A Worship Magazine
Easley Presbyterian Church
Vol. 5 Issue 5
A common thread that joins us together with Christ and with each other.
Service of Lessons and Carols The first Festival of Lessons and Carols was held at King’s College on Christmas Eve 1918. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who desired to bring more imaginative worship into the Church of England. The service was traditionally begun with the hymn “Once in Royal David’s City,” but otherwise the carols may change from year to year. Almost immediately other churches adapted the service to their own use. A wider frame began to grow when the service was first broadcast in 1928 and, with the exception of 1930, it has been broadcast annually, even during the Second World War. It continues to be televised and digitally broadcast around the world. One correspondent writes that he heard the service in a tent on the foothills of Everest; another, in the desert. Many listen at home, busy about their own preparations for Christmas. Visitors from all over the world are heard to identify the Chapel as “the Place where the Carols are sung.” Wherever the service is heard and however it is adapted, whether the music is provided by choir or congregation, the pattern and strength of the service is the combination of Scripture and music expressing the
loving purposes of God throughout time and fully expressed in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Service o Lessons and Carols tells the story of God’s great work of salvation from the beginning of creation, through the words of the prophets, and the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. The carols help bring the emotive imagery and creativity into the telling of this story. On Sunday, December 8th at 11:00 am, Easley Presbyterian Church will present its own version of the Service of Lessons and Carols. You are invited to come and hear with fresh ears this story of Redemption.
Lessons and Carols Meditation: “Sing We Now of Christmas”(click title to listen) As we prepare our house for the coming Christmas season, we would also prepare our hearts for the returning Christ. You came once for your people, O Lord, and you will come for us again. Though there was no room at the inn to receive you upon your first arrival, We would prepare you room here in our hearts and here in our home, Lord Christ. As we decorate and celebrate, we do so to mark the memory of your redemptive movement into our broken world, O God. Our glittering ornaments and Christmas trees, our festive carols, our sumptuous feasts– by these small tokens we affirm that something amazing has happened in time and space — that God, on a particular night, in a particular place, so many years ago, was born to us, an infant King, our Prince of Peace. Our wreaths and ribbons and colored lights, our giving of gifts, our parties with friends — these have never been ends in themselves. They are but small ways in which we repeat the sounding joy first proclaimed by the angels in the skies near Bethlehem. In view of such tidings of love announced to us, and to all people, how can we not be moved to praise and celebration in this Christmas season? As we decorate our tree, and as we feast and laugh, and sing together, we are reOnce in royal David’s hearsing our coming joy! We are city stood a lowly cattle shed, making ready to receive the one Where a mother laid her baby who has already, with open arms, in a manger for his bed: received us! We would prepare Mary was that mother mild; you room here in our hearts and Jesus Christ, her little child. here in our home, Lord Jesus. He came down to earth from heaven Now, we celebrate your first who is God and Lord of all, coming, Immanuel, even as we And his shelter was a stable, and his cradle was a stall; long for your return. O prince of With the poor and meek and lowly, Peace, our elder brother, return Lived on earth our Savior holy. soon. We miss you! Amen. Jesus is our childhood’s pattern; day by day like us he grew; He was little, weak and helpless; t ears and smiles like us he knew; And he feels for all our sadness, And he shares in all our gladness. And our eyes at last shall see him, through his own redeeming love; For that child so dear and gentle is our Lord in heaven above; And he leads his children on To the place where his is gone.
Hymn Meditation: “Once in Royal David’s City”
“Angel with Viol” Sir Edward Burne-Jones
(click title to listen)
We don’t think of this as a children’s carol, but that’s how it started. Cecil Frances Alexander published it in 1848 as part of “Hymns for Little Children.” A writer of many hymns and poems for children, she was the wife of the Bishop of Derry in Northern Ireland. She took her position very seriously, traveling with her —Cecil Frances Alexander, 1848 husband as he visited different churches, always spending time with the children. History records her love for those on the mar-
3 gins of society. Money from her early publications went to establish an institute for the deaf. She was also a noted supporter of the Derry Home for Fallen Women. She loved to visit the poor and the sick. Several of her other hymns are known the world over, including “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “There is a Green Hill Far Away.” She wrote a series of hymns for children to illustrate the Tomorrow shall be my dancing day; Apostles Creed. “Once in Royal David’s City” illuminates the I would my true love did so chance To see the legend of my play, phrase “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin To call my true love to my dance: Mary.” The phrase “Royal David’s City” refers to Bethlehem and hearkens back to 1 Samuel 16 where Samuel was sent by Sing O my love, the Lord to anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be the king who O my love, my love, my love, my love; would replace Saul. After passing over the older sons, Samuel This have I done for my true love. asked, “Are all your sons here?” The answer was no, the Then was I born of a virgin pure, youngest one, David, was tending the sheep. Surely the Lord Of her I took fleshly substance; would not pass over the seven older brothers, would he? But Thus was I knit to man’s nature, that’s exactly what the Lord did, teaching us that while man To call my true love to my dance: looks on the outside, God looks at the heart. The Lord knew the young shepherd boy had a heart like his. So Samuel anointed David who would become Israel’s greatest king. Mrs. Alexander had a knack for expressing biblical truth in language children would easily understand. If you read the verses carefully, you can see this is truly a children’s song from first to last. But over time it has passed into a wider realm and is now a beloved carol sung by all ages. Since 1918, this carol has been the processional hymn during the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve at King's College, Cambridge, England.
Sing O my love, O my love, my love, my love, my love; This have I done for my true love. In a manger laid and wrapped I was, So very poor, this was my chance, Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass, To call my true love to my dance: Sing O my love, O my love, my love, my love, my love; This have I done for my true love.
Meditation: “Tomorrow Shall be My Dancing Day” (click title to listen) This traditional carol is a medieval English text and tune. It was most likely originally a part of a “Mystery Play” that was performed during the Christmas (or Easter) season. These mystery plays would act out the life of Christ. (The first verse talks about the “legend of my play” referring to this type of drama). As part of these plays, it was customary to dance a “circle dance” around the Creche (the Nativity scene). The “true love” in the song is the Church of Christ —his Bride. The original song had 11 stanzas each telling parts of the life of Christ: the birth, baptism, temptation, miracles, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, etc. At the end of each stanza is the statement: “This have I done for my true love” — everything He did, was for us, calling us to join His dance.
“Dancing Angels” Givanni di Paolo, c. 1455
The popular hymn, “Lord of the Dance” was inspired by this ancient text and follows that same theme.
First Antiphon “O Wisdom” O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, Reaching from one end to the other mightily, And sweetly ordering all things, Come and teach us the way of prudence
Proverbs 8:1, 10-11, 21-26, 32-53 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries. The Lord created me at the beginning[b] of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth— when he had not yet made earth and fields,[ or the world’s first bits of soil. “And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord;
“An Angel” Sir Edward Burne-Jones
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Adult Handbells
(click title to listen)
Second Antiphon “O Adonai” O Adonai, leader of the house of Israel, Who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush And gave him the law on Mount Sinai: Come and redeem us with outstretched arm.
Exodus 24:12-18; 31:18 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.” Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. When God finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
“An Angel” Sir Edward Burne-Jones
Meditation: “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” (click title to listen) Peace be to you and grace from him Who freed us from our sins, Who loved us all and shed his blood That we might saved be. Sing holy, holy to our Lord, The Lord, Almighty God, Who was and is and is to come; Sing holy, holy, Lord! Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein, Rejoice on earth, ye saints below, For Christ is coming, is coming soon, For Christ is coming soon! E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come, And night shall be no more; They need no light nor lamp nor sun, For Christ will be their All!
He who testifies about these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. Revelation 22:20-21 E’en So Lord Jesus Quickly Come was published in 1954 (this is the 50th Anniversary) by Concordia Publishing House. It has been performed around the world and has been recorded hundreds of times by both professional and amateur choirs. Over one million copies of the motet have been sold since the original publication date. The writing of E’en So… came at a time of great stress in the Manz household. John Manz, the three-year-old
Third Antiphon “O Root of Jesse” Isaiah 11:1-10 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The ox and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign among the peoples, Before you kings will shut their mouths, To you the nations will make their prayer; Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
Meditation: “The Winter Rose” (click title to listen)
Symbols are a curious thing. Some have universl meaning. Others are more colloquial, having significance only in a smaller community. Some have both. The rose has been a symbol of many things. Some consider it to be the mightiest and most beautiful of all flowers. It is a symbol of beauty and love. “I am the rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley.” (Song of Solomon 2:1). It has been the symbol of mighty families. It is also a symbol of our Lord Jesus Christ. The scriptures make a number of references to flowers. Most of them allude to the flower fading and dying away. Unique to Christ, though, is the knowledge that this rose blooms eternally. From the frail, tender stem of man blooms the beautiful, mighty, eternal Rose. That said, this wonderful, beloved hymn was not originally about a “rose” at all. The original line was “Behold a twig ever sprouting.” The German word for twig is Reis. This word became confused in translation and became Ros which means “rose”. But why might the Germans have thought Rose instead of Reis (twig)? A likely explanation is in the common symbolism of the wintertime feast. Europeans used plants that thrive in the winter as a symbol of hope and life in the spring to come. Today we use the poinsettia and the fir tree as a similar symbol. For the Europeans, the Christmas Rose has long been used this way. (The Christmas Rose is a winter blooming plant that is not really a rose at all.) God can take even a human mistake or misunderstanding and transform it into a powerful symbol.
7 Closely connected with the rose/flower image, this song speaks of the Promised One sprouting “amid the cold of winter when half-spent was the night.” This is certainly not the first hymn to use winter imagery describing the birth of Christ. Doubtless, this is based on the December observance of Christ’s birth. In truth, we do not know the time of year for the birth of Christ. Many even believe it was the Spring — the time when shepherds would have been in the fields with the sheep. Yet, though technically we cannot assert that Christ was born in the wintertime, the use of the imagery of winter to depict the plight of the sinful world needing a Savior to bring new life is fitting. The same may be said of fixing the time of the Savior’s birth as the middle of the night. The darkness sets the appropriate stage for the coming of the glorious In the silence of the winter While stars shown high above, “Light of the world.” God sent from heaven’s garden A rose to show His love. It opened in the dark of night While the world was fast asleep. So perfect was its beauty, It made the heavens weep. The angels paused to wonder Upon that winsome sight. And kings and shepherds gathered To worship in its light. They all breathed in its beauty, A precious sweet perfume. And in the bleak midwinter The Rose began to bloom. O let us now remember When God put on the thorn. And Love restored the garden And the Winter Rose was born. Oh, Love restored the garden And the Winter Rose was born. —Joseph Martin
Fourth Antiphon “O Key of David” O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel; You open and no one can shut; You shut and no one can open; Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, Those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Isaiah 22:22; 42:6-9 I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.
Meditation: “Wexford Carol”
(click title to listen)
Good people all, this Christmas time, Consider well, and bear in mind, What our good God for us has done, In sending his beloved son. With Mary holy, we should pray, To God with love this Christmas Day; In Bethlehem upon that morn, There was a blessed Messiah born.
he beloved manger scene which adorns Christian homes and churches each Christmas season traces its beginnings back to Francis of Assisi, who wanted to humanize the teachings of the scriptures and to remind Christians of the humble beginnings of Jesus Christ their Savior. In 1224, Francis Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep conceived his Their flocks of lambs, and feeding sheep; plan for a living To whom God's angels did appear, manger scene Which put the shepherds in great fear. while watching “Prepare and go”, the angels said, shepherds in the “To Bethlehem, be not afraid. field outside the For there you'll find, this happy morn village of Grec- A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born.” cio, Italy. He With thankful heart and joyful mind, went to the The shepherds went the babe to find, Pope himself to And as God's angel had foretold, seek permission They did our Savior Christ behold. to perform his Within a manger he was laid, Nativity scene And by his side a virgin maid and then sought Attending on the Lord of Life, help from a Who came on earth to end all strife wealthy noble- —Traditional Irish Carol m an nam ed Giovanni of Greccio, who Francis knew, “valued nobility of blood less than nobility of soul.” Giovanni gave Francis the space in a hillside cave outside the village for his manger scene. Before Christmas came, news spread through the countryside that Francis was planning a unique and special Christmas Eve, the villagers lit torches and walked up through the trees toward the manger, bringing the hillside alive with their bright light. Francis read the words of the gospel which described the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the crowd was awestruck, moved to silence by the beauty and simplicity of the moment. The gathered Christians left the manger singing hymns and carried their torches back into the village. The beauty of the night was not soon forgotten by those who had witnessed it. Many understood the true meaning of the birth in the stable in Bethlehem fully for the first time that night. Thereafter, a living manger scene or a set of carved figures became increasingly part of the Christmas tradition in Italy, and eventually spread to many other Christian lands. “Annunciation” “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” is a 14th century Polish carol Sir. Edward Burne-Jones, 1879 depicting the manger scene on that very first Christmas night. It recalls the humble beginning of a baby who was King and Savior of all mankind. —from The Traditions of Christmas by Nancy J. Skarmeas
Fifth Antiphon “O Morning Star” Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
O Morning Star, Splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those that dwell in darkness And in the shadow of death.
Meditation: “I Ponder” (click title to listen)
The heavens are silent, the wise men have gone, The flurries of angels have finished their song. The shepherds have long since returned to their sheep, The stable is empty, the star fast asleep. I ponder the wonders I carry inside: A star bright as diamonds, and ebony sky, The shepherd who carries a little white lamb, The wise me who offers the gold in his hand.
This is a beautiful new text from one of my favorite writers, Pamela Martin. She expounds on the idea of Mary “pondering in her heart”. It dwells on the mysteries of the moments of the miraculous birth of a Baby. The first stanza is written from Mary’s perspective. What did she feel? How did she wrap her brain around all of the things that were happening? The second stanza is written from the perspective of the author of the text (or the perspective of all of us modern day Christians). These strange miraculous happenings are far, far away. We are removed from the mystery of those moments. But as she (we) pauses and ponders, a miracle starts, and Christ is born again in our hearts (the mysteries and the moments long ago That Bethlehem evening is far, far away are just as real as they were then.) From the world where I live, the world of today. I pause and I ponder, a miracle starts, The Savior is born once again in my heart. I ponder the wonders I carry inside: The thunder of wings from the angels on high, The sight of the manger, the scent of the hay, The Child smiling up at the creatures He made. -Pamela Martin
Sixth Antiphon “O King of the Nations” O King of the nations, and their desire, The cornerstone making both one, Come and save the human race whom you fashioned from clay.
Isaiah 60:1-7 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall be acceptable on my altar, and I will glorify my glorious house.
“Song of the Angels” William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1881
Meditation:“Silent is the Night” (click title to listen) Hush, hush, Silent is the night. But Christ will come to Mary before the morning light. Hush, hush. Peace to all the earth, For tonight will come a Savior, and tonight a holy birth. Be still, be still. Silent is the night. Be still, be still; Silent is the world tonight. Hush, hush. Look up in the sky. There’s a star above a manger. hear a newborn baby cry. Hush, hush. See the holy one. Sing a lullaby, so He may sleep, for He is God’s own Son. —Jay Althouse
“Be still and know that I am God.” There is nothing quiet or “silent” about any birth! But we are called to be still and know… even in the middle of a chaotic world. If anyone knew that this was God, then Mary knew it! Be still and know that I am God. This is a lullaby — perhaps just as much for Mary and Joseph as it is for the Baby. Calling all of us to “Hush! Hush!” and Be still and know that this Baby is God.
Sixth Antiphon “O King of the Nations” O Emmanuel, our King and our lawgiver, The hope of the nations and their Savior; Come and save us, O Lord our God
Isaiah 7:14, 42:1-7 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching. Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
Meditation: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” The Messiah’s coming was prophesied 600 years before His birth. At the time the Jewish people were living in captivity in Babylon. For centuries thereafter faithful Jews earnestly anticipated the DelivererMessiah with great longing and expectati on, echoing the prayer that would “ransom captive Israel.” And finally the long awaited heavenly announcement came— ”Unto us is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:11). “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was originally used in the medieval church liturgy as a series of antiphons—short musical statements that were sung for the week of vesper services just before Christmas Eve. Each of these anitphons greets the anticipated “Kissing the Face of God” Morgan Weistling Messiah with one of the titles ascribed to Him throughout the Old Testament: Wisdom, Emmanuel, The Lord of Might, The Rod of Jesse, Day Spring, and the Key of David.
12 The haunting modal melody for the verses is also of ancient origin. It is based on one of the earliest forms of sacred music known—the Chant or Plain Song. Christ came not only to be Emmanuel—”God with us” — but even in a more personal way, God in us. Carry this truth throughout the Advent season. — Kenneth W. Osbeck, “Amazing Grace”
O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear. O come, thou Wisdom from on high, And order all things far and nigh; To us the path of knowledge show, And cause us in her ways to go. 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, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Prayer for Advent Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of the mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heavenly home; The captives from their prison free, And conquer death’s deep 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, Desire of nations, bind All peoples in one heart and mind. Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. — 9th Century Latin
“Angels Singing and Playing Music” Jan van Eyck, 1432
Meditation:“Silent Night” click on title to listen Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin mother and child Holy infant so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.
The Story of “Silent Night”
ven though “Silent Night” has been recorded more than any other song in history, the fact we know it at all is a miracle. Created out of necessity and performed in a tiny village on a solitary Christmas Eve by two ordinary Austrians and a tiny choir, this incredibly beautiful and simSilent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light, ple carol owes its debut to an organ that wouldn’t play Radiant beams from thy holy face, and a priest who wouldn’t hold a Christmas mass without With the dawn of redeeming grace, special music. Later, just weeks into the new year, the beJesus, Lord, at thy birth. loved carol’s march to worldwide popularity was begun by Jesus, lord, at thy birth. the man who came to fix the faulty instrument. Silent night, holy night, In 1817, 25 year old Joseph Mohr was assigned to the poWondrous star, lend thy light; sition of assistant priest at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, With the angels let us sing “Alleluia” to our King, Austria. A lover of music since his boyhood in Salzburg, Christ the savior is born, Mohr was placed in charge of the music used at the small Christ the Savior is born. church and he even wrote poems and song lyrics for special services. In his desire to serve and inspire, if ever a man fulfilled the full description of the word pastor, it was Mohr. In 1818, during a particularly cold winter, Mohr was making last-minute preparations for a special Christmas Eve mass, a service he had been planning for months. Everything from music to message was in place. But as he cleaned, the priest encountered an unfathomable dilemma: St. Nicholas’s organ wouldn’t play. Realizing he could do nothing else, the priest paused and prayed for inspiration. He asked God to show him a way to bring music to his congregation on the year’s most meaningful day of worship. Mohr would find the answer to his prayer born from events initiated almost two years before St. Nicholas’s organ played out. In 1816, Mohr had written a Christmas poem. The six unadorned stanzas were inspired on a winter’s walk from his grandfather’s home to church. Though he had shared the words with a few friends, the priest never sought to have the work published nor attempted to come up with a melody to go with his words. Digging “Stille Nacht!” from his desk, Mohr read over the words two years later. Up until that moment the verses hadn’t seemed very important to the priest, but as he read them again, it was as if the Lord was tossing him a lifeline of hope. On that same evening, 31 year old school teacher Franz Gruber was struggling to stay warm in his “Madonna with Sleeping Child” Andrea Mantegna, 1470 drafty apartment over the schoolhouse. Though he had once studied organ, he now played the instrument only for St. Nicholas’s modest services. Gruber must have been surprised to hear an insistent knock at his door and find Father
14 Mohr on the other side. By that time, the priest should have been at the church preparing for services, not making rounds, visiting old friends and colleagues. After a quick “Merry Christmas”, the obviously agitated priest pulled the teacher to the apartment’s small table and signaled for Gruber to sit down beside him. In a distressed tone, Mohr explained the problem they faced. After he convinced Gruber nothing could be done to fix the organ, Mohr showed Franz the poem. “Franz,” he begged, “can you write music to these words that can be easily learned by our choir? Without the organ, I guess the song will have to be played on a guitar.” The priest glanced at the clock on the table, and added, “The time is so short!” Studying the poem, Gruber nodded his head. The look in his eyes and the smile on the schoolteacher’s faced showed that he felt up to the challenge. Confident again that God somehow had a special plan for this Christmas Eve, Mohr raced back across the snow to the church, leaving Gruber alone with his thoughts, a ticking clock, and a prayer for inspiration. A few hours later the two friends met at St. Nicholas. There, in a candlelit sanctuary, Gruber shared his new music with Mohr. The priest approved, and after learning the guitar chords, rushed it to the choir members, who were waiting for their scheduled rehearsal. What should have taken weeks was accomplished in hours. Just after midnight, Mohr and Gruber stood in front of the main altar and introduced their simple little song. As they sang, they couldn’t have guessed that “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!” would be remembered not only the next Christmas in their small village, but almost two hundred years later, around the world. A few weeks into the new year, Karl Mauracher, an organ builder and repairman from Ziller Valley, traveled to Oberndordf to fix St. Nicholas’s organ. While Karl worked, Mohr shared the story of how he and Gruber had used a guitar and an original composition to save the Christmas Eve mass. He sang the song he considered an answered prayer. Impressed, the repairman jotted down the words and learned the melody. Over the next few years, as he went about his profession, Mauracher introduced “Stille nacht!” to many churches and towns. The text and tune passed along by word of mouth to different groups. It was sung at a concert in front of a large crowd. Moved by the song’s deep spiritual message, King William IV of Prussia requested his nation’s Cathedral Choir sing “Stille Nacht!” at his annual Christmas celebration. Due in part to the king’s favor, “Stille Nacht!” stormed across much of Eastern Europe and pressed west to Great Britain. Father Joseph Mohr died penniless in 1848, before being recognized as the carol’s writer. By the late 1800’s “Silent Night” had been translated into more than twenty languages and was a vital part of Christmas celebrations around the world. Despite its popularity, “Silent Night” remains in most minds what it was written to be — a simple, direct ode of praise. Created to make a Christmas service more meaningful, the old Austrian carol is as powerful and fresh today as it was on that first Christmas Eve it was sung at St. Nicholas Church. An Answer to prayer, few words have better captured the story of a Savior born in a manger than “Silent Night.” —Ace Collins in “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas
Devotion on Advent Art
“The Annunciation” Jan Van Eyck
he picture (painted 1434-1436) depicts the Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she will bear the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38). There is an inscription— words beside Gabriel’s mouth stating, “Ave Graplena” - “Hail, full of grace…” And again beside Mary is inscribed her response: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord…” Her words are painted upside down for God above to see. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit descend to her on seven rays of light from the upper window to the left, with the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit following the same path. "This is the moment God's plan for salvation is set in motion. Through Christ's human incarnation the old era of the Law is transformed into a new era of Grace". The setting develops this theme. Mary was believed in the Middle Ages to have been a very studious girl who was engaged by the Temple of Jerusalem with other selected maidens to spin new curtains for the Holy of Holies. She sits, studying the scriptures (possibly the book of Isaiah). The temple is decorated with subjects from the Old Testament that prefigure the coming of the Messiah. In the floor tiles David's slaying of Goliath (center front), foretells Christ's triumph over sin. Behind this, Samson pulls down the Temple of the Philistines, prefiguring both the Crucifixion and the Last Judgment. The rear wall has a single stained glass window, where Jehovah stands, surrounded by seraphim. Behind Mary, there are three windows, representing the Trinity. On either side of the single stained glass window are dim wall-paintings of the finding of Moses by Pharaoh's daughter (left, pre-figuring the Annunciation itself), and Moses receiving the Ten Commandments (right, paralleling the New Covenant Christ would bring). The lilies (in the foreground) are a traditional attribute of Mary, standing for purity. The empty stool may be an "empty throne", a symbol for Christ going back to early Byzantine art.
16 Characters of Nativity: Shepherds
group of shepherds tending their flock would have been a very common sight in the first century around Bethlehem. There was nothing glamorous about this occupation. It was dirty and common, but it was honest, hard work, and respectable — after all, King David started out as a shepherd. Throughout the Scriptures, God has been identified with these caregivers. Psalm 23 is one of the best known Biblical texts. Christ became known as the Good Shepherd who cares for His flock. He also becomes the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It was therefore very appropriate that these humble, hardworking men and women were greeted by a host of angels announcing the birth of the King of kings, the Lamb of God, the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
hrismon is a combination of two words: Christ and Monogram. A Chrismon is a symbol of Christ. Christian symbols date back to the early church. Early Christians used them to identify themselves to one another. These symbols served to transmit the faith and beliefs of the followers of Christ. Chrismons were first used in 1957 to decorate a Christmas tree in the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Danville, Virginia. They were composed of white and gold materials, WHITE is symbolic of our Lord’s purity and perfection, GOLD, of His majesty, glory, and triumph. The little white lights on the tree point to Christ as the Light of the World.
The Chi Rho Cross
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15-16 Chi and Rho are the first two letters of the Greek word “Christos”, that is Christ. This is one of the most ancient Christian Symbols.
The Crown Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet and there were loud voices in heaven saying, “The kingdom of this world has become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” Revelation 11:15 The Crown symbolizes sovereignty and shows that Christ is the Ruler over all creation.
any Old Testament prophecies told of the coming of Jesus, the Savior. Our use of the Advent Candles help us focus on three comings or “advents” of Christ. 1. Jesus came to earth, in human form, at Bethlehem, to save us from our sin. 2. Jesus comes into our hearts to cleanse us and conform us to His image. 3. Jesus instructed believers to watch for His second coming. The Advent Wreath forms a circle that represents Jesus’ divinity, without beginning or ending, and His unending love and care for His followers.
Detail from “Virgin of the Rocks” da Vinci, 1508
Purple, the Color of Advent
t has long been understood that colors have the power to evoke different emotional responses. Purple is a deep color and is intended to evoke deep emotions of remembering and waiting—remembering God’s promises, and waiting for the Promised One. Purple is a rich color often reserved for royalty. Let your hearts and minds dwell on the rich blessings provided by the King of kings. During this season when we are bombarded by red and green, by glitter and tinsel, let us enter the House of the Lord and be filled with the patient and pondering Purple. “Wait on the Lord, and renew your strength.”
Devotional on Advent Art
ativity is painted by an American artist named Brian Kershisnk (b. 1962). I came across a picture of this painting last Christmas and I was completely captivated by it. There is so much to see in the details of this painting (the original painting is 10 feet tall and 25 feet wide). Baby Jesus has just been born. He is still ruddy from birth and the midwives are cleaning up. Mary’s face is flushed and her eyes are red from weeping and childbirth. Poor Joseph is completely overwhelmed by the experience. He places a hand on Mary’s shoulder, trying to comfort her (as she places her hand on his, trying to comfort him.) Even a kindly “unseen” angel places a hand on Joseph’s head trying to comfort him. The scene of the new family is not radiant or beautiful, but it is nevertheless a holy moment that is real and tender and magnificent. Almost the entire painting is filled with the heavenly host as they enter from the left and flow over the family like a wave crashing on the sea. The family seems unaware of their presence, but the little dog and her pups in the right corner seem curious about the angelic host in their humble stable. I simply love the expressions of the angels — and how those expressions change as they pro-
gress from left to right. As they enter, they are pointing. One turns back to the others as he glimpses the child as if saying: “He’s really here, the Christ Child is born!” Others have arms stretched out, longing to touch the Holy Baby. There is a feeling of excitement as they crowd into the stable. As they get closer to the family, the sense is much more reverent and awestruck and filled with quiet wonder. As they depart, the angels respond with singing praises — singing all the way out to the fields where they will announce the news to the shepherds gathered there. There is one angel who is being swept away with the crowd who is struggling to get a last glimpse of the Baby. In the angel throng there are infants, children, adults and elderly — all coming to see and worship Christ. Take a look at the angels. Take a close look. Can you find yourself in that crowd? Are you the one reaching longing to touch, or excited to tell those behind you that Christ is here? Are you reverently huddled around him in quiet worship, are you raising your voice in song? Are you offering comfort to the frightened Joseph? Are you lifting your hands in praise? I think we all can find ourselves somewhere in the painting.
19 Characters of the Nativity: Joseph
e don’t really know very much about Joseph. We do know that he was a carpenter — a skilled laborer from Nazareth. That tells us he was most likely strong and hard-working. We know that he was willing to treat Mary with kindness even when he found out she was pregnant and thought she had betrayed him. That tells us he was compassionate, kind, and wise. What kind of man would God choose to raise His very own Son? Strong, wise, and compassionate —that’s Joseph. Joseph stands proudly beside Mary, keeping loving watch over the Son who is not his own. In his hand, he holds a hammer, the symbol of the carpenter. The hammer and nails were used by his loving father to build a cradle, a bench, a home, for his family. The hammer and nails were used by his Father to save the world.
The Baptismal Shell The risen Christ instructed His disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. Just as Jesus was baptized at the beginning of His ministry, so the risen Christ instructed His disciples to go and baptize others. The shell with three drops of water falling from it symbolizes baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Jerusalem Cross
The Jerusalem Cross, with it’s equilateral sides, represents the 4 corners of the earth — Christ is Lord of all the earth and King of all creation. The four smaller crosses at each arm, represents the four Gospels (Matthew, mark, Luke, and John) used to spread the good news of salvation to all the earth.
Advent Art: “The Star of Bethlehem” Sir Edward Burne-Jones
he Star of Bethlehem is a painting in watercolor by Sir Edward Burne-Jones depicting the Adoration of the Magi with an angel holding the star of Bethlehem. At 101 1/8 x 152 inches, The Star of Bethlehem was the largest watercolor of the 19th century. It was completed in 1890. Jones adds a melodramatic element to the traditional scene, emphasizing emotions and creating a mysterious atmosphere. This impression of mystery is reinforced by his choice of color. Though blue is generally the color of the Virgin’s cloak, here it is a prevalent tint. All the characters are clad in dark-blue clothes, which confers unity to the scene. The scene is imbued with gothic gloominess and medieval mystery. One of the three wise men is a knight in his armor. The helmet on his head is a most unusual detail. Edward Burne -Jones revisits the Nativity and transposes the scene into the Middle-Ages. His style owes much to tapestry: the prevalent colors are green, blue and red; flowers and vegetal ornaments decorate the scene; all sense of depth and perspective has been abolished. The scene is bathed in a mysterious, preternatural light, which gives an eerie atmosphere to the scene. This dream-like effect springs from the use of color and the abundance of details. Edward Burne-Jones minutely painted all the details of the Magi’s garment: the gems and precious stones ornamenting the crown, the decorated seam of the African wise man, the embroidery on the edging of the gown, the shoes designed after the medieval fashion, and the elaborate pattern decorating the stole and fabrics. The accumulation of detail shows the wealth of the Magi and plunge the onlooker into a dream.
19 The extraordinary wealth of the Magi’s outfit is in stark contrast with the poverty of the Holy Family. Joseph, the Virgin, and Christ are sheltered under a small hut made out of wooden poles and straw. In The Star of Bethlehem, Joseph is about to light a fire with the straw he has just collected. The hut is painted in such a detailed manner that the viewer can see how it was built. Each tiny twig, each blade of grass, or wisp of straw is clearly visible. The strangeness of the whole scene is due to the juxtaposition of the Magi’s riches and the Holy Family’s plain life, and to the dizzy collection of details. The Star of Bethlehem testifies to Edward Burne-Jones’ style. His taste for medieval tales and chivalry combines with his interest in religious subject-matters. The colors are borrowed from medieval tapestry, as well as the flat composition and the elongated figures. The moodiness of the scene is also very typical of the atmosphere in Jones’ canvases. His characters are often both calm, or unflinching, and slightly melancholy. In this respect, Jones is also a romantic painter fleeing the mundane vulgarity of his epoch, and seeking an otherworldliness in his medieval-style religious art.
ong before the Christian era, evergreens held special place in folklore and legend as symbols of life and renewal. In the darkest, coldest days of winter, the vibrant greenery served as a reminder of the springtime that would surely come. The many varieties of evergreens, thus, were a perfect fit with the Christmas celebrations. Christmas, after all, is a celebration of new life and of the promise of eternal life. Two of the evergreens with ancient legends attached to them are the holly and the ivy. Their symbolism is twofold, for not only do they retain their greenery throughout the winter, but they also bear fruit during this dark, cold season. The holly in particular came to symbolize the crown of thorns and the red berries recall the drops of blood. It is a promise of Salvation from a tiny baby in Bethlehem. The most significant of all Christmas evergreens is the fir tree, and many legends exist about its origins as a symbol for Christmas. In medieval times, in the day leading up to Christmas, Christians performed dramas reenacting humanities fall from grace in the garden of Eden. The Garden was symbolized by a single fir tree hung with bright red apples. Eventually, the dramas fell out of style. But the trees remained. The apples, originally a symbol of our fall, were joined by wafers, a traditional symbol of our salvation. Eventually, these evolved into ornaments and decorated cookies that we see on Christmas trees today. Fir trees, holly, and ivy, have proven themselves to be eternal symbols of the Season, and will forever brighten our homes, and turn our thoughts toward the celebration of Life and Hope and renewal.
18 Characters of the Nativity: Mary
ary was a young Jewish girl who was chosen to bear the long-awaited Messiah. She possessed the remarkable courage to say “Yes, Lord” to such a daunting task. She faced the real possibility of losing the man she would soon marry. She certainly faced humiliation, ridicule, and even death for being an ‘unwed” mother. She most certainly passed along this same courage and strength of character to her son, Jesus, as he faced ridicule, scorn, and even death. From the beginning of the 12th century, artists have depicted Mary wearing a blue cloak. Symbolism and color were important aspects of art. Blue symbolizes truth, clarity, and peace. Another significant symbol for Mary is the lily. This white flower and the fleur-de-lis represent purity and are closely associated with Mary.
Victorious Lamb of God All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:4-7 The Next day, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 Agnus Dei is Latin for “Lamb of God” which harkens to the Isaiah passage. This Chrismon also contains the banner of victory with the Lamb of God. This is called the V icit A gnus, or the “Victorious Lamb”, symbolizing Christ’s victory over sin and death.
The Star “Where is the child who was born king of the Jews? For we have observed His star at its rising, and we have come to pay him homage.” Matthew 2:2.
The Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, revealed the birth of Jesus to the magi, or "wise men", and later led them toBethlehem. The star appears in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew, where magi "from the east" are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem. There they meet King Herod of Judea, and ask where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod, following a verse from the Book of Micah interpreted as a prophecy, directs them to Bethlehem, a nearby village. The star leads them to Jesus' house in Bethlehem, where they pay him homage, worship him, and give him gifts. The wise men then return to their "own country."
Advent Art: “Nativity” Dante Gabriel Rossetti
ante Gabriel Rossetti (12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882) was an English poet, illustrator, painter and translator. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement, most notably William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Rossetti's art was characterized by its romanticism and its medieval revivalism. He is the brother of the well known English poet, Christina Rossetti (“In the Bleak Mid-Winter”) The Pre-Raphaelite’s intention was to reform English art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach . Their approach was to return to the abundant detail, intense colors, and complex compositions of Italian and Flemish art. He created his own method of painting in watercolors, using thick pigments mixed with gum to give rich effects similar to medieval illuminations.
Rossetti’s “Nativity”(1864) was the central panel of a triptych (a 3 part painting). The other sides were paintings of King David. The first was David as a shepherd boy, the other was David as the king on the throne. The theme of the Nativity panel was that Jesus, David’s descendant, was worshiped by both shepherds and kings. The painting reveals the wise man laying down his crown at the feet of the Christ Child, angels attend in adoration, and one of them clings to Mary. The Spirit of God hovers over in the form of a dove, and Christ reaches a hand toward the shepherd kneeling before Him.
The Dove and The Flame The Dove and Flame are symbols of the Holy Spirit. The Dove descended on Christ at his Baptism and the tongues of Flame descended on Disciples at Pentecost.
Advent Art: “Silent Night” and “She Shall Bring Forth a Son” Liz Lemon Swindle began her painting career in first grade. Her first exhibitions were on the refrigerator, encouraged by her father. In the early 1980’s she tutored under renowned wildlife artist, Nancy Glazier. In 1992, Liz began painting a subject matter she had long desired to approach: her faith. Her paintings are now held in corporate and private collections around the world and have been published in countless magazines and books. Liz and her husband Jon have five children and thirteen grandchildren. For the past year I have painted events from the last week of the Savior’s life. Paintings of the crucifixion, the scourging, and the betrayal took a toll on me and my soul longed for peace. For this reason, I decided to paint the Nativity – for what moment better depicts hope, promise, and peace? We´re all familiar with the traditional paintings of Mary holding the baby while Joseph looks on. I saw Joseph in a more substantial role, perhaps because my children were raised by a stepfather. I thought of Joseph, a child himself, awkwardly holding this new-born infant. Maybe he sat taking in the grandeur of it all, or perhaps he simply felt love. This young couple would go on to raise the most important and perfect man that has ever lived. Because of their love as parents, our lives have hope and promise. After I finished the painting and stepped back I realized that I had found what I was looking for. I had found peace. I could probably paint a hundred paintings of Mary and her baby. The relationship of a mother and a child is not easily explained in hundreds of words, but it comes immediately to our understanding with a picture. This experience is universal and one of the greatest gifts God has given. How great is God’s plan that allows mere mortals to bring His children into the world, care for them, and help them make their way back to Him. How amazing that He trusts us when so much is at stake. How much more amazing and harder to comprehend is the experience of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We worry about our own responsibilities as parents. How much more was at stake to be a parent to the Son of God. — Liz Lemon Swindle
Worship Magazine for Easley Presbyterian Church