by Carol Dixon
I am not usually lost for words (my husband of 52 years can vouch for that) but this Advent I have been dumbstruck with awe and wonder as I contemplate the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas.
I didn’t feel like that at all a couple of weeks ago when I felt far away from God and was facing two emergency blood transfusions due to a seriously low blood count which had somehow been missed by the medical profession despite a number of phone calls – and I called out in my distress to my Godspacelight friends who enfolded me in their love and prayers. Thankfully the long-term outcome is good and I am due to have regular intravenous iron infusions and monthly blood checks until I see my stoma specialist in February. Throughout the scary emergency the prayers of others have enabled me to draw close to God again. So thank you all.
Your prayers and the transfusions meant I was also well enough to lead our church’s Worship on Wednesday (which we call WoW) before the Lay Preachers and Worship Leaders Advent Gathering. I based the service on John 1: The Prologue, that wonderful cosmic beginning to the fourth gospel. (If you want to read the essence of what I said you can find it in my Godspacelight reflection called The Word. Our service was also infused with music including some of the lovely Christmas songs by The Monks of Weston Priory, used with their permission and blessing, and some lovely prayers from CAFOD as well as Sheila Hamil’s wonderful song ‘In the beginning‘.
The service began with words from the first letter of John from the Good News Bible:
We write to you about the Word of life, which has existed from the very beginning. We have heard it, and we have seen it with our eyes; yes, we have seen it, and our hands have touched it. 2 When this life became visible, we saw it; so we speak of it and tell you about the eternal life which was with the Father and was made known to us. 3 What we have seen and heard we announce to you also, so that you will join with us in the fellowship that we have with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We write this in order that your joy may be complete.
This was followed by the beautiful ancient hymn ‘Of the Father’s love begotten’
Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the world’s began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, he the source, the ending he,
Of the things that are, that have been
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore.
By his word was all created: he commanded and ‘twas done,
Earth and sky and boundless ocean, universe of Three in One,
All that sees the moon’s soft radiance,
all that breathes beneath the sun, evermore and evermore.
Let the heights of heaven adore him; angel hosts, his praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before him, and extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent, every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore. [Words: Prudentius (348 – c413)]
We ended with Christina Rosetti’s well known poem ‘Love came down at Christmas’ to the tune Garten.
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
The Holy Spirit was so strongly present during the whole service that at the end there was a kind of ‘holy hush’ as we were all held in the moment. Amazing what God does when all we have to offer him is our weakness.
Another ancient hymn that has spoken to me over the past few weeks is ‘O come, O come Emmanuel’ with its haunting melody. (There is an amazing version of it in Hebrew by Anna Hawkins on YouTube) and the verse which really resonated with me is ‘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. ‘ There is so much tragedy & poverty and worry & complaining in our world at present which seems to sound a death knell to joy and hope it is so good to remember that Jesus is our Dayspring – our light in the darkness that nothing can put out. Joni Erickson Tada* in her book ‘A Christmas Longing’ says of this verse: ‘There’s a kind of longing in those words, isn’t there? They are words that could come right out of the depths of your heart when you feel captive by doubt or despair. Maybe you feel your own life could be sung in a minor key just now … But there is more to that song! A triumphant chorus which echoes ‘Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee’ That is the hope that Christmas gives.’
So my prayer for you this Christmas is a prayer of blessing and a song from the Monks of Weston Priory.
May love be the gift you give and receive
May peace be the wrapping that enfolds you
May hope be the flame that burns in your hearts
And joy be the blessing that upholds you.
And may the living word of God fill (y)our lives
this Advent season and always. Amen
© Carol Dixon 2022
Deep into the stillness of night
Deep, deep into the stillness of night,
when the earth slept,
intense with calm and expectation,
the Dawn rose and with light of day,
Word of our God leapt from heaven,
bringing new wholeness and peace:
Now, now shall the desert bloom
and the parched land rejoice with flower and song.
The glory of God shall be for all to see:
strength to the hands that are feeble,
courage to those clothed in fear,
our God is near.
Opened shall be the eyes of the blind:
now the deaf shall hear and the lame leap for joy;
let sorrow flee, no longer mourning death,
filled with the joy of this new day:
God has become one with us in Jesus,
© 1978 The Benedictine Foundation of the State of Vermont, Inc
Nativity picture by Sian Dixon aged 5
*A Christmas Longing by Joni Erickson Tada publ. by Scripture Press ISBN 1-8762059-59-7
Following The Star Into the New Year
In January we celebrate Epiphany and the coming of the Magi to visit Jesus. Like them, many of us feel we are on a long journey following a star that is sometimes bright and shining, sometimes completely hidden yet still guiding us towards Christ. 2022 taught us important lessons that will shape the coming year. We sense God wants to do something new in our lives and we want to follow in the right direction.
Join Lilly Lewin and Christine Sine online Saturday, January 7th 2023 from 9:30 am PT to 12:30pm PT as they help us reflect on the past year and take time to hope, dream and pray for the year ahead. We will engage in some fun practices like chalking the door and interact with each other in ways that strengthen our faith and draw us closer to God.
Click here to register! We are once again offering several price points to aid those who are students or in economic hardship.