The Wexford Carol — Carols of Advent Joy

Scripture Focus: John 7.37-28
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Luke 1.46-50
46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
   From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
   holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation.

Reflection: The Wexford Carol — Carols of Advent Joy
By Jon Polk

The history of “The Wexford Carol” is uncertain and complicated.

“The Wexford Carol” is one of Ireland’s most beloved Christmas carols. While thought to be among the oldest Christmas carols still in use, the exact dates of its origin are uncertain.

“The Wexford Carol” was published in 1928, in a collection by William Flood, music director at St. Aiden’s Cathedral in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland, after he had heard it performed by a local vocalist.

However, the song has also been associated with Bishop Luke Waddinge from Ballycogley, County Wexford, who also published the hymn in his collection in 1684. 

The lyrics supposedly originate from the 12th century, but the rhyme and structure appear to date from the 16th century or later. There is also debate whether the original lyrics were actually Irish or English.

Although tracing the history of “The Wexford Carol” is complicated, the song itself is not, being a joyful recounting of the night of Christ’s birth.

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His beloved Son.

The pregnancy of Mary was uncertain and complicated.

A young, simple Jewish girl is found to be pregnant under mysterious and uncertain circumstances. Claims of an angel’s visit and divine proclamation. A fiancé who receives a nocturnal, angelic intervention. 

Likely scared and confused, young Mary hurries off to another town to seek advice from cousin Elizabeth. When Elizabeth is prompted by the Holy Spirit to confirm the miraculous Divinity growing in Mary’s womb, Mary proclaims her joy, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”

Although the pregnancy of Mary was complicated, her ultimate response to God is not, being a joyful acceptance of the role she has been given to play in the divine drama.

With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day;
In Bethlehem upon the morn
There was a blest Messiah born.

The times in which we live are uncertain and complicated.

The weight of a global pandemic, the stress of political strife on every continent, disparities of power and economic status, all loom large in our collective consciousness, not to mention the personal and specific struggles each of us face on our own.

Although our lives and times are complicated, our response should not be. Let us rejoice along with Mary. Let us take joy in knowing that our lives are secure in the hands of God. 

Within a manger He was laid,
And by His side the virgin maid
Attending to the Lord of Life,
Who came on earth to end all strife.

Listen: The Wexford Carol by Yo-Yo Ma & Alison Krauss
Read: Lyrics from
Bonus Listen: Magnificat (i.e. Mary’s Song) by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. — Psalm 85.9

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 4 (Listen – 1:53)
John 7 (Listen – 5:53)

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Tabernacling While Quarantined

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 3.6, 13-14
6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory…13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

John 7.37-39
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

Isaiah 55.1 (the scripture Jesus is quoting in the above passage)
“Come, all you who are thirsty, 
come to the waters; 
you who have no money, 
buy and eat! 
buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

Reflection: Tabernacling While Quarantined
By John Tillman

Hebrews tells us that we are God’s “house” which Jesus has been placed over. The concept is a repeated theme in other New Testament writings (1 Corinthians 3.16; 1 Timothy 3.15). 

No matter what the atmosphere of our quarantine, we can remember that Jesus dwells or “tabernacles” with us. (Leviticus 26.11; Ezekiel 37.27; John 1.14; Revelation 21.3) Whatever suffering we endure, he feels it with us. Whatever joys we experience, he is celebrating with us. 

In John 7, we read of a Feast of Tabernacles celebration during Jesus’ ministry. The Feast of Tabernacles was a reminder to Israel of their dependence on God in the wilderness. It recalled the years of wandering and being a people who dwelled in tents and who worshiped a God who dwelled in tents with them.

Jesus entered this festival secretly. He misled his brothers who did not believe in him, telling them that he would not go. Then he snuck in. He then revealed himself to call attention to elements of the festival that pointed to him.

In particular, Jesus called attention to one new element. Priests would dip water from the pool of Siloam and pour it on the altar in the Temple. This symbolized salvation through the water from the rock in the desert.

In our “tents,” our quarantined homes, we may feel as if we are isolated in the wilderness. Like Israel we long for Egypt. In Egypt they didn’t know thirst. They didn’t know hunger. In the desert, Israel reevaluates Egypt. How bad was the subjugation and slavery really? 

We aren’t enslaved in our vocations in the same way Israel was. Our culture enslaves us with consumerism and greed, among other idols. We hang the carrot in front of ourselves on the treadmill and run ourselves to death. We forget our chains in our longing for chain restaurants. 

In the desert and in the Temple, Israel is offered something better. Water from the rock. The water of life. Jesus stands among us wanting to quench our thirst with Living Water. “Come to me!” Jesus cries. While we are tabernacled with him, take time to drink what he offers.

As with Jesus’ brothers, Jesus may sneak up on us and sneak into our “tabernacle.” Are we aware of him? Are we trusting in him? Will we come to him and drink?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say for ever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 3 (Listen – 1:48) 
Hebrews 3 (Listen -2:25)

Read more about Presence is Precious
Practicing the presence of God means living as a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, making everywhere you set your feet holy ground.

Read more about Prayer, Our Tent of Meeting
Prayer is our tent of meeting, where the deepest thirsts of our souls may be satisfied.

Take Up Your Mat

John 5.14
Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

Reflection: Take Up Your Mat
By John Tillman

The paralytic at the pool is one of the more unusual miracles of Jesus. In most miracles of healing someone comes to Jesus with a request.

The Centurion sent to Jesus on behalf of his servant and the leaders of the Jewish community supported the Centurion’s request due to his kindness to them.

Bartimaeus called out to Jesus over the noise of the crowd, “Son of David, have mercy on me,” and asked directly, “Lord I want to see.”

Jairus, a synagogue leader, humbled himself to come to Jesus openly, begging for his daughter to be healed.

Along the way to Jairus’s daughter, the woman with the issue of blood braved the crushing crowd, to touch Jesus.

But in the case of the paralytic, Jesus seems to initiate everything. Jesus sees the man. He discovers how long he has been there. He singles him out. He questions him. He heals him.

Another common element of other miracles is a moment in which Jesus comments on the person’s faith. That is absent in this account as well. The paralyzed man’s faith is questionable—perhaps so weak that only Jesus could see it.

Sometimes, a miracle is the beginning of a journey of faith instead of the end. Perhaps the reason Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk, was so that he would not be able to come back to the same spot in which he had been lying for years.

In the case of the paralyzed man, Jesus isn’t done with him after he is healed. Jesus once more seeks him out. Jesus finds him in the Temple—a place the man was forbidden to go before being healed. There Jesus calls him to repentance and warns him that there are worse things than being paralyzed by a pool for 38 years. Jesus has more for this man then simply taking up his mat and walking. He has more for us too.

Jesus sought us out when we were paralyzed and deformed by sin. Though our faith might have been so small only he could detect it, he healed us, granting us access to God at the Temple. But he isn’t done with us after this miracle. He still seeks us out. To warn us, to call us to continued repentance, to transform our lives.

Jesus isn’t done with us after the miracle of our salvation. When we take up our mat and walk, we are just beginning to follow him in faith.

Pick up your mat and walk. Then take up your cross and follow him.

Prayer: A Reading
Then, speaking to all, he said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross everyday and follow me.” — Luke 9.23

Today’s Readings
Exodus 26 (Listen – 4:18)
John 5 (Listen – 5:42)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 27 (Listen – 2:52) John 6 (Listen – 8:27)
Exodus 28 (Listen – 5:54) John 7 (Listen – 5:53)

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Read more about Not Just Miracles
Christ’s miracles weren’t entertainment for a crowd or party tricks to show he was a neat prophet. With each miracle Christ demonstrated that restoration beyond what our world is capable of producing will one day come through his reign.

Read more about C.S. Lewis on Miracles
Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of Nature. — C.S. Lewis

We Need a Little Christmas :: Joy of Advent

John 7.37-38
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Reflection: We Need a Little Christmas :: Joy of Advent
By John Tillman

The musical, Mame, is a classic of American theater and film. The show’s most enduring mark on our culture is probably the song “We Need a Little Christmas.”

In the show, Mame has the notion to put up the Christmas decorations early in order to lift everyone’s mood. In the original broadway cast recording her nephew can be heard objecting, “But Auntie Mame, it’s one week past Thanksgiving Day now!”

That’s right. Putting up the Christmas decorations one week past Thanksgiving was once something only an exaggerated, eccentric, bon-vivant, party girl, like crazy Auntie Mame would think of. How times have changed.

In 2018, the media has been incessantly telling us that “scientists” say putting up decorations early makes us happier and more content. All this journalistic (and consumeristic) gold has been spun out of one study that found that people were seen as more sociable if they decorated for Christmas early, and one psychologist’s statement that early decorating brought feelings of “happiness.”

As we begin this week of Advent that focuses on joy, it is helpful to distinguish joy from the happiness, whether scientifically verified or not, that is derived from putting up decor.

There’s nothing wrong with a temporary mood-booster, as long as you tell the truth about what it is—temporary and emotional. Go ahead. Decorate in October if you just can’t stand not to. Mame would be proud.

But the joy of Christ is no mood-booster—it is a life changer. And it is always accessible to us no matter what season of life we are in or what decorations are hanging on our walls.

We do need a little Christmas joy.
Joy is not dependant on a season of peace and goodwill.
Joy thrives under persecution and suffering.

Joy does not rely on tinsel, lights, and delightful surroundings.
Joy shines brightest when surrounded by hopelessness and fear.

Joy does not require us to dress the part, or deck the halls, or trim the tree.
Joy comes to criminals naked on a cross, hung like gruesome decorations on a tree of suffering.

Jesus brought joy to us not by avoiding suffering, but by seeing past it and willingly walking through it for us. We will find joy when we follow him.

What are we waiting for?
When we walk with Christ, there is joy before suffering, joy in the midst of it, and joy on the other side of it.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
On this day the Lord has acted, we will rejoice and be glad in it  — Psalm 118:24

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 4 (Listen – 1:53)
John 7 (Listen – 5:53)

Additional Reading
Read More about Finding Joy :: Readers’ Choice
If you get hung up on pleasure you’re doomed. If you pursue joy, you’ll find everlasting happiness. — George Lucas.

Read More about Love in His Name :: Love of Advent
In that Name there is hope and joy and rest
In his Name we are blest.

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