping in and around me today. But justice and goodness and light is coming. Thank you, Sister.

  2. Where can I get a picture like that one of the rulers of the nations kneeling before the lion and the lamb, Jesus Christ? -Titania-
    *The Lord bless thee and keep thee.*
    On Tue, Dec 14, 2021 at 7:39 PM Tis a Gift to Receive wrote:
    > Life is For Living book posted: ” This gentle turning of the season into > gray and cold and sometimes snow has been lightened now with words and > music and berry trees. I want to share the wealth, be the town crier, tell > you about the gems that sparkle for me. If they don’t shine for yo” >

  3. Thanks for introducing this poem to those of us who’ve never seen it. Beautiful! I love the sparse words that say so much. Seems like sometimes others can put into words what I feel in my heart…

  4. I think we all probably know people who get tired of Christmas music, and I would guess that it happens because so much garbage music that gets passed off as “Christmas (‘holiday’) Music” gets played over and over, ad nauseum, not only on secular radio stations, but Christian stations as well. Maybe once in a while would be okay, but to play what they do, as much as they do, just brings people down, in my opinion.
    Maybe there should be a massive push for radio stations across the land to update their playlists. Thanks for the link to the Voces8 song, I hadn’t heard that one yet and that was otherworldly! I’ll check the other one out later.
    (~from a casual reader/listener who doesn’t go looking for new music all that often, lol)

  5. Your skill with words is always amazing, but the inspiration here iswhat make me gasp. And I love anyone who loves Malcolm Guite. 🙂

    • Returning a month later to add, Thank you for introducing me to Lanier’s blog. I’ve browsed most of her archives, and am grateful-beyond-speech.

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