Music: “Merton,” W. H. Monk, 1823-1889



The Fourth Sunday of Advent may have taken us unawares as it has fallen on Christmas Eve. Still, we come and light the final candle, acknowledging the wait is almost over.

This beautiful chant from the eighteen hundreds reminds us of the momentous meaning of the waiting, and longing.

Click the link to reflect along with the cantor:

Hark! A Herald Voice Is Calling

1. Hark! a herald voice is calling:
‘Christ is nigh,’ it seems to say;
‘Cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day!’

2. Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

3. Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heaven;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven;

4. So when next he comes with glory,
Wrapping all the earth in fear,
May he then as our defender
Of the clouds of heaven appear.

5. Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
To the Father and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit,
While unending ages run. Amen.



Prepare ye the way of the Lord


Do you remember the movie ‘Godspell’ produced in the 1970’s? It was a controversial movie, some critics described it as demeaning to the Gospel, others praised it as a means to modernize the Gospel, making it more accessible.

Regardless of personal points of view many of the songs became hits in the mainstream audience. ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord,’ is one.

The words reflect John the Baptist’s urgent message to people to prepare their hearts for the coming of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah.

Today we too are reminded to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus, as we light the third advent candle. As the symbol of joy, the Pink candle reminds us to focus less on the stress and more on the spiritual blessings this preparation can bring.


“Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Everybody now
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Everybody now
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord
Prepare ye, the way of the Lord”


O Come O Come Emmanuel




O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel
O come, Thou Day-Spring
Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel
O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height
In ancient times did’st give the Law
In cloud, and majesty and awe
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel


Joseph & Mary travel to Bethlehem


About this time Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the nation.  (This census was taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

Everyone was required to return to his ancestral home for this registration. And because Joseph was a member of the royal line, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, King David’s ancient home—journeying there from the Galilean village of Nazareth.  He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was obviously pregnant by this time.

Luke 2:1-5

The Magnificat

John Michael Talbot’s song, his version of the Magnificat – or “Mary’s Song of Praise” is particularly moving.



And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Luke 1:46-56

Second Sunday of Advent

Second Sunday of Advent

Advent means ‘waiting’ and not just for Santa! Purple is the colour of royalty, demonstrating waiting for Jesus, the King.



The Angel said to Mary, “Very soon now, you will become pregnant and have a baby boy, and you are to name him ‘Jesus.’

He shall be very great and shall be called the Son of God.

And the Lord God shall give him the throne of his ancestor David.

And he shall reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom shall never end!”
Luke 1:31-33

Season of Advent

The First Sunday of Advent

purple candle1

Photo: flying_snow CCommons

The people who walk in darkness
    will see a great light…

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.

Isaiah 9:2,6-7

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; Ecclesiastes 3:5

A Guest Post by May-Kuan Lim, author of The Curious Scribbler

I feel a hint of pain when I look at these early photos because my children were young and easily amused. I, too, was young and life was uncomplicated: feed the ducks, throw a ball, pick a daisy.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. The season for early motherhood has passed. The children are teenagers now. One has left home. I have to find my place in the world again.

MK Lim

Photo by Victoria Bjorkman (Creative Commons)

The words of Ecclesiastes wash over me: a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time to uproot; and on it goes, each verb making sense in its context but what is this – a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them? What a strange expression. Who scatters stones? Farmers scatter seed. Hansel and Gretel scatter breadcrumbs. But who scatters stones? Aren’t stones too heavy to be scattered? Perhaps pebbles can be scattered, but to what purpose?

Instead of ‘scatter’, other translations use the words ‘cast away’ or ‘throw’ as a counter point to ‘gather’. Cast away is a much more weighty action, showing effort and intent. But what do the stones represent?

Perhaps a farmer might cast stones away in order to till a field, and then gather those same stones to build a house. Or, in the Old Testament, people used stones to build altars of remembrance. When God stopped the waters of the Jordan River upstream for the Israelites to enter Canaan on dry land, the priests gathered twelve stones from the riverbed and built an altar. God wanted the story of His deliverance to shape the nation of Israel.

Motherhood has shaped much of my life since my first child was born. For two decades, motherhood has been the memorial stone that defined me. The children enabled me to justify turning my back on a career. I will be a mother for the rest of my time on earth, but it is time to move this stone. It need no longer take centre stage. My life does not have to be arranged around it anymore.

A by-product of turning my back on my career is to watch my peers surpass me in their professional achievements. My ego finds it much easier to offer empathy and support to a friend in need than to truly, generously, and unreservedly celebrate the success of another. This ungodly stone of jealousy I cast away. I wrench it out of my being and, with all my strength, cast it as far away as possible.

Now is the time to gather stones to build a home for my approaching-fifty-year-old self to inhabit: learn new skills, write, invest in others, enjoy adventures for their own sake and not for any flow-on purpose such as feeding a child or modelling a virtue or shoring up an inheritance.

These words in Ecclesiastes – a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them – say to me: do not look back with pain; new seasons are to be experienced, enjoyed and celebrated. There is a time for everything.

What time is it for you  –  a time to scatter or a time to gather? Spend a few minutes writing your reflections on each of those two words. It’s often the process of writing that clarifies our responses.




a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to mourn, and a time to dance; Ecclesiastes 3:4


Despite the poor quality photo, this picture captures a moment from a dance I encountered while working in Papua New Guinea.

Sitting in the dirt surrounded by a jungle of utter blackness, I lost connection with everything I considered as ‘normal’. I didn’t just witness the dance, I experienced it. I have no idea if the dance was a dance of grief or a dance of joy, but the depth of emotion released by the creativity extended beyond the dancers into the community.

In my own community, most of us can’t perform like that, unscripted, in harmony with others, to the rhythmic thump of magnificent handcrafted instruments. Yet, despite our level of ability, talent or experience, we all have the capacity to ‘dance’.

In my journal, I brainstormed how else I could manage times of grief and times of joy. Perhaps you could write freely for 5 minutes and see what your list uncovers? Some of mine included write, walk, listen to the birds, the river, and the wind, smell a lavender bush or baked bread, touch silk or soft skin, read a book, pray, call a friend.

I marvel with the psalmist at the tenderness, empathy, and power of our God when we call on Him in those moments –

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
    you have taken off my sackcloth
    and clothed me with joy,  (Psalm 30:11)