Category Archives: Advent

Advent 2012: Messiah Sing A Long!


The First Week of Advent 2012

Dear Readers,

Here is a delightful way to observe Advent!  It is not the entire libretto.  Therefore, plan for the Sing a Long to last only for one hour and one-half, maximum.

“Sing along or just listen, at the Tallahassee Music Guild’s ‘24th Annual Handel’s Messiah Sing Along,’ 

at 7.30 pm, on Thursday, at Faith Presbyterian Church, corner of Meridian and John Knox Roads.

Music scores are available for rent at the door and a reception follows, where all are invited to gather around the piano, to sing carols.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children.”

Call 850.893.5274.”


Notes from Margot:  Bring cash.  Arrive early to find a seat in your “Section.”  Haley and I will be in the “Alto Section.”


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On Christmas Eve: Opening the Ancient Door

On Christmas Eve 1960

It was a childhood discovery, more than 50 years ago, within the 1920’s home of my grandmother,  in North Carolina:

In the center of the house was a fully enclosed, square hall.

Four doors, located north, south, east, and west, opened up from the hall, into various rooms.

The hall contained the stairway to the second floor.

I climbed the stairs and located two doors, one on either side of the landing.

I opened one of the doors, which revealed a guest room.

Inside the room, I opened an interior door, which led to a clothes-closet or “wardrobe.”

I stepped inside:  It was small, dark, musty, and crowded with hanging clothes.

I pushed aside the hanging clothes and discovered that – lo and behold!  A secret door was hidden at the back of the wardrobe!

I opened this concealed door and stepped into a cavernous attic room, filled with sunlight.

I squinted my eyes, to adjust to the brightness.

I positioned a chair underneath a large window.  I climbed up and opened the window latch.


I stood on tip-toes to scan the wide, clear sky and to breathe in the crisp, cold air.

” . . . ‘Mere’ Christianity is like a hall out of which doors open to several rooms . . . it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals.   

The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in.”

~~~C. S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity,”  1952

[Note: The complete excerpt is below.]

On Christmas Eve 2000

“Not all who wander are lost.”  [J. R. R. Tolkein]  

No; I was not lost — but I was a wanderer for 25 years, within the “hall” of contemporary evangelical churches, which endeavored to be inter-denominational or non-denominational.

I began to yearn for a more permanent residence:  one that embraced Community and Creed, Doxology and Theology, Faith and Reason.

Within this “hall,” on Christmas Eve 2000, I found a heavy, solid, ancient door and opened it:

Inside, I found a spacious room with fires and chairs and meals:

Fires: Here was the warmth of community with believers, not merely contemporary and local, but also historical and global.

Chairs:  Here was the sturdy foundation of Doctrine, based upon the Authority of Holy Scripture, assisted now by Faith, Reason, and Tradition.

Meals:  Here also was nourishment, not only from the reading and preaching of the Word, but also from the real and living Presence of Christ, in the Holy Eucharist.

Opening the heavy, solid, ancient door revealed yet another door:  a portal to the Creeds, Prayers, and Hymns of Ancient and Historic Christian Faith.

My wandering search had returned me full circle:

As a child, I attended Liturgical Worship Services, which shaped me in ways that were subtle, yet strong and sure, for as N. T. Wright reminds us:

The Liturgy is a means of grace; it is God ministering to us.”

The Language of Liturgy slowly unveils to us the meaning of its metaphors.

The Words of Worship strengthen and sustain us; they form and transform us.

The Language and Words, vast and ageless, are filled with Light and Life.

~~~Margot Blair Payne, Advent 2007; Revised Advent 2012

From the Introduction to “Mere Christianity:”

“I hope no reader will suppose that ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions – as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else.  It is more like a hall out of which doors open to several rooms.  If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted.  But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals.  The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in.  For that purpose the worst of the rooms [whichever that may be] is, I think, preferable.  It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at.  I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that is good for him to wait.  When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good, which you would not have had otherwise.  But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping.  You must keep on praying for light:  and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house.  And above all, you must be asking which door is the true one, not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling.  In plain language, the question should never be, ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true:  Is holiness here?  Does my conscience move me toward this?  Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?’

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.  If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them.  That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”

~C. S. Lewis, excerpt from the book, Mere Christianity, 1952, Macmillan Publishing.

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. . . That Mourns In Lonely Exile . . .

Dear Family & Friends,

My Guest Blogger today is my daughter, Haley Stewart.  You can find her blog at:  Carrots for Michaelmas.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel has always been my favorite carol.  I love the ancient chant-like melody and the images it conjures: monks singing by candlelight and waiting to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World, while a cold, dark winter lingers on.  It has many beautiful verses but the first and most familiar is:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

It is, of course, a particularly fitting verse for Advent, when we prepare for the coming of Our Lord. This Advent, I have come to understand better what it means because it’s been a dark Advent. In November, dear friends lost a child at birth. Their incomprehensible grief and the loss we have all experienced, as we miss their daughter we will never have the opportunity to know, made the uncertainty of this life more present.  We are not guaranteed lives free of pain, in fact, quite the opposite.  We wait in exile.  And in exile there is grief.  So I have struggled with the darkness of our exile.  How do we live in a world of grief, pain, and uncertainty?  How do we love those around us, knowing that we might lose them? What does it mean to wait for Jesus?

St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes of three Advents:

One is in the past: Christ was born to the Blessed Virgin Mary, when God Incarnate came to rescue the world.

One is in the present:  Now is the time to prepare our hearts for Christ’s dwelling.

And one is in the future:  Christ will come again in glory.

During the Advent season, I usually only consider the past Advent, Christ’s Nativity.  After all, it’s complete and all that I need to do is remember what has happened and celebrate, on Christmas morning, what Our Lord has done. The other two Advents require more of me.  How do I prepare my heart for the Son of God to enter it?  And perhaps even more difficult:  How can I bear waiting for Christ’s return, in exile, amidst grief, pain, and uncertainty?

In the Advent carol, the first step is to long for Christ.  O come, O come, Emmanuel, God with us.  We long for Him because we have come to understand the difficult reality of our situation. Until we realize that placing our security in anything of this life is fruitless, we will not be able to long for Christ as we ought.  We are captives in this exile and we must understand our helplessness and need of a Savior.

I remember Zechariah, who was struck dumb during the miraculous pregnancy of his aging and previously barren wife, Elizabeth. Waiting. Yearning for new life as he anticipated the birth of his son, John the Baptist.  And ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here . . . Our exile.  It seems very dark.  But we have been given a gift, a promise that our exile will not last forever.  We have been given hope.  And our hope is a Living Hope —  for it is Christ himself. What makes the darkness and the waiting and the pain bearable is that it will come to an end. Zechariah will speak at the end of nine months.  A woman in labor will not be in pain forever.  Until the Son of God appear . . . In the darkness of our exile, we wait in joyful hope because He is coming.  He HAS come.  And He IS here.  Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.  The redemption of the world has happened in the Incarnation, it is happening in us and in the world  it will be fulfilled and completed.

How can we bear our exile?  I think I am learning that the answer is hope. With hope, we can say with Lady Julian of Norwich, even through our grief . . .And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.


Hail, Holy Queen, mother of mercy:

Hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.

To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;

to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us;

and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

[Written by Haley Susan Stewart, Advent 2010; posted Advent 2011.]

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Advent Lesson Twelve: On the Way Home

Entrance to the Los Robles Historic Neighborhood:  Built in 1921

Recently, I was driving my 2.10 year old grandson, Benjamin, from his home to mine, traveling along the same  route I have taken him 100 times.  On this particular day, he asked me:

“What is the name of this street?’

I replied, “Seventh Avenue.”

Benjamin: “Well, I call it ‘Home Street,’ because it leads to our home.”

By “our home,” Benjamin refers to the home of Stephen and me, his maternal grandparents, a place so familiar to him that he considers it to also be his home.”   In a similar way, he considers the home of his paternal grandparents to be his home.”  We are very blessed to live in the same town as they.

Benjamin was correct:  Seventh Avenue or “Home Street,”  a long, straight road,  is the final leg of the short trip from his home to mine.  It leads us to the Entrance [photo above] of our small historic neighborhood and then we are finally “home.”

“Out of the mouths of babes:”  Young children remind us that behind a familiar name or word lies a greater concept, ideal, or reality.

For instance, the ancient Greeks had a word for “purpose” and that word was “telos.”

“A telos (from the Greek τέλοϛ for “end”, “purpose”, or “goal”) is an end or purpose, in a fairly constrained sense used by philosophers such as Aristotle. It is the root of the term “teleology,” roughly the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions.”  [Wikipedia]

If we are going to be thoughtful and intentional about revisioning, restoring, and reclaiming The Season of Advent, we need to first discover the “telos:” the central purpose.  Then, we need to conform to that purpose, by examining ways in which we invest our “heart, soul, mind, and strength” during this Advent Season.

Activity without purpose is merely “spinning our wheels:”  This is why individuals experience the frustration of “spinning out of control” during The Season of Advent.  Without an end, aim, purpose, reason, intention, goal, or objective, how can we hope to communicate — through our lives, families, and homes — the hope and light of The Season of Advent to the weary and often dark world around us?

[An English Cottage: Not my home, but lovely and welcoming, is it not?]

Our neighborhood stands at the convergence of two main artery roads and a one-way street.  At the convergence, is a strange and confusing “Round-A-Bout.”  When we first bought our home, seven years ago, I missed the Entrance a few times.  I had to circle around, navigate one-way streets, and try the approach again.  It was very frustrating:  I could clearly see my destination yet I could not enter it.  I had to stop my vehicle and study a map in order to find the correct path to my own [new] home!

It is like that with The Season of Advent:  Before we approach it, we travelers must choose our path carefully, study our map, compass in hand, and write down the directions.

What is the “telos” of Advent?  Am I aligned with that purpose?  Am I investing my “heart, soul, strength, and mind” into that one central purpose?  

Am I reaching my destination? Or am I merely driving around in circles? 

One  purpose of The Season of Advent is to form, conform, and transform us  in Christian discipleship.  To whom or what am I conforming this Advent Season?

A careful, genuine, intentional, and faithful observation of The Season of Advent will lead us  “on the way  home.”

As a fellow-traveler, I have offered these  one dozen “Advent Lessons” to you, as a compass and map, as street lights and signposts, and, finally, as a lamp burning in the window, welcoming you home.

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Advent Lesson Eleven: A Peek Inside Our Home!

The Completed Advent Candle Wreath:

I used antiques: one antique mirror, one silver tray, and five candlesticks with bobeches.

I bought one 100% pure beeswax Advent Candle Kit from

I purchased the ribbon from Cindy’s Chapeaux in Havana, FL.

I picked up [free] fresh evergreens from St. Paul’s United Methodist Church: Boy Scout Christmas Trees [Lake Ella].  Advent Candles:  

Benjamin, 2.10 years, rolling the Rose Candle.

I love the expression of accomplishment and wonder on Benjamin’s face,

after he completed the Advent Candles at his home:  “I did it myself!”

The Tree of Jesse

The Tree of Jesse:

One wrought-iron “Winter Tree Ornament Display Stand,” spray-painted “Hammered Black.”

Hand-made-by-local-artists:Sstained-glass and beveled-glass ornaments.  [Some are from Susan’s Stained Glass at The Cottage Shops at Lake Ella, Tallahassee, FL.]

Vintage velvet fabric.

A beautiful jewel box from Korea, from my friend Eun Kwak.

Inside the Jesse Tree Jewelry Box:  

A velvet pouch, containing a pewter ornament, depicting the Holy Family.

This ornament is hidden until Christmas Morning, when we will hang it on the Jesse Tree.

Our Dining Room Table:

Antique bowl with pomegranates.

Our Dining Room Table:

100% pure beeswax votives.

Royal blue hemmed fabric for table runner.

A Simple Glass Nativity Scene, Made in Germany

Illumined from behind, with a 100% pure beeswax votive.

A hemmed square of organdy fabric veils the Nativity Scene, until Christmas Morning.

Nativity Scene

I bought this from Ten Thousand Villages, several years ago.

It is perfect for small children.

Inside the velvet pouch are wooden figures of the Holy Family.

We will add the Holy Family figures to the Nativity Scene, on Christmas Morning.

The Completed Nativity Scene with Holy Family Figures.

Nativity Scene:

A simple wooden stable and wooden image of the Holy Family

It would be easy to make the stable.

I bought the Holy Family wooden image at Ten Thousand Villages.

The Holy Family wooden image will stay hidden, inside an organdy pouch, until Christmas Morning.

A Simple Wooden Bell-Shaped Ornament,

with figures of Holy Family and sheep.

From Ten Thousand Villages.

Simple Ornament:  Angel

From Ten Thousand Villages.

An Olive Wood Ornament:  Dove

From Ten Thousand Villages.

Advent Calendar Book:

I do not know if this book is in print anymore.

It is a very sturdy Calendar/Book, which you can use every year.

Day One [A] of Advent Book

Day One [B] of Advent Book

The Very First Christmas

This is a book from Hallmark, from my dear friend, Ida Jean Sapp.

It is perfect for grandparents:  Record the story onto a microchip and your grandchildren can hear your voice,

every time they turn the page!

This is a great book for families with children, godchildren, or grandchildren.

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Advent Lesson Ten: Messiah Sing Along!

Tallahassee Friends!

Here is a perfect way to reclaim, revision, and restore the Season of Advent!  Not in Tallahassee? Google “Messiah Sing” and your zip code to find a community-wide Messiah Sing.

Events > 23rd Annual Handel’s Messiah Sing-Along > Tallahassee, FL > Tallahassee Democrat.

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Advent Lesson Nine: “On the Shoulders of Giants”

The South Rose Window of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris


La claire-voie de la Rose Sud


“Under the rosette, the heavenly court is represented by the sixteen prophets, portrayed under the large windows of the bay, which were painted in the 19th century by Alfred Gérente, under Viollet-le-Duc’s supervision. The architect drew inspiration from Chartres Cathedral, placing the four great prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) carrying the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) on their shoulders, at the centre. This window echoes the reflections of Bertrand, Bishop of Chartres in the 13th century, on the connection between the Old and New Testaments:
‘We are all dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants. We see more than they do, not because our vision is clearer there or because we are taller, but because we are lifted up, due to their giant scale.’


Margot’s Commentary:

In a previous “Advent Lesson,” I spoke about the wise and proper use of lenses.  Each of us uses his/her own lenses in order to view the world.  This is called a “worldview.”  Since it is impossible to view the world without lenses, it is imperative that we choose the lens that gives us the most clear view.  I spoke earlier about kaleidoscopes, magnifying glasses, and telescopes.  Among these, I suggested that the telescope was the wisest choice, in order to see further and more clearly.

We who desire fervently to reclaim, revision, and restore the Season of Advent have received a priceless unopened gift — an inheritance!  Receiving this inheritance is like opening the gift of a high-powered, finely engineered telescope.

“Wise Christians should always be historians in one sense.  They sit higher and can see further, more panoramically, if they enrich themselves from the past.  John of Salisbury [1115-1180] a medieval scholar, spoke of the jewels, the riches, the prestige of antiquity.  He was right.  The past has bequeathed to us its gems.  Note his wise words:

‘Our own generation enjoys the legacy bequeathed to it by that which preceded it.  We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the [mental] strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers.  Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants.  He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.’

Our brothers and sisters from the past, indwelt by the same Spirit who indwells us, have left us a rich inheritance.  It’s locked away inside a treasure chest.  It’s layered in cobwebs.  It’s rusty and in some ways not very appealing.  But inside is the wealth John of Salisbury told us about:  diamonds, emeralds, gold sovereigns, and chains of Spanish silver.  If you have ever wanted to go on a treasure hunt, you’ve come to the right place.  We’ve already found the chest.  The hard, laborious work is done.  All we need do is dip our hands inside and let the riches run through our fingers.  Come along, and you’ll be sitting higher and further.”

[Resource for Margot’s Commentary:  Pocket History of the Church, D. Jeffrey Bingham, InterVarsity Press, 2002.]

Note from Margot:

Between now and Epiphany, I hope to share more about this inheritance and how opening this gift will help us to revision, reclaim, and restore the Season of Advent.

Can anyone explain the difference between the names “Bertrand” and “Bernard,” referring to the Bishop of Chartres?

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Advent Lesson Eight: The Tree of Jesse

The oldest complete Jesse Tree window is in Chartres Cathedral, 1145.

“The Tree of Jesse is a depiction in art of the Ancestors of Christ, shown in a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David; the original use of the family tree as a schematic representation of a genealogy. It originates in a passage in the Biblical Book of Isaiah which describes metaphorically the descent of the Messiah, and is accepted by Christians as referring to Jesus. The subject is often seen in Christian art, particularly in that of the Medieval period. The earliest example dates from the 11th century.

The passage in Isaiah, 11:1 is: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.[1] In the Latin Vulgate Bible used in the Middle Ages this was: “et egredietur virga de radice Iesse et flos de radice eius ascendet ” or “.. a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up…”.[2] Flos, pl floris is Latin for flower. Virga is a “green twig”, “rod” or “broom”, as well as a convenient near-pun with Virgo or Virgin, which undoubtedly influenced the development of the image. Thus Jesus is the Virga Jesse or “shoot of Jesse”.

In the New Testament the lineage of Jesus is traced by two of the Gospel writers, Matthew and Luke. Luke describes the “generations of Christ” in Chapter 3 of Luke’s Gospel, beginning with Jesus himself and tracing backwards through his “earthly father” Joseph all the way to Adam.

Matthew’s Gospel opens with the words: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”.[3] With this beginning Matthew makes clear Jesus’ whole lineage: He is of God’s chosen people, by his descent from Abraham, and he is the “shoot of Jesse” by his descent from Jesse‘s son, King David.[4] The figures shown are drawn from the genealogies in the Gospels, usually showing only a selection.”  [Wikipedia]

Miniature, Jacques de Besançon, Paris, c.1485. Showing 43 generations. Below, the birth and childhood of Mary.

To learn more about the history and art of The Tree of Jesse: 

It is worth reading and contains dozens of art images.

“The secular Christmas Tree, and the Advent calendar, have been adapted in recent years by some modern Christians, who may use the term “Jesse Tree”, although the tree does not usually show Jesse or the Ancestors of Christ, and so may have little or no relation to the traditional Tree of Jesse. This form is a poster or a real tree in the church or home, which over the course of Advent is decorated with symbols to represent stories leading up to the Christmas story, for the benefit of children. The symbols are simple, for example a burning bush for Moses and a ram for Isaac.”  [Wikipedia]

This link describes how to use the Jesse Tree in your home:

Here  is a great idea for families with children:  You can download a printable kit to make Jesse Tree ornaments.  Right now the kit is free!

During the 27 days preceding Christmas (the 27 days being known as “Advent”, as it refers to the advent or “coming” of Jesus Christ), an ornament is hung on the tree and a verse or portion of Scripture is read each night.” [from link posted above]

For other ideas on how to create a Jesse Tree or buy a kit, Google it!  


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Advent Lesson Seven: The Veiled Crux

Dear Family & Friends,

Recently, I posted the lyrics to the hymn, “Veni, Veni Emmanuel.”   It is one of my favorite hymns, not only for the achingly beautiful tune but also for the depth of meaning of the text.  For, if hymns are “theology set to music,” then we should consider only those hymns that are informed by rich, deep, solid, orthodox, classic, creedal, ancient Trinitarian theology.

Scripture must inform the hymns, certainly.  However, some hymns go a step further:  They encapsulate a view of Scripture that sees the “Big Picture:”  They carefully and faithfully encompass a composite view of a topic, skillfully pulling together essential Scriptures and subsuming them under the great themes of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation.  [This is “systematic theology.”]

The hymn below, from a poem by Richard Wilbur, is a particularly fine example.

During Advent, read, study, meditate on the two hymns:  Veni, Veni Emmanuel and A Christmas Hymn.  Critique how the authors use the compositions to masterfully enlarge our view of Advent.  They each give us  “vision tools” to understand what I call the “Veiled Crux” of Advent.

We are too easily satisfied with a kaleidoscope, through which to view Advent:  lots of bright and shiny fragments of color collide, displaying a different pattern every time we shake and turn the cylinder.  Although the patterns are entertaining, we can see no further than the end of the cylinder.

These two hymns, instead, give us the clarity of a long-range telescope, through which to view the “Grand Drama of Redemption.”

Ancient navigators called the Southern Star the “Crux.”  With celestial navigation, travelers must focus on one bright star [either the Southern Star or the Northern Star] because they are unchanging–immovable.  I am attempting here, through this series of Advent Lessons, to offer us reliable tools with which to navigate Advent.

I cannot specify what decisions to make, as regards ordering personal time and space.  I can, however, challenge us “modern navigators” to consider the tools with which we have previously been viewing Advent.  Some of us have used a magnifying glass:  We have focused on the minute details of the Season of Advent, we are overwhelmed, and we have lost sight of the “Big Picture.”

It is time to use new tools to travel!  I advise the use of a Compass and a Map, with which to navigate.  Chart your course and do not deviate.  Do not get distracted by “bright and shiny things.”  Lift up your head and look up to the vast skies:  Locate the North Star, the Polar Star and travel under it’s authoritative guidance.  Do not lose sight of the “Big Picture.”

Here are some questions to ponder:

  • How do these hymns unveil the “Crux of Advent:”
  • What is the Crux [the focal point, the center, the most important element] of Advent?  
  • What significant historical events do these hymns review for us? 
  • Veni, Veni, Emmanuel:  What is the significance of Israel’s history of salvation? 
  • What does Wilbur mean:  “the worlds are reconciled?” 

Coram Deo,



A Christmas Hymn

Words:  Richard Wilbur [born 1921]

Music:  Andujar, David Hurd [born 1950]

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, “Master, rebuke the disciples.”

And he answered and said unto them, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”


A stable-lamp is lighted

Whose glow shall wake the sky;

The stars shall bend their voices,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

And straw like gold shall shine;

A barn shall harbor heaven,

A stall become a shrine.

This child through David’s city

Shall ride in triumph by;

The palm shall strew its branches,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

Though heavy, dull and dumb,

And lie within the roadway

To pave his kingdom come.

Yet he shall be forsaken,

And yielded up to die;

The sky shall groan and darken,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

For stony hearts of men:

God’s blood upon the spearhead,

God’s love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,

The low is lifted high;

The stars shall bend their voices,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

In praises of the Child

By whose descent among us

The worlds are reconciled.

[Richard Wilbur, born 1921, is an American poet and literary translator.  He was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987.  He twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry:  1957 and 1989.]


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Advent Lesson Six: The Crux of Advent

Excerpt from the book, Letters & Papers from Prison, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

[Tegel] 18 November 1943

Bonhoeffer writes this to Eberhard Bethge:

“. . .  Then comes Advent, with all its happy memories for us.  It was you who really first opened up to me the world of music-making that we have carried on during the weeks of Advent.  Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent:  one waits, hopes, does this, that, or the other — things that are really of no consequence — the door is shut and can be opened only from the outside!”

And in 1967, Maria von Wedemeyer-Weller wrote an Appendix to the reprinted edition of “Letters & Papers from Prison.”  Maria was engaged to be married to Bonhoeffer during the time of his imprisonment and his heroic death.

Under the heading, “Life in Prison,” she recalls this about Bonhoeffer:

“He lived by church holidays and by seasons, rather than by the calendar month and the dates on his letters were approximations at best.  He voiced his disappointment that he had not received a letter from me or anyone else expressly for Whit Sunday.  About Advent, he wrote:

‘A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.’ [21 November 1943]

Margot’s Commentary:

Is there a better description of what Advent is? Today, meditate upon this essential truth above, written by Bonhoeffer, theologian, Lutheran pastor, martyr and one of the most significant witnesses of the 20th century.  Also, read and meditate upon the lyrics of the Advent Hymn, Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, printed below.   Study the verses and, if possible, listen to a CD recording of this beautiful hymn.

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,

that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.


O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save, and give them victory over the grave.


O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight. 


O come, thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.


O come, O come, great Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times once gave the law in cloud and majesty and awe.


O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree, an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall; all peoples on thy mercy call.


O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease, and be thyself our King of Peace.


O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.


Words: Latin, twelfth century;
trans. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), 1851

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