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Posts Tagged ‘#christinarossetti’

We humans are a bit cra cra (crazy). We use words that simply do not make sense, or, more specifically, we use words in different situations which makes the word not make sense.

Let’s talk love.

We love our mummy.
We love our hubby.
We love pizza.
We love British Crime Dramas.
We love taking a walk.
We (or I) love math.

So … what does love mean, when we use it to describe how we feel about so many varied things?

Today marks week three of our advent season. The week we begin to anticipate the love that came to us from heaven, through the birth of Jesus.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:9-10

This is love …

not that we loved God … so our kind, or version or use of love is subservient to God’s. This is a really important truth to consider. And our love for God cannot undo our human condition, it cannot save us.

but that he loved us … when God says that he loves you and me (the world), he uses the word love in no other instance. His love is the ultimate love. It is the ultimate in sacrificial. It is simply the ultimate. We cannot out-love God.

and (He) sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins … God’s love for us is defined in how far he was willing to go to prove it, to rescue us. His redemption of us was through the substitute of Jesus for our good, our eternity.

I think Christina Rossetti said it best,

Love was born at Christmas

First published in 1893, Love Came Down at Christmas began as a poem by Christina Rossetti.

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

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Who saves us?

Who redeems us?

That ‘ol Sunday School answer, of Jesus, is, of course the answer. Yet … in all practicality, we often do not live as if that were true. We strive, and move and posture in such ways as to show far more reliance on self than on the Savior.

We often put our faith in us … in our prayers, our giving, our acts of kindness or hours spent doing the work of the church … but our actions offer little if they are what we are counting on to save us. They are little more than rituals, outward adornments to show the world the state of our souls.

Of course that summation is rather dismal, rather over-simplified.

A friend recently introduced me to a poem by Christina Rossetti that I had not remembered reading before, called A Better Resurrection :

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

In reading this, one might read the mood of Rossetti to be terrible sad, even depressed. It is a lonely, meaningless, hopeless reading … at first glance. But, there is very much life as well and Rossetti is looking in the right direction for that life, that meaning, that purpose.

O Jesus, quicken me

O Jesus, rise in me

O Jesus, drink of me

There is constant acknowledgement of the human condition, of our helpless state … yet each verse returns to petition for life, meaning and hope from the only one who can provide. The resurrected one, who can resurrect you and me.

It it toward the end of the second verse, where I think true hope is expressed for our lives :

My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

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Walking through the door of the sanctuary we were greeted warmly by people who know us, and I realized in my heart what I had known weeks before, when we decided that this would be our church …

we were no longer just visiting,
we were home.

Later, as we worshiped in singing, together, I felt like God was whispering in my ears, 

“Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling”

A new church, the reminder of community.
A messy, imperfect, it’s-gonna-take-effort and a sincere heart,
but it’s so worth it
community.

As we continue in this advent season, we might forget that there is new life, fresh starts found in this season. If advent is about expectation and waiting, Christmas is about a new start, fresh opportunities, a chance to have our sins erased, and a new future to move towards. 

The waiting for the Messiah results in his birth, full of love, hope, peace, joy and wonder. 

To be part of the love, hope, peace, joy and wonder we need to respond to the gifts of Christmas, as Christina Rossetti said,

“What can I give Him, poor as I am? … I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.”

To be in community with God is to have given Him our heart, our lives … everything before this moment, and everything that is to come. This is the receiving of the gift of Christmas.

Like hubby and I in our new church community, we could go there forever, and only take what we need. To be part of a community, a relationship, though, is to reciprocate … to “do our part … give our heart”. 

“O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus ChristOh what a savior
Isn’t He wonderful?
Sing hallelujah, …”


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18642I remember a Christmas ‘pageant’ where I did a ‘recitation’ when I was still a preschooler. It was at the church of my grandmother, and it was she who taught the poem to me. I remember how very many people were staring back at me (the church probably doesn’t hold more than seventy people, but as a preschooler, it seemed like hundreds). I also remember her voice whispering the lines to me (memorizing has never been a strength for me).

The poem I had recited many years ago, was the final verse of a poem written by Christina Rossetti. Later music was added and it is known as the Christmas carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. The poem goes as follows:

In the bleak midwinter frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone:
Snow had fallen, snow on snow
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter,
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for him, whom cherubim worship night and day,
A breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay:
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air –
But only his mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give him –
Give my heart.

The final (bolded) lines are from my recitation of many years ago (the fact that this is called a ‘recitation’ is evidence of that fact). And, although I was not so very successful at memorizing them, they have stayed with me for all of my life. There is something beautiful, dreamy and haunting about both the poem, and the music that was added to it. I have to say my favorite version is by Sarah McLaughlin, a few years ago, on her Wintersong CD.

Although this is not just a question of Christmas, I am asking myself this season the same question that Ms. Rossetti asked of herself. What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a poet, I would write him a song.
If I were a carpenter, I would build him a home,
If I were …
But all he wants,
Is my heart,
And your heart too.

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“It gets darker and darker and then came baby Jesus.”

Ann Lamont shared the words, above, spoken in her presence by poet and author, Wendell Berry. It was a dark and stormy December day.

IMG_3230

Today is a rather dark day, as the sound of rain falling interrupts the Christmas music playing in our house. Or is the music interrupting the rain falling?

In our world there is much darkness, much hatred, much too little peace … too little peace on Earth.

Darkness is the backdrop of our world and our lives, today, as it was that first Christmas, when love and light came to us in the form of baby. The innocence of a helpless, dependent baby, in the arms of his mother, who he came to save.

Delivered in the arms of a world, who he came to save, to redeem.

And, as a helpless babe, he was entrusted to a dark dark world. A world given the choice to love him, or reject him. To embrace him, or abandon him.

But, this celebration of Christmas is about how the light of that helpless babe still shines.

It shines in his birth foretold so long before fulfilled.

It shines in the Christmas story fulfilling the prophesy.

It shines in you and me, those of us who claim his redemption, who live illuminated by his love within us.

Merry Christmas is not a message for red cupped retailers, or turkey dinners or reindeers with lit noses.

Merry Christmas is the message of the word, become flesh, in the form of a baby, arms stretched open towards all of humanity, giving light to a dark world.

CHRISTMAS hath darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,
Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven hath answering music
For all Angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.”

Christina Rossetti

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