Fourth Sunday of Advent

We learned a new Advent hymn today.  The words are by St. Ambrose (397) and the music was written in 1524.  The tune is easy to learn without being facile, really very singable.  The harmony, rich in interior movement, is luscious.  Of course it is — J.S. Bach wrote it. 

Savior of the nations, come;
Virgin’s Son, here make Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood;
By the Spirit of our God
Was the Word of God made flesh,
Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child
Of the virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned,
Still to be in heaven enthroned.

From the Father forth He came
And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell
High the song of triumph swell!

Thou, the Father’s only Son,
Hast over sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we its glories see?

Brightly doth Thy manger shine,
Glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin overcloud this light;
Ever be our faith thus bright.

Praise to God the Father sing,
Praise to God the Son, our King,
Praise to God the Spirit be
Ever and eternally.

If you go to Youtube (type Savior of the Nations Come in the search engine) you can see many renditions of this ancient Advent hymn which is new to me today!

The Final Christmas Card

Her name is Precious. 

When I was 13, she hired me to clean her house on Saturdays.  She was getting a break from vacuuming and dusting, but in reality she was giving me relief from the confusion and tension of my family life.  The highlight was eating lunch together.  She introduced me to oyster crackers while she told me the secret of her long marriage was growing up with her husband. She was 15 when she married Roy.  After two years as a Saturday maid, I took a “real” job at a store. 

When I got married, of course I invited Precious to my wedding, unaware that she had changed churches and no longer mixed with most of the folks attending.  She was so glad to be included.  Her wedding gift – a Presto Pressure Cooker – is a gift I continue to use 31 years later.

On one of their jaunts around the country, Roy and Precious visited us in Klamath Falls, Oregon.  Always radiant, she woke early and cleaned up my kitchen before showing me her daily floor exercises.  A stickler for good posture, she would urge me to “look up at the third story, Carol, and keep your shoulders back!”

Every year I look forward to receiving a Christmas card recycled into a postcard from Precious.  When I read her unwavering handwriting, I can hear her voice.  She let me know of Roy’s death, of her move to Mississippi, all with her own special grace.  And as she has aged, I always wonder while I wait, if I will hear from her this year.  In the funny way of friendships, we have no one else in common, no other link to each other.* 

This is the card I received this year:

“Merry Christmas” Carol and Curt & Family
and a Blessed New Years.
Since I was 89 on 9/11 old age is evident,
but the Lord meets every need.
Looking forward to Eternity w/ old friends
& am not sending cards in the future-
will see you in Heaven in God’s timing.
Rejoicing in Jesus,

* I reconnected with another friend from that era; after reading this, she emailed me to say she is also a Precious friend. 

Looking Ahead, Looking Behind

Yesterday I got to spend an afternoon with Gavin the Great, my 3 year old grandson.  His dad and mom have been doing a great job preparing him for the new baby due to come Christmas Eve.   When they cut a tree (in our family a Christmas tree isn’t a Christmas tree unless you cut it down) they got him a cute little tree for his bedroom.  Something extra special for this extra special Christmas.

A job on my list was to string lights on Gavin’s tree.  In a moment of inspiration I decided to do this before he took his nap.  As I strung the lights around his bed and tree, Gavin went into hyper-wonder. 

“Look at the lights, Nana!” he kept repeating. 

I thought about how one string of lights (price tag: $8) brings a bit of magic and delight into a child’s life.  One of those tips I wished I had figured out twenty five years ago!

This picture is wretched photography, but it gives you an idea.  The tree is to the left.

The funny moment of the day came when Gavin looked at a picture of himself as a toddler. 

“I miss myself as a baby.” 

He was serious.  But I think the outfit he was wearing might have been a favorite.

Three years old is bit young to be nostalgic, wouldn’t you say?

He That Is Mighty Hath Done Great Things to Me

Study for an Annunciation by Lorenzo di Credi

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;
    for behold from henceforth
    all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me;
    and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generations,
    to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might in his arm:
    he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
    and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
    and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant,
     being mindful of his mercy:
As he spoke to our fathers,
     to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

                         ~ Song of Mary

We are learning to sing the Magnificat set to Thomas Tallis’ Dorian Service.  It is so foreign to our ears, so difficult to get the right notes even remotely at the right time.  It will be beautiful when we are on the far side of the learning curve. 

I chose this study because the pencil strokes and homely stained paper capture some of the mystery in what is one of the most mysterious, astonishing, mind-boggling events in history.  

Creative Christmas Gifts

I promise to focus on Thanksgiving…starting tomorrow!   Here are two creative gift ideas.

The first is from my niece Olivia.  One year she did Memories in a Bottle.  She typed up short vignettes, even two-or-three-sentence memories on the long side of brightly colored paper (Page Setup Landscape).   She folded these strips into accordion  folds and put them into a  decorative bottle. [Example: I remember when we drank Hot Chocolate every Sunday night before we went to bed.  The memory of the melted marshmallows still warms me.]  She typed up enough strips so her parents could shake out a folded strip of paper and read one a day until Valentines Day. 

This would work well in any direction: grandparents, parents, siblings, child.  I think it might be especially good for the child who needs to be reminded of his/her roots.  It’s a gift that needs some time for the yeast of ideas to rise. 

The second, Countdown to Christmas, comes from my next door friend/neighbor Rhonda.  Her daughter Lori is a teacher overseas and won’t be able to come home for Christmas.  Her daughter asked family not to send bulky items which will be expensive to ship home later. 

Rhonda’s Christmas Gift to her daughter is a collection of memories. Rhonda asked friends and family to write a letter to Lori, including pictures, and give the letter to Rhonda by this weekend.  She made a beautiful binder with a letter for each day of December enclosed in page protectors.  The letters go behind a page for each day of December which has photos from Lori’s childhood artistically added. 

I can’t describe the creativity that I saw last night, both in form of the letters, and in the pages marking the days.  This is the perfect project for scrapbookers.  It is small enough in scope to actually get finished!

The package will be mailed today and get to Lori by December 1st.  Wouldn’t this be a great idea for soldiers, missionaries or friends overseas?  It’s a lovely idea for any long-distance loved one.   

Cleaning the Grout

I have a tendency, when the pressure is on, to lose myself in tiny details, neatly blocking out the necessary big items.  We have a phrase for this in our family lexicon: I’m cleaning the grout.  While cobwebs are merrily waving hello, food in my fridge needs to wave goodbye; while beds need to be changed, batteries need to be charged; while dust bunnies need to be banished and resident dirt needs to be dismissed — I take up a toothbrush and focus in on two square inches of grout. 

My grout at the moment is the issue of Christmas stamps.  This is a tiny detail in the totality of Advent, but one about which I happen to care.  Here are some choices.  Generally there is a secular choice and a religious choice.  There are some other non-holiday stamps which might work.

Holiday Knits. 
Folks, these are a little too, um, folksy for me.
They remind me of Grandma Sweatshirts.
You are allowed to like them, though…

Luini’s Madonna of the Carnation
I like this as art.
But I’m not sure as a stamp.
I’m betwixt and between.

Polar Lights
These are certainly colorful. 
I will purchase some of these for regular correspondence and bills.

I guess this stamp replaces the traditional Happy Birthday stamp.
Christmas is the ultimate reason to celebrate, no?

Okay, it’s audience participation time.
What is your favorite?
Do you care?