Ponder anew – Pastoral Backstory – December 22nd, 2016


December 22nd, 2016


In a season that erupts with clamor, we need a little quiet. Where it trades in the trivial– a turn toward the substantial.

In this the last Backstory of the year, no stories to tell, arguments to be made, or cultural phenomena to comment on.

Just images, and melodies, and verses to ponder.

First, two choral pieces, both here reprised from previous Christmas posts. Lauridsen’s Mysterium (the story behind it perhaps as compelling as the song itself) confirms how sound and space form a sacred bond, each befitting the other. Whereas Karl Jenkins’ Benedictus has been put to an imaginary tour through deep space. If Psalm 19 had visual representation with a soundtrack, this might suffice.



Next, a word from one of our own: Jane Pappenhagen. As George Herbert before her, Jane lets both words and indentation convey meaning.

 The Crooked Straight 
 Surely the road to Bethlehem was crooked,
          the way to the manger, roundabout,
 the trip to Egypt, twisted and long,
                 the road to Calvary, curved.
                                 Jesus entered our crooked world
                           True. Unbent. Perfect.
           The only One with power to make the crooked straight.
                                                Remember the Mother Goose-man
                                    whose body, house, cat and even mouse
                              were plagued with crookedness?
                              I am like him.
                       I live my crooked life
                              forgetting I am not straight.
                       But I want to be like another crooked person.
                       Jesus called her forward.
                       As He touched her
                       she stood straight and praised God.
                       Lord, help me peer into the manger,
                       ponder the cross,
                       and tell you all my crookedness.
                       Place your hands on me
                       and straighten me,
                       one crooked vertebra at a time.



Speaking of Herbert, his poem on Colossians 3:3 tips us off to how we’ll celebrate Christmas Day (10:30a) together this Sunday.

MY words and thoughts do both express this notion, 
That LIFE hath with the sun a double motion. 
The first IS straight, and our diurnal friend : 
The other HID, and doth obliquely bend. 
One life is wrapt IN flesh, and tends to earth ; 
The other winds t’wards HIM whose happy birth 
Taught me to live here so THAT still one eye 
Should aim and shoot at that which IS on high— 
Quitting with daily labour all MY pleasure, 
To gain at harvest an eternal TREASURE. 

Meanwhile the night before on Christmas Eve (6pm) we’ll reintroduce you to a familiar face, whose face is unfamiliar even to himself. He’ll be our poignantly beautiful admonition to hear and sing the Story free of rote sentimentality.



In case you missed it Sunday, our Christmas Chorale lavished us. And they aren’t done yet.


But finally, a closing Advent word from former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. To be read, it is enjoined, slowly.

He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.


O, come, let us adore Him.

Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van Honthorst, 1622




Author: Patrick

Pastor of Christ the King Church (PCA)

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