Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve, December 31. 2008

Auld Lang Syne
Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne ?


For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,
Sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne.



Sunday, December 28, 2008

Our belated Christmas celebration

Because we were snowed in Christmas, we celebrated as a family on December 27.

Presents under the tree.

My nephew, my dog, and me.

My mom.

My nephew and my dog.

My sister-in-law and my dad.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Feast of St. John the Apostle, December 27, 2008

St. John The Apostle
Feast Day: December 27

Christina Georgina Rossetti

Earth cannot bar flame from ascending,
Hell cannot bind light from descending,
Death cannot finish life never ending.

Eagle and sun gaze at each other,
Eagle at sun, brother at Brother,
Loving in peace and joy one another.

O St. John, with chains for thy wages,
Strong thy rock where the storm-blast rages,
Rock of refuge, the Rock of Ages.

Rome hath passed with her awful voice,
Earth is passing with all her joys,
Heaven shall pass away with a noise.

So from us all follies that please us,
So from us all falsehoods that ease us,–
Only all saints abide with their Jesus.

Jesus, in love looking down hither,
Jesus, by love draw us up thither,
That we in Thee may abide together.

Before 1893

'Beloved, let us love one another,' says St. John,
Eagle of eagles calling from above:
Words of strong nourishment for life to feed upon,
'Beloved, let us love.'

Voice of an eagle, yea, Voice of the Dove:
If we may love, winter is past and gone;
Publish we, praise we, for lo it is enough.

More sunny than sunshine that ever yet shone,
Sweetener of the bitter, smoother of the rough,
Highest lesson of all lessons for all to con,
'Beloved, let us love.'

Before 1886

Today is the Feast of St. John the Apostle in the Catholic calendar. John's Gospel and his Epistles contain some of the most beautiful passages in the whole Bible. Christina Rossetti's poem quotes from his First Epistle, Chapter 4, verse 7: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." John's Gospel has the great teaching that Jesus' command is love: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34-35).

There is a legend that at the end of his life, when John the Apostle was a very old man, that he preached his last sermon, and he simply exhorted his congregation over and over, "Little children, love one another."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day, December 25, 2008

In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.

(John 1:1-5, 9-14)

Finally, we light the Christ candle. The true light that gives light to the whole world has come into the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This passage is so beautiful and so true. Jesus is the light of the world. The world does reject him, does not know him, or recognize him, or receive him, yet the darkness does not, has not, will not overcome. Oh, the beauty of God become flesh to dwell among us so that we can see his glory.

Blessed Christmas to all my friends and family. I pray that the light shines on you and in you and that you recognize and receive it. Dwell with the Word who dwells among us and receive power to become children of God. See his glory--see him, full of grace and truth. That is my hope and prayer for all whom I love.

Family Christmas

We were snowbound, so it was just the four of us celebrating Christmas on the actual day. Me . . .

my mom (a little out of focus, oops),

my dad,

and my dog.

Later in the day, the sun came out

Snowy stairs and icicles

White Christmas II

Two birdhouses, plus the nest a robin built in the deck eaves last spring, but never used.

And here's a little movie of the snowfall.

You can hear dripping--while new snow falls from the sky, the snow on the ground (or the roof of our house) is melting.

White Christmas

If anyone in Lynden was dreaming of a White Christmas, their dream came true this year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve, December 24, 2008

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see -- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

(Luke 2:1-20)

More snow!

A lot of snow fell last night, and more is still falling today. This is my contorted filbert in the snow.

And this is my dog in the snow. He had to plow through chest-high most of the way.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 21, 2008

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary's response to Gabriel is what T.S. Eliot called "the hardly, barely prayable / Prayer of the one Annunciation." To let God do his will through you is no easy commitment.

Snow Poems

Today church is cancelled because of snow. New snow did fall here in Lynden last night, and the wind has been drifting it. This morning when I took my dog out, our yesterday's footprints were gone, and we had to trample and break through the perfect snow for the most mundane of purposes. But my dog and I are a part of nature, too. Our footprints, and his territorial markings, are part of the natural world.

I was looking online for poetry about being snowed in. I was thinking I'd find something by Emerson or some other New England poet that would almost perfectly talk about looking out your window on a snowy Sunday morning, being warm inside while it's cold outside, being in your family home while the weather makes wilderness around you. Of course, I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, but I did find some good stuff I wasn't looking for, two poems by Mary Oliver. I had not known of her or her work before this morning, but it seems she is a New England poet by choice and by influence, as well as a Midwestern one by birth and upbringing.

Here are two poems by Mary Oliver:

Beyond the Snow Belt
Mary Oliver

Over the local stations, one by one,
Announcers list disasters like dark poems
That always happen in the skull of winter.
But once again the storm has passed us by:
Lovely and moderate, the snow lies down
While shouting children hurry back to play,
And scarved and smiling citizens once more
Sweep down their easy paths of pride and welcome.

And what else might we do? Let us be truthful.
Two counties north the storm has taken lives.
Two counties north, to us, is far away, -
A land of trees, a wing upon a map,
A wild place never visited, - so we
Forget with ease each far mortality.

Peacefully from our frozen yards we watch
Our children running on the mild white hills.
This is the landscape that we understand, -
And till the principle of things takes root,
How shall examples move us from our calm?
I do not say that is not a fault.
I only say, except as we have loved,
All news arrives as from a distant land.

My comments: Three stanzas: eight lines, six lines, eight lines. Unrhymed iambic pentameter (blank verse) - the form favored by Shakespeare, Milton, and Frost. The content I leave to you.

Snow Geese
Mary Oliver

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
The geese
flew on,
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won't.
It doesn't matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.

My comments: I did not count the feet in this one yet; perhaps they would yield an interesting pattern. She breaks up the lines for rhyme: last-task-ask, our-hours; and perhaps to mimic the sense of intense, short experience about which she writes. My favorite lines:

as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Talk about your bleak midwinters

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone.

It is so cold in Western Washington right now. It's not supposed to get above freezing all week! Usually we say it's so cold when the temperature goes below freezing during the night--but freezing 24/7? And the cold wind doth blow--really cold, out of the northeast.

I do not dream of a White Christmas. I like them green.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Third Sunday of Advent, December 14, 2008

Gaudete Sunday, or Rose Sunday, in Advent. Gaudete means Rejoice.

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil. May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it. (I Thessalonians 5:16-24)

Rejoicing is an area in which I could use improvement. I remember a line from the song "L'chaim," in "Fiddler on the Roof": "God would like us to be joyful even when our hearts lie panting on the floor. How much more should we be joyful when there's really something to be joyful for."

Gaudete is the first Latin word of this passage from Philippians 4, which opens a Catholic mass on the third Sunday of Lent:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

This is the Sunday when you light the rose-colored candle in the Advent wreath.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Holly and the Ivy

I decorated my advent wreath with holly and ivy from our own back yard. I cut the holly this afternoon from my dad's holly plant, and I cut the ivy from an ivy I have in a pot on the deck.

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing in the choir

The holly bears a blossom
As white as any flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing in the choir

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing in the choir

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing in the choir

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing in the choir

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Second Sunday of Advent, December 7, 2008

The Gospel reading for the second week of Advent is about John the Baptizer, the forerunner of the Christ:

A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’” as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:6-8, 19-28)

This passage must encourage us to prepare for the second coming of the Christ, to prepare the way for him, to make his way straight. I think the way to do this is to introduce people to Christ first through our own actions, and second, as opportunity arises, through words.