Monday, December 17, 2012

Lessons and Carols

We went to the Festival of Lessons and Carols.
My daughter, my baby son, and I.
And on the way, I told Julia
that after a tragedy, when the news media
descends like starving buzzards on the injured and stunned,
we can do two things
that are correct.
Two holy choices.

The best choice is to fast and pray.

The second-best choice is to meet
in community
and worship.

We will not fasten our eyes on the news.
We will fix our eyes on Jesus.
In Him we find life.
His life is the light in which we live.

The service is planned every year by my friend Vicki.
Another friend plays the violin.
 Near the beginning of the service,
Ruthie began to play a familiar melody.

Then, she deftly
wove the song into the hymn
"Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus."

"From our fears and sins release us.
Let us find our rest in Thee."

The melody changed and changed again.
 The lyrics on the screen changed too.

From the anthem, "Our hope is not yet lost,
The ancient hope."

And then, the Christian hymn:
"Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art."

 It was just right.
I wept, as the baby boy in my arms 
happily smiled at the people in the pew behind us.

The Nine Lessons and Carols is a long service.
It ushers the worshiper from the Garden to the Advent.
Near the end of this program,
a soloist sang "Silent Night."
In German.

And I thought of my great-grandparents,
whose parents were immigrants because of the Kaiser,
raising their nine children
without German.

Because the fear and loathing of our nation
had turned in one accord against this mighty little country
which was ruled by a person
who was ruled by the spirit of murder.

My goodness. So much healing.
Many years later, but still....
so much healing.

"The balm in Gilead,"
the anthem resounds,
"Your Healer in Jerusalem,
Your Healer is God."

The service ended, and I was glad to have worshiped with true worshipers.

My girl and my baby and I walked out into the icy night air.
I was still sad, yes.

But I will proclaim
and hope
and pray
and sing
with all my heart,
that the One who made us fit to be with Him
is going to make all things right.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What Are You Waiting For?

This is the season where it seems
the whole world waits expectantly.
I wait too.
Every morning I start the day with hope.
Hope for the babies to be born.
Hope for people I love to be healed.
Hope for good news for my second son,
who has many applications out to med schools.
Hope for regular employment in our family.

Today is one of my favorite days.
We meet at a friend's house for Home Church.
I know the worship leader.
(I'm married to him).
So, I request songs.
All hymns.
And this morning - I hope -
we will sing my favorite Christmas song of all.

"Come, Thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne."

(Words by Charles Wesley, 1745
Music by F. Mendelssohn)

What are you waiting for?
Whatever it is,
I hope you find your rest in Him
this season.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Simple Christmas

This week I watched a morning news program, and my heart sank.
The visiting crafter-artist gave the audience lots of ideas for Christmas decorating.
I didn't approve of any of them.
And then I had to confess my pride.
There is a real possibility that her ideas were lovely,
and my idea of beautiful is off-key.

Here is the problem with Christmas decorating.
It can be fussy and exhausting.
And it can fail to lead my heart in the right direction.

So this year I resolve to not buy one new thing.
The only new ornament is this one of Malachi.
To his left is his Grandma Murphy as a little girl, with her mother.

My mom's childhood portrait.
I added these photograph ornaments last year.
They are copies of old family pictures, glued onto cardstock.

Our little tree, mostly decorated with vintage ornaments and birds.

I can't help it.
I love old ornaments.
The next few Christmases,
with a toddler charging about,
they won't even come out of their boxes.

A piano panel.  Peruvian pots. A sketch of Jesus with a little child.
I know the words are,
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
But I ran out of room.
And what could be better,
at this season,
than me resting in Him,

The kids are still having a fit over these stockings.
I made them out of old clothes.
That's not the problem.
The problem is that they are half the size of the old stockings.

This mantel took about ten minutes to put together.
The antlers hold the stockings,
and the green branches are white pine
trimmed from our trees.

The little silver tree in the entryway.
It's held in place by driftwood.

When I see this phrase, 
it's impossible not to start singing the words.
Sing it out.
There is power in the spoken word.

My daughter's little tree.
Every year I plead with her to not get it out.
In fact, this year my daughters did most of the decorating.
They love the tradition of it.

A new wreath made my my older daughter.
(Poetry and atlas pages)

So the house is ready for Christmas.
It's as simple as I could make it,
with kids who want to drag out every decoration we own.
All I care about this year is what is under the tree.
No, not the gifts.
Those will be secondary.
I mean the baby.
The baby we call Malachi Jude,
who gazes in wonder at the lights.

I'm reminded, when I hold his chubby little body,
of the only thing that matters at Christmas.
A baby.
I am astounded that God chose
such a beginning.
"Because eternity 
     Was closeted in time
    He is my open door
To forever."
(Luci Shaw)