Christmas Path

In many ways, Advent is like walking a labyrinth for me.  I begin the path inward and walk steadily toward centering my heart in a space that leads nowhere else but to Christ, born once again in me. But I cannot stay in the stable.  I must get up and begin the outward spiral.

I  step on one stone which draws me outside in,

Centripetal propelling of self toward center.

One step, then another, a walk on a labyrinth path.

Seeking, finding

A center for refilling, refueling, refreshing.

Then reverse, return.

Stepping in an outward spiral,

The centrifuge which slowly spins and scatters this gathered grace,

Inside out.

~Mary Ann Parker, January 19, 2010

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among the brothers,
To make music in the heart.
—  Howard Thurman

The Time is Now

Maddie, SkyeJune11,12 004

Light the Christ Candle!   Emmanuel. God with us.

The Risk of Birth

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn-
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth

—Madeleine L’Engle

Sweet Singing


“The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown:
O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.”

Since I am in two choirs at church, voice and handbell, and help with a youth handbell choir where I am privileged to ring standing  beside my granddaughter – I have more chances than many to sing and play the music of Christmas, and I love that.  This year I ordered some music to work on at the piano at home titled Advent Reflections.  Arthritic hands don’t play as well as they once did, but I have loved using that quiet, artfully arranged music to add to my Advent practice.  Tonight our family will gather to attend Christmas Eve communion at our church, then return to our house for what has become a tradition over the years:  tamales, guacamole, queso and tortillas followed by a gift exchange.  There will be more carols around the piano – sweet singing!

Does your family sing Christmas carols, or go caroling?  What are your favorite carols?



Temperatures dropped sharply today, so I went out to make sure plants were watered and covered if necessary. I almost missed this little pot of rosemary on the stone wall at the edge of our back porch, but when I saw the petals that had dropped from an nearby rose (yes, blooming in December!) I stopped in one of those moments I wrote about in yesterday’s post.  Rosemary is the herb that stands for remembrance.  How appropriate it should be hung with festive red.  How we need to remember to believe.


At Home


There can be sudden unexpected moments in these Advent days that stretch my soul.  It may be the way light comes through the stained glass hanging in the window over my kitchen sink, or the pleasure shining in my granddaughter’s face when she helps me make fudge or offers her grandfather a quilt when he says “Is it cold in here to you?”  It may be hearing a violin play Ave Maria or when I begin to sing Adeste Fidelis with my church choir, and it most certainly happens when I am playing carols at the piano and my pregnant daughter-in-law tells me our newest granddaughter moves in joy at the music. Often, these moments come as I sit before dawn in our darkened living room with only the Christmas tree lighting the day, grateful for being at home, and the greater wonder of ” the place where God was homeless and all men are at home.”


There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

~G.K. Chesterton


The darkest time in the year,
The poorest place in town,
Cold, and a taste of fear,
Man and woman alone,
What can we hope for here?
More light than we can learn,
More wealth than we can treasure,
More love than we can earn,
More peace than we can measure,
Because one child is born.
— Christopher Fry, One Child Is Born

Saying Yes



Christmas is a place, like the hearth,

where we all come in from the cold.

Drawn by warmth and promise,

cheered in flickering light,

we get closer to the flame

and each other.

Christmas is a place, like the hearth,

Where we gather

in anticipation

of Gift and Giver,

basking around a campfire

of retold story.

Stoking to keep it hotly burning.

Christmas is a place, like my heart,

where the Mary-me receives once again

astonishing news and says yes

to giving birth and being born,

to delivering and being delivered,

to remembering.

Mary Ann Parker 2011

previously posted in December 2011

Those Were No Ordinary Sheep


In our collection of Advent and Christmas reading there is a book written by Ruth Bell Graham which is a lovely collection of stories, poems, photos, and recipes.  She says she was so touched by a story in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim that she wrote the poem which follows.

The story is from Jewish tradition. It was believed that the longed for Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and that he was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, a watch tower for the flocks which pastured beyond the town on the road to Jerusalem. It is said that the sheep pastured there were destined to be Temple sacrifices.  The shepherds who watched them were under the ban of Rabbinism because of the way they lived which made it impossible to observe strict religious ordinances.  ” Of the deep symbolic significance of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak.”

Those were no ordinary sheep
no common flocks;
huddled in sleep
among the fields,
the layered rocks,
Near Bethlehem
That Night;
but those
selected for the Temple sacrifice:
theirs to atone
for sins
they had not done.
How right
the angels should appear
to them
That Night.
Those were no unusual shepherds
but outcast shepherds
whose unusual care
of special sheep
made it impossible to keep
Rabbinic law,
which therefore banned them.
How right
the angels should appear
to them
That Night.

from  A Quiet Knowing Christmas

by Ruth Bell Graham

Keeping Christmas

Maddie, SkyeJune11,12 001In a world that seems not only to be changing, but even to be dissolving, there are some tens of millions of us who want Christmas to be the same…with the same old greeting “Merry Christmas” and no other.

We long for the abiding love among men of good will which the season brings…

believeing in this ancient miracle of Christmas with its softening, sweetening influences to tug at our heart strings once again. We want to hold on to the old customs and traditions because they strengthen our family ties,

bind us to our friends,

make us one with all mankind

for whom the Child was born, and bring us back again to the God Who gave His only begotten Son, that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

So we will not “spend” Christmas…

nor “observe’ Christmas.

We will “keep” Christmas – keep it as it is…

in all the loveliness of its ancient traditions.

May we keep it in our hearts,

that we may be kept in its hope.”

from a sermon by Peter Marshall  “Let’s Keep Christmas”