At Advent we remind ourselves that once upon
a time there was despair, and we remember
hopelessness, for we were tethered to the law.
Errors came with penalties; forgiveness was a
hit-or-miss affair. We paid the price for lovelessness;
we died inside and knew not how we might revive
or where new life resided… and the promises of
Jesus Christ were just a rumor then, confusion in
the holy scriptures as to heaven, hell, and who
could earn salvation by obedience and birthright…
till one night there came a star, and who do you
suppose were chosen to perceive its consequence
but three nomadic Zoroastrians and scattered
shepherds—not the proud, the arrogant, or even
the religious. God implanted into humble hearts
the certainty that victory required not swords and
shields but purity. Freedom had arrived not on a
charger but an ass, not in a palace but a stable,
where the baby born of Mary slept unwitting in a
We’d do well to not forget the time of waiting, not
be careless of this annual anticipation, not dismiss
the lesson that began when shepherds and the
three wise men were chosen to behold Christ’s
coming, God with us, Emmanuel… lest we be
deceived into believing power emanates from
mighty arms instead of gentle spirits, guided by
compassion, mercy, holy love, firm faith to find our
peace on earth and life eternal in the indestructible
embrace of God.
Waiting, we are waiting, for the wonder of his birth—
the child sent down from Heaven bringing peace to all the earth;
the one who will teach happiness, kindness, humility;
the savior who would die for us and set our spirits free.
Singing, we are singing, for the child who is to come—
our hymns of gladness ringing as we hail the holy one.
We join the joyful chorus—angels, shepherds in the hills
who gathered ‘neath his star on high, the star we follow still.
Journeying, we journey like the magi from afar
who like the lowly shepherds took direction from the star.
They knew the ancient prophecy whose time had come to pass.
We travel like the three wise men to know God’s child at last.
Praying, we are praying that we have the eyes to see
and ears to hear his message of salvation. May we be
as eager as the humble shepherds and the noble kings
to celebrate the baby’s birth and with the angels sing:
Alleluia! Amen. As the planet holds its breath.
This is the final battle, yielding vict’ry over death
by one child’s birth; the day is won, all glorious, all joy.
Now wait with us—his time is near—the little baby boy.
Photo: Mark Mallett
O Morning Star (Hymn)
O Morning Star, thou soon shall rise
attending dawn in eastern skies.
Draw then our eyes to thine ascent;
may we behold thee, innocent.
O Rose of Winter, blooming e’er,
thy foliage green, thy blossom fair,
thy seeds on many winds be blown
and in the humblest gardens sown.
O Savior, when at last we meet
thy gentle soul and wash thy feet,
heal thou the sick, lift up the poor,
and grant us peace forevermore.
Antonio da Correggio, The Nativity, c. 1529-1530
A tiny flame is all you need
to build a fire; a tiny seed
becomes a great and mighty tree;
a tiny babe, Divinity.
One little thought grows wings to fly
across the wide, unbroken sky.
One little child who wonders why
can change the world; and you and I
can take one step, and then one more,
until we climb, and then we soar.
A little breach becomes a door
to worlds no one has seen before.
The grandest things begin so small.
A tiny babe, the one we call
the Christ, will lift us when we fall,
for he was born to save us all.
The planet sighed, then held its breath,
while in the town of Bethlehem
a virgin bore a baby boy.
A star appeared, much brighter than
its sisters in the galaxy.
Three Zoroastrians began
a journey, guided by the light.
They traveled night and day from distant
eastern lands, it’s said—and to
Jerusalem at first they came
and told King Herod when they had
espied the star. Who were these men?
Magicians? Kings? Of royal birth?
Some say that they were Balthasar
from Ethiopia, and with him,
noble Melchior from Persia,
Gaspar, king of India.
Tradition tells us that they knelt
in meek obeisance to the babe.
They gave him gold and aromatic
frankincense and myrrh, as if
to say, As spreads the fragrance of
these oils, so shall thy love, O holy
child. And they adored him, did
these men who journeyed ‘neath the star;
they worshiped him while shepherds knelt
and angels sang; and all their riches
were as naught beside the glory
of the newborn Prince of Peace.
We call the day that they arrived
What did they know, these mighty kings,
to undertake the perils of
a journey from a far-off land?
What did they see upon his brow
and in his mien—Mary’s son—
and what was whispered on his breath?
Did they know then that he had come
to free the prisoners of fear
and save the world from sin and death?
Dear God, we shall adore him too,
the baby boy in Bethlehem.
Three kings set out to see the Christ;
shall we do less than these good men?
Pietro Perugino, Polyptych Albani Torlonia, c. 1491
Why was the holy child born?
Why did Divinity adopt
a human form and walk the hills
of Galilee? Why did he lift
the weak and heal the blind, why did
he cleanse the lepers, cast out demons?
Why did Jesus Christ speak truth
to power, hastening his own
demise? The world would never be
the same, because this wise and gentle
prophet told the multitudes
to set aside the ancient laws,
obeying just this one: Be love.
And in the groves and orchards, on
the mountainsides; along the shore
and in the desert; in the temple
and among the poor, despised,
despairing—those whom he called brother,
sister, child—this carpenter
who owned no property except
the garment that he wore, the sandals
on his feet, gave all: love, hope, mercy…
life and breath… the promise of
Emmanuel—God with us; God
within us. Those whom he restores
to innocence are rich indeed,
beyond the grasp of death and free
from grief and dark despair.
Why did he come? To heal our hearts.
He heals us still. Because he came
one holy night in Bethlehem
and grew in grace and walked the hills
of Galilee—the Word made flesh—
because he came and showed the face
of God—the world would never be
the same, and never shall again.
Ring the Christmas bells, ring in Emmanuel
today. A child is born in Bethlehem amid the
creatures in the stable. Humble his
surroundings, yet he comes to rule the hearts of
people ‘round the world. Are you afraid?
Give to the holy one your fears. And do you
weep? Give him your tears; he makes of them
your baptism. Return to purity, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.
Ring the Christmas bells, ring in the victory
of joy and peace. A child is born in Bethlehem,
and creatures give him homage. Kings adore
him; precious are the gifts they bring. Now sing
for him a lullaby; sing him to sleep. Sing this:
Sweet Jesus, God among us, Lord Emmanuel.
So innocent is he, yet he accepts our sin and
our distress. Return to bliss, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.
Ring the Christmas bells, ring in the hope of
better days to be. A child is born in Bethlehem,
a world transformed his gift to you and me.
He is the Morning Star; the very sun bows
down to him, and through his tender mercy
what was old and weary now is new again.
Give him your tears, and they become your
baptism. Return to innocence, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.