Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella — Carols of Advent Joy

Scripture Focus: John 8.12
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 1.9-12
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

Reflection: Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella — Carols of Advent Joy
By Jon Polk

A quick search in any online Bible will reveal the obvious: no one in the pages of scripture is named Jeannette or Isabella.

Yet the lilting French carol, “Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella,” describes these two young girls, with decidedly non-Jewish names, as having stumbled upon the stable in which Jesus was born. 

Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella!
Bring a torch, to the cradle run!
It is Jesus, good folk of the village;
Christ is born and Mary’s calling.

Who are they?

As the story goes, Jeannette and Isabella are milkmaids who have gone to the stable to milk the cows. Overjoyed at their discovery of the newborn Jesus sleeping in the hay, the girls run back to their village to share the news and encourage the townsfolk to come see the baby. They are instructed to bring a torch, appropriate for the one who was born to be the light of the world.

Softly to the little stable.
Softly for a moment come;
Look and see how charming is Jesus,
How He is warm, His cheeks are rosy.

I do not recall this account in either Matthew or Luke’s infancy narratives.

“Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella” originates from the Provence region of France in the 16th-17th centuries. The melody is a ritournelle, a lively court dance for French nobility. The lyrics and story likely take their inspiration from a 1640s painting by French painter Georges de La Tour, “The Newborn Child,” depicting two young French girls quietly cradling the holy infant.

This unique carol is steeped in provincial particulars of 17th century Provence, France, from the tune to the lyrics to the very names of the girls themselves. Even the La Tour painting presents the pair of maids in rural French, not Jewish, dress. Still today on Christmas Eve, French children in the Provence region dress as farmhands and carry candles while singing the carol as they process to midnight mass.

So goes the incarnation. Certainly, the historical Jesus was born in a particular place, Bethlehem in Judah, and at a particular time, sometime around 4BC. However, each year, Christ is born into our world again in thousands of places, from Bethlehem to Paris to Madrid to Shanghai to Los Angeles to Dubai to London to Singapore.

The joy of Christ is reborn across our world today, incarnate in the hearts and homes of those who love and follow him.

Bring a torch, Diego, Sophia, Omar, Ying, Cormac, Emma, Kwame, Nikolai, Sunyoung, Giovanni, and Jennifer, share the news with your villages that Christ is born!

As for you, dear reader, to whom will you carry the light and joy of Christmas this year?

Listen: Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella by Jenny Gullen & Derri Daugherty
Read: Lyrics from Hymnary.org
View: The Newborn Child by Georges de La Tour

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there! They will be satisfied by the beauty of your house, by the holiness of your temple. — Psalm 65.4

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

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 5 (Listen – 1:35)
John 8 (Listen – 7:33)

This Weekend’s Readings
Zechariah 6 (Listen – 2:08), John 9 (Listen – 4:56)
Zechariah 7 (Listen – 1:57), John 10 (Listen – 4:44)

Read more about End of Year Giving and Supporting our work
Monthly giving sustains our work through the year. End-of-year giving helps us weather storms and launch new projects. Consider joining us for 2021.

Read more about Joyful Light of Repentance :: Joy of Advent
Exposure of our shortcomings can bring shame but joy comes in repentance.

Taking Sin Seriously

John 8.11
Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Reflection: Taking Sin Seriously
By John Tillman

Some might summarize this passage like this: The Pharisees catch a woman in adultery but Jesus lets her go. Except that’s not what happened at all.

Jesus is not a kind, loving, pushover who winks at adultery and doesn’t take sin seriously. 

To think this, ignores Christ’s words to the woman, and his actions in the remainder of the gospel of John. Jesus takes sin far more seriously than anyone in this entire scene. (The absence of the woman’s sexual partner shows that the Pharisees don’t take the law or sin seriously. They are only using the woman as a prop—an object for their object lesson.)

But sin is deadly serious business to the one who came to die for sins.

“Go now and leave your life of sin,” is an unambiguous acknowledgement of the fact of the woman’s sin and an unmistakable command to repent. Christ does not condemn her, because he is taking her condemnation on himself.

Jesus is not a distributor of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would describe as “cheap grace:”

“Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before.

Costly grace is…costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.”


The true grace Jesus offers is costly. It is so costly that the wealthy, rich, powerful members of society drop their stones and walk away from it. They cannot bear the cost to their pride. It is so costly the lustful won’t look at it. It is too costly for them to give up their lusts.

Jesus doesn’t “let the woman go.” He sends her out. Jesus, instead of taking the woman’s life, redeems it. He buys it for his own.

When we see ourselves in this passage, we should not see ourselves as members of the crowd, shamed into forgiving the woman and dropping our stones. We should see ourselves as the shamed woman, freed and sent out to live anew.

We have been bought with a price and sent into the world, leaving our lives of sin.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me. — Psalm 31.3

Today’s Readings
Exodus 29 (Listen – 6:23)
John 8 (Listen – 7:33)

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Read more about A Singular Plea In Prayer
Christ died for nobody but real sinners, those who feel that their sin is truly sin. — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Read more about Choosing Christ
Though it is fairly palatable to accept Jesus as a man, or even an inspiring moral teacher, choosing him as Christ and Lord comes at a cost—socially, professionally, and otherwise.

Blossoming of Joy in Adversity :: Joy of Advent

John 8.12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Reflection: Blossoming of Joy in Adversity :: Joy of Advent
By John Tillman

We find examples of joy under persecution and difficulty in Jesus, Peter, John, Paul, and many others in scripture. But examples are also blossoming amidst persecution around the world.

Last week, simultaneous, coordinated raids were conducted across a large city. Doors to multiple homes and businesses were forced open. Government agents rushed to arrest as many targets as possible before warnings could go out to others. Many members and elders of a large church organization were taken away to secret locations. As of this writing, none have been released.

It sounds dramatic to Westerners, but in many parts of the world, that’s just a normal Tuesday.

From hiding, before his eventual arrest, one of those elders wrote an encouraging letter of joy to the remaining church members.

Beloved brothers and sisters, do you have joy? Are you rejoicing in the fact that you are suffering with Christ because of this church? Do you know that we are blessed? The Lord is bestowing on us poor people today treasures of glory from heaven! The Lord himself is bestowing on us weak people comfort from heaven! The Lord Jesus is shining on us blind people his great light. Those of us brothers and sisters standing on the front lines of the gospel war will earn great spiritual riches!

Thank the Lord for being with us in this trial. Thank the Lord for cultivating us according to his true Word! Thank the Lord for training us through these days of hardship! Thank the Lord for sculpting us through today’s persecution! May the Lord give us great joy and true hope and make us strong through reliance on him…
May the whole world know that we are joyfully willing to receive this persecution for the sake of our faith.

Beloved brothers and sisters, I am writing this letter in “hiding.” May you all be filled with joy in the gospel of Christ. May you welcome, filled with hope, the even heavier cross and more difficult lives that lie ahead of you. — Li Yingqiang, Elder of Early Rain Covenant Church

Joy is not like happiness. It does not fade with worsening circumstances.
Joy is the necessary fuel that is produced in the midst of, and carries us through, pain.
Joy burns differently and is inextinguishable.
Joy is what Christ saw ahead of him when he looked past the suffering of the cross to the future.
Joy is ours when we also look past our sufferings.

What are we waiting for?
Advent’s path to joy passes through trials, arrests, suffering, and the cross. Let us follow Christ.

Prayer: The Greeting
My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed.  — Psalm 71:23

– 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 5 (Listen – 1:35)
John 8 (Listen – 7:33)

Additional Reading
Read More about Prayer for the Church from Indonesia :: Worldwide 
Make us mindful, that others of your Church today
eat the bread in secret, for fear of persecution,
and drink the cup in whispers, for fear of death.
For them, our sisters and brothers, we pray
that your spirit will watch over them with a mighty arm
that your joy may be complete in them
and that their hope in you may be realized in power and grace.

Read More about Jeremiah, the Unpatriotic Prophet
The most patriotic thing Christians can do is see the problems of our nation and speak the gospel to them. Let them throw us in a cistern like Jeremiah. Let them burn our words rather than listen to them. May we be faithful to Christ and his kingdom alone.

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