|by Philip Brooks; copy of MS of first verse|
The line I quoted comes from the third verse, my favourite in this carol. I don't think I have ever seen the fourth verse before. I've put all the verses up at the end of this post.
Last year, Advent was a wonderful time.
I followed the "Natwivity" on facebook, impatient for each character in the age-old story to add their posts. The shepherds cracking terrible jokes, the three wise men, called "Wise, Wiser, Wisest" discussing what to do next, the whole drama of what would Joseph do when he found out that Mary was expecting someone else's child. People could comment on the story as it unfolded, encouraging Joseph to "stay with Mary, it will all work out", capping the shepherd's jokes, booing and hissing everything that Herod said.
One of the blogs I follow, at www.ibenedictines.org. posted about the "O antiphons", which I had never heard of before, giving the text, a soundclip of the plainsong chant, and a reflection for each of them. (Actually, as I discovered, everyone knows the "O antiphons", but as the Advent hymn "O come, O come Emmanuel").
There was a brilliant BBC drama of the nativity story, broadcast in several episodes.
The Beatbox nativity was another highlight. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyuzSzdpE38
On the non-religious side I had my wonderful Jacquie Lawson Advent calendar on my laptop, and a chocolate advent calendar.
Last year I was immersed in the whole Advent experience.
This year has been very different. I have been a week behind with the chocolate calendar at least twice. The advent candle has only burned down as far as 8. I haven't opened the Jacquie Lawson calendar for days and days - I have no idea where to begin to catch up. I am way behind with where the natwivity has got to in the story line, the O antiphons came and went without me, and when I finally made it to church yesterday, they lit all four candles on the advent ring in one go. Faith, Hope, Love, Joy, Peace? I have no idea what they represent.
All is not entirely lost: I have discovered this delightful version of the nativity, courtesy of Twitter:
Christmas has crept upon me, how silently, how silently. The blessings of His Heaven are there to be seen, in the incremental improvements for my mother. OK, so her left side still doesn't function. Yet. But mentally, physically, emotionally - I have to admit that there is a long way to go. But if I look back, I can see clearly just how far we have come.
And if I waver at any time, I only have to look back at the photograph I took on the first day. I only have to see how well she was able to lift her head this evening, with proper control, and keep it steady in order to talk to me, when she was lying flat on her back waiting for the nurse to finish putting her to bed. I only have to hold her left hand, or massage her left foot, to see how much looser and more flexible the joints are. She can endure sitting in the chair for several hours now, she can cope with standing in the support frame for 15 minutes.
I have no idea how far along the dark streets we will be able to travel. But I can look back and see how far we have come.
1. O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.
2. O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep the Angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
3. How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His Heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
4. Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee,
Son of the Mother mild;
Where Charity stands watching
And Faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.
5. O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels,
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!
|1698 de Bruijin View of Bethlehem, Palestine (Israel, Holy Land) - Geographicus - Bethlehem-bruijn-1698.jpg wikipedia|