Tag 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.”

~~ http://www.tallahassee.com

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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. . . 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 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 http://www.toadilyhandmade.com.

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].

http://www.Toadilyhandmade.com  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 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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Advent Lesson Five: Margot’s Advent Wreath

Dear Family & Friends,

In Advent Lesson Four, we learned about the rich meaning of the Advent Wreath.  Here are photographs and Margot’s Easy Steps to Create an Advent Wreath.  I used a few of my cherished heirlooms and antiques.  I hope this lesson inspires you to use what you already have in your home!

Step One:  Candles

Purchase your Advent Candles ASAP, so that they will arrive by the First Sunday of Advent, which is November 27!  Here is the website:


You may choose either one Do-It-Yourself Kit [$30: enough to make three sets of five Advent Candles] OR one Already-Made Set [$18 for five Advent Candles].

Each set includes five candles, in three colors: Three Royal Blue OR  Three Royal Purple — plus One Pink plus One Ivory.  When you order, specify “Blue” or “Purple.”

These are 100% pure beeswax candles, which is very important, both for symbolic, aesthetic, and health reasons.  Trust me on this for now.

Step Two: Candlesticks

Search around your home for five complementary candlesticks.  As you see in the photographs, my Advent Wreath includes two sets of matching candlesticks plus one unique single candlestick in the center.  They are all heavy, clear, cut-glass antique candlesticks, circa 1900. You can mix and match candlesticks, in any combination of material [I like silver, pewter, or glass], height, style, and  vintage.

Step Three:  Container

Gather together the candlesticks inside a container — a tray or platter of some sort — any solid, sturdy material will do.  Choose a container that will allow enough room to position the evergreens.  I use a cherished silver serving tray that my mother gave me decades ago. However, I have not yet polished the tray.  So, for this “photo shoot,” I covered the tray with a midnight-blue piece of vintage velvet fabric.

Step Four: Bobeches

Purchase bobeches, which are round, clear-glass “collars,” which catch the candle drips and protect the surface under the candles.  An antique shop should have these.

Step Five:  Evergreens

Go to your locally-owned nursery and ask if you may gather a few evergreen branches that fall onto the ground, between the rows of Christmas trees for sale.  Now you have free evergreens with which to decorate your Advent Wreath!  Do not be fussy about the arrangement:  Trim off the thick, stiff part of the branches.  Overlap the remaining soft, pliable portions, secure them together with thin ribbon, and bend the finished length into a circle, securing the final shape with more ribbon. The color of ribbon should be ivory, blue, or purple.

Step Six:  Display

Decide where to display your Advent Wreath.  I chose the brick hearth:  the space in front of the fireplace, in my living room.  Propped against the front of the fireplace opening, I positioned an antique mirror.  The Advent Wreath sits on the silver tray, which sits upon an off-white painted-wood, over-sized serving tray [hand-made from wood salvaged from antique furniture]. I like the “drama” of the off-white painted-wood against the dark velvet against the clear glass candlesticks.  When the candles are lit, the tableau will reflect off the mirror and looks beautiful! You will have to use your imagination, as I have not yet obtained my Advent Candles, evergreens, or ribbon.

I would love to hear your ideas on creating your Advent Wreath.  After you create your Advent Wreath, you may rest assured that you have “decorated” your home in a meaningful and thoughtful manner.  For several years, I have not displayed any “decor” except my Advent Wreath and Creche.  [Coming up next:  The Creche or Nativity Scene.]
Remember:  The colors of Advent are [primarily] Royal Purple OR Royal Blue plus white or ivory.  I also use silver.
Coram Deo,

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Advent Lesson One: The Language of Time

This painting, by Hans Memling in A.D. 1480,  depicts the Life of Christ and depicts the journey through the Church Year, from Advent to Christmas, from Lent to Easter and Pentecost.

The Good News tells how, for the world’s Redemption,

God entered into history:

The Eternal came into time,

The Kingdom of Heaven invaded the realm of earth,

in the great events of the

Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection

of Jesus, the Christ.

~~~F. F. Bruce

The Language of Time:

“The calendar is the foundation of most of Christian worship . . . There is no better place to begin our investigation of the basic structures of Christian worship than with an introduction to the way Christians use time as a language through which to express their worship . . . 


History is where God is made known.  Without time, there is no knowledge of the Christian God.  For it is through actual events in historical time that this God is revealed.  God chooses to make his divine nature and will known through events that take place within the same calendar that measures the daily lives of ordinary women and men. 


Christianity talks not of salvation in general but of salvation accomplished by specific actions of God at definite times and places.  It speaks of climactic events and a finale to time.


In Christianity, the ultimate meanings of life are not revealed by universal and timeless statements but by concrete acts of God.  In the fullness of time, God invades human history, assumes our flesh, and heals, teaches, and eats with sinners.  There are specific temporal and spatial settings to it all . . .


And when his work is done, Jesus is put to death on a specific day, related to the Passover festival of that particular year, and rises on the third day.  It is all part of the same time we inhabit — time that is measured by spatial device, the calendar . . .


The centrality of time in Christianity is reflected in Christian worship.  This worship, like the rest of life, is structured on recurring rhythms of the week, the day, and the year.  In addition, there is a lifelong cycle.  Far from trying to escape time, Christian worship uses time as one of its essential structures.  Our present time is used to place us in contact with God’s acts in time past and future.  Salvation, as we experience it in worship, is a reality based on temporal events through which God is given to us.


The use of time enables Christians to commemorate and experience again those very acts on which salvation is grounded . . . Christianity builds on the natural human sense of time as a conveyor of meaning by fluently speaking the language of time in its worship.”

~~~Excerpts are from the book, Introduction to Christian Worship, Third Edition, James F. White, Abingdon Press, 2000.

Margot’s Commentary:

Therefore, we, as the Body of Christ, might envision ourselves as “historical re-enactors,” as we observe the Church Calendar Year [see Color Wheel below.]  Each year is an opportunity for us to corporately rehearse the mighty acts of the Triune God and to collectively re-enact the events of our salvation history.  These historical events are linked together seamlessly into the Grand Drama of Redemption, in the same way that Shakespeare composes a play with a specific number of “Acts.”  The Church Calendar Year is a visual encapsulation of the Drama of Redemption:  it is the Language of Time.

The Church Year begins with the observation of Advent, the First Coming of Christ.

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Welcome to Advent Lessons & Carols!

Dear Family & Friends,

“Advent” is the season of preparation before Christmas; “Lessons” are Scripture Readings and “Carols” are Songs.  Together, “Lessons and Carols” comprise a beautiful liturgical Worship Service.  I will explain more about that history later.

Today, I am announcing the beginning of my “Advent Lessons,”  in which I will provide ON-LINE lessons in the  Art of the Reclamation of Advent.  

My qualifications:  I have successfully reclaimed the Advent Season, for six years.

Proviso:  This Series is not for everyone!  It is intended only for those who sincerely want to Recover, Reclaim, and Revision the Advent Season.

We will begin lessons next week:

~Sign up for class by “Commenting” on this entry.

~Bring a pencil/pen and college-ruled three-ring paper.  That is your first assignment.

Coram Deo,



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