sit in dark stillness

light one candle

quickening as flame swells

Veni, veni, Emanuel


hold a little one high to see

starlights and manger scenes

join her awe and wonder

take joy in her ohs and ahs

sing Silent NIght for a lullaby


greet the leapings of your weary heart

welcome stinging tears

images of all Christmases past

while wrapping yourself in present gifts

attend to the stirrings of God.





594-20141215 (2)This bridge spanning the River Sligachan on the isle of Skye forms part of the only road to the west end of the island.  It is in the heart of the rugged Cuillins, and the Sligachan is a rough and wide river, so the road literally makes the way possible.

In the very early morning, while my house is dark and still, the flame of our Advent candle reminds me of Emmanuel, God with me, bridging impassable chaos and separation.  Advent, moving forward in the days to Christmas,  sings of bridges. By his coming, Christ did the unthinkable.  He linked the unlinkable.


“But you did the unthinkable.

You build one Bridge to us,

solid enough, long enough,

strong enough to stand all tides

for all time, linking

the unlinkable. ”  ~ Luci Shaw



Joy (2)This third Sunday in Advent we have lit the candle of Joy in the Advent wreath. Joy is a word we hear used a great deal in this season.  It is a favorite word in Christmas cards, tree ornaments, and decorations, much of the time proclaiming cheer or happiness. . Misuse could dull the edges of its meaning for me, but I  claim its numinous mystery once again in my Advent heart.  Here it has been used to repurpose a vintage picture frame by adding paint the colors of Christmas, whimsical design, and drawer pull handles that look like checkered tea towels.  it is a  happy combination.  But the center of Joy speaks more to the truth of the word. A single snowflake tells the story of infinite possibility, unique creation, beauty, and peace.

Joy is more than happiness. The Greek word is chairo, described by the ancient Greeks as “the culmination of being”  and “the good mood of the soul.” They said that it came only from God and came with wisdom and virtue. They believed its opposite was not sadness but fear.

That is why the Joy candle burns brightly tonight. That is why Joy to the World Is not just a hymn to be sung at Christmas.  Joy to my world.!  Joy to our world!





Advent Flames



Another way of counting Advent days is the use of an Advent wreath with a candle to light and add each Sunday during Advent. For our Advent candles at home, we do not use the same arrangement every year, and often do not use traditional colors (3 purple, 1 pink, and a white candle for the center candle, the Christ candle).  I use the same candles from the year before when possible.  Here, the first candle, lit last Sunday, burns brightly – the candle of Hope. Of course the candles lit in the beginning burn down the furthest, If all the candles were new, all of them would be the same height in the beginning. This candle may be the tallest now, but will wind up being the shortest in the last week of Advent.

I recently learned about a little known Advent tradition of using an Advent log, instead of a wreath.  It has a candle hole for each day of Advent, plus one for Christmas day.   Here is a poem  that refers to this lovely tradition:


Prayer at the Advent Log

The small lights steady

against the dark

Your flame is touching ours.

Today is the fifth day.

It is a safe fire,

the candles still tall

against the brittle wood

of the birch, the air

damp and chill.

But the days will draw us

inexorably toward

Your celebration.

And again we’ll stand

in the crackling air,

the first day’s flames

licking the log

with their shortened lives,

the length of it threatened

by Your fire,

Your love dazzling our eyes,

And O Christ,

Your love

searing our nakedness.

~Jean Janzen as quoted in A Widening Light, edited by Luci Shaw.




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


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

Light One Candle


Last night we attended a Christmas concert at our 11 year old granddaughter’s school.  As one of the older children, she walked tall and proud to her seat to play her flute in a medley of Christmas music and we loved it.  Soon the stage was filled many smaller children who sang and jingled their bells.  One of their songs stuck in my head, and I have hummed it all day. A  a simple song, “Light One Candle” by Natalie Sleeth.
Light one candle for hope,
One bright candle for hope.
He brings hope to everyone.
He comes. He comes.
Verses 2, 3 and-4 replace hope with peace, joy, and love.
As we light the candles in our Advent wreaths and welcome His coming, may our song be the same. He comes. He comes.

Is It True?


When I read the poem below, I thought of all the sweet, familiar traditions we share as a family that help us focus on Christmas truth – the hanging of the green, happy Christmas colors, twinkling lights reflected in the children’s eyes, candlelight and firelight, stars and tiny manger scenes – all celebrating “This most tremendous tale of all, Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue, A Baby in an ox’s stall, ,The Maker of the stars and sea, Become a Child on earth for me..”

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
‘The church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No caroling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare —
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Christmas,   John Betjeman, Poet Laureate of U.K. 1972 until his death in 1984