Roses in Winter

IMG_1346 On the South Texas Gulf coast,  Winter brings us more shirt sleeve days than those where we reach for jackets and gloves.  Recently, cool wet weather has spurred our roses to fresh bloom.  Winter roses have deeper, richer color than those earlier in the year.  Their fragrance seems sweeter and more compelling. Part of their brilliance is that they bloom in a stark and colorless garden. Leaves have browned and dropped.  Bare twiggy branches stand out against pewter skies. My Winter roses glow againstt this drab palette

Advent days begin with a canvas held down with layers of gray heaviness. With expectantcy we watch for Christmas coming again, and welcome the blooming in our hearts..Christmas comes again, richer, deeper, sweeter, more compelling.

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger they found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load  ~ 15th century carol

And Yet…


Maddie, SkyeJune11,12 002

Gary Johnson

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels singing overhead? Hark.
~ Gary Johnson. Text as published online by The Writer’s Almanac (December 22, 2011).

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?

Lo, How a Rose…

RoseinSnow2009The past week has been unusually cold and wet here.  One day was said to have been the coldest ever for this part of Texas.  Of course, we have not had the snow and ice so many north of us have had, but I am remembering one day in the first week of December in 2009. I took this photograph while it was snowing.  The rose is one of my favorite antique roses.  It is called Maggie, and is the only rose I know that has a sweeter fragrance after it is cut to bring inside.  I remember, too, the sweet carol that it illustrates.  Old rose, ancient song, story forever new.

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming

From tender stem hath sprung!

Of Jesse’s lineage coming

As men of old have sung.

It came, a flow’ret bright,

Amid the cold of winter,

When half-spent was the night.

~ Fourteenth-Century German Melody

This verse, Sixteenth-Century German

Seeing a Star

100_1854Of the many symbols which decorate our home at Christmastime, my favorite may be the star.  Our big tree is lit with tiny twinkle lights reminding us of stars, and is topped with a star.  A crystal star holds a candle on the kitchen table.  My grandchildren draw stars. Joe loves the Christmas Song  “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.”  I love the deep mystery of the great star which led wise men to search for a baby.  How sweet, then, in this simple and sacred ordinary evening,  to slice an apple to float in the cider on my stove and find this star, marking seed and promise of fruit..

Star giver,

Light shiner

Promise keeper…




Eden to Eternity

  Included in my writings for Lent, these words are taken from two hymns written for the same hymn tune, Morning Has Broken and Child in a Manger. The original melody was noted by Alexander Fraser from a wandering Scottish Highland minstrel. Mary McDonald (1789 – 1872) wrote the words of the nativity hymn. Later, Eleanor Farjeon wrote words for the same tune which were originally printed in 1931 but not copyrighted until 1957 under its correct title, A Morning Song for the First Day of Spring.

 Until today, I had never considered the two sets of words together and when I did as I listened to the haunting tune, I felt a connection between the thoughts of the two women. My heart filled as I considered the continuity and the depth of holding God’s work of creation, nativity, death, and resurrection in my own thoughts. First Eden, then Bethlehem, then on to Jerusalem.

 Morning has broken,blackbird spoken,

First morning, first bird.

Praise singing and springing.

Sweet rainfall

Heavenly sunlight

First dew, first grass

Praise garden and path.

My sunlight.

My morning.

Newborn Eden displayed

Praise Creator and created.

Then, Manger Child.

Outcast and stranger,

Transgression swaddled,

Wrapped in my wrong.

Child once most holy,

Living that lowly,

Now filled with glory

In salvation story.

Prophesied Wonder,

Royalty revealed.

Word defined… Atoned,

I am His own.

Mary Ann Parker April 12, 2011