We continued on with our study of symbols and signs and thought especially about Christmas-related symbols, both secular and sacred.
We used the following hymns and poems because of their references to symbols and signs:
What star is this, with beams so bright,
More lovely than the noonday light?
’Tis sent to announce a newborn King,
Glad tidings of our God to bring.
Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel
’Tis now fulfilled what God decreed,
“From Jacob shall a star proceed”;
And lo! the Eastern sages stand
To read in heaven the Lord’s command.
While outward signs the star displays,
An inward light the Lord conveys,
And urges them, with force benign,
To seek the Giver of the sign.
True love can brook no dull delay;
Nor toil nor dangers stop their way
Home, kindred, father land and all
They leave at their Creator’s call.
O, while the star of heavenly grace
Invites us, Lord, to seek Thy face,
May we no more that grace repel,
Or quench that light which shines so well!
To God the Father, God the Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
May every tongue and nation raise
An endless song of thankful praise!
–Carolus Coffin (1676-1749)
Tune: Veni Emmanuel
Immortal love, forever full,
Forever flowing free,
Forever shared, forever whole,
A never ebbing sea!
We may not climb the heavenly steeps
To bring the Lord Christ down;
In vain we search the lowest deeps,
For Him no depths can drown.
O Lord and master of us all,
Whate’er our name or sign,
We own Thy sway, we hear Thy call,
We test our lives by Thine.
The letter fails, the systems fall,
And every symbol wanes;
The Spirit over brooding all,
Eternal love remains.
–John Greanleaf Whittier (1807-1892)
Like as a mother comforteth
O words of gentle worth!
So will I comfort you, declares
The Lord of all the earth.
He bends in faithful watchfulness;
He slumbers not nor sleeps;
Above His trusting child the Lord
A constant vigil keeps.
He patient is, as mothers are
Who love their children well;
Our faults and failings He forgives;
His mercies—who can tell!
Like as a mother, grant, O God,
This likeness e’er may be
A holy symbol to declare
The love that dwells in Thee.
–William Runyan (1870-1957)
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
–Christina Rosetti (1830-1894)
We closed with the beautiful prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.