In Dazzling Darkness

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Deep midwinter, the dark center of the year,
Wake, O earth, awake,
Out of the hills a star appears,
Here lies the way for pilgrim kings,
Three magi on an ancient path,
Black hours begin their journeyings.

Their star has risen in our hearts,
Empty thrones, abandoning fears,
Out on the hills their journey starts,
In dazzling darkness God appears.
~Judith Bingham “Epiphany”

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…the scent of frankincense
and myrrh
arrives on the wind,
and I long
to breathe deeply,
to divine its trail.
But I know their uses
and cannot bring myself
to breathe deeply enough
to know
whether what comes
is the fragrant welcoming
of birth
or simply covers the stench of death.
These hands
coming toward me,
is it swaddling they carry
or shroud?
~Jan Richardson from Night Visions –searching the shadows of Advent and Christmas

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Unclench your fists

Hold out your hands.

Take mine.

Let us hold each other.

Thus is his Glory Manifest.
~Madeleine L’Engle “Epiphany”

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All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
~T.S. Eliot from “Journey of the Magi”

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The Christmas season is a wrap, put away for another year.
However, our hearts are not so easily boxed up and stored as the decorations and ornaments of the season.

Our troubles and concerns go on; our frailty a daily reality.
We can be distracted with holidays for a few weeks, but our time here slips away ever more quickly.

The Christmas story is not just about light and birth and joy to the world.
It is about how swaddling clothes became a shroud that wrapped Him tight.
There is not one without the other.

God came to be with us;
Delivered so He could deliver.
Planted on and in the earth.
Born so He could die in our place
To leave the linen strips behind, neatly folded.

Christmas:  an unwrapping that frees us forever.
Epiphany: the evidence the Seed has taken root in our hearts.

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God Among Us: A Crown He Bore

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Crowning
The obstetrical term for the final moment of labor
prior to delivery when the topmost portion of the
baby’s head may be seen externally

At the moment of his birth
this baby wore his mother upside down,
wore her ‘round his head like a huge soft hat.

Later, of course, she would see him
under another bloody crown
and they would both be suffering.
But for the time being, it was Mary who labored,
completing the terrible risk of her confinement,
bearing her pain, and her blood.
From within the dark interior of her distress
she was unaware
that she was the crown he bore.
~John Shaw

For what is our hope, our joy,
or the crown in which we will glory
in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?
Is it not you?
Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

1 Thessalonians 2: 19-20

 

At that moment of crowning,
that exquisite pain known by every mother,
there is a sense of inevitability,
of no turning back
and starting over
for deliverer
and delivered.

He is coming,
in glory,
in such certainty,
wearing us
bloodied
as His crown.
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O Savior of our fallen race,
O Brightness of the Father’s face,
O Son who shared the Father’s might
Before the world knew day or night,
O Jesus, very Light of light,
Our constant star in sin’s deep night:
Now hear the prayers Your people pray
Throughout the world this holy day.

Remind us Lord of life and grace
How once, to save our fallen race,
You put our human vesture on
And came to us as Mary’s son.
Today, as year by year its light
Brings to our world a promise bright
One precious truth outshines the sun:
Salvation comes from You alone.

For from the Father’s throne You came,
His banished children to reclaim;
And earth and sea and sky revere
The love of Him who sent You here.
And we are jubilant today,
For You have washed our guilt away.
O hear the glad new song we sing
On this, the birth of Christ our King!

O Savior of our fallen race,
The world will see Your radiant face
For You who came to us before
Will come again and all restore.
Let songs of praise Your name adorn,
O Christ, Redeemer, virgin-born
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Spirit evermore. Alleluia!
~6th century Latin Hymn, adapted by Keith and Kristyn Getty

There is no rose of such virtue
As is the Rose that bore Jesu:
Alleluia.
For in this rose was contained
Heaven and earth in a small space.
Wondrous thing. Res miranda.
By that rose we may well see
There is one God in persons three.
Equally formed. Pares forma.
The angels sang; the shepherds, too:
Glory to God in the highest!
Let us rejoice. Gaudeamus.
Leave we all these worldly cares
And follow we this joyful birth.
Let us be transformed. Transeamus.
~Benjamin Britten “There is no rose” from “Ceremony of the Carols”1943

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