Angels We Have Heard on High
While adding greenery to the corners of the house I pretend it is freshly cut from outdoors.
My son was hovering around me while I balanced on a chair to arrange some garland and ornaments on the mantel. A favorite CD played instrumental Christmas hymns with flute, guitar, and fiddle. I added to it by humming and singing a chorus or two.
He became talkative. He liked watching his mother tinker. Apparently, he liked seeing her merry. In the same room – at the other end of the kitchen/keeping room – I’ve been caught wearing a frown in my efforts to get supper on the table - that is - when garrulous family members distract the cook. A slightly furrowed brow is the result of concentrating within a multi-task, time-sensitive setting – especially if I am measuring ingredients for a new recipe and am mentally keeping track of cup and spoonfuls.
But on that sunny afternoon I wasn’t concentrating. I felt no time-sensitively. I was light-heartedly absorbed. And I was free and relaxed to listen and respond to whatever the current life-observation happened to be. We talked away.
Figures of Mary, Joseph and the Christ child inside the beehive oven are an idea borrowed from one of Tasha Tudor’s storybook illustrations. A donkey rests on folded legs in the shadowy recesses of the oven. The figures of the shepherd and wise men are close by. Perhaps the wise men should be placed at the farthest end of the mantel. It would be sometime before they followed the star and found their king. Most importantly the events or the story are remembered and our Lord is adored.
Adoration is rarely observed outside the home or church. Only at Christmastime might we hear a “Christian” Christmas song played on the radio or on loud speakers in the marketplace – one or two perhaps. I find the jolly holiday lyrics of the 20th century cheery and amusing, some even touching, but I love the words of the old Christmas hymns. They bring tidings of great joy because “. . . in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.”*
Caroling is a lovely way to publicly rejoice and proclaim “. . . This, this, is Christ the King whom shepherds watch and angels sing.”* My married daughters and their families and friends did some caroling in their neighborhood. They telephoned to tell me it was a bit chaotic. One neighbor, however, already in her pink fuzzy nightgown, said, “Thank-you. What a beautiful ending to a hard and hectic day.”
Quietly contemplating the words of the hymns of advent can be a source of devotion. Without the profundity of “God the Incarnate Deity”* where would we find the true meaning of Christmas?
Do you see, among the greenery, the gingerbread cookies made of felt? They are a gift from a friend who is skillful with a needle. The white icing is embroidered in chain stitch. The cookies are stuffed. Felt pieces are held together on the edges with blanket stitch - in ginger-brown.
The angels are an original design painted by a friend who knows I am fond of Pennsylvania folk art.
With her mind on gift giving and her eye on the plain wooden shapes at the craft store, she began seeing them as Pennsylvania Dutch angels. She researched the faces for historical authenticity.
Fractur symbols are incorporated on the front and back. I marvel at her attention to detail, how tiny a paintbrush she must have used, and how she has found time to develop her talent – while raising six children.
Becoming warm from all my decorating I hung my cardigan over the back of chair, and then cast aside my knitted scarf. I rolled it up and placed it on a windowsill for the time being.
In that instant I couldn't help notice how the scarf's colors blended with the spray of greenery there - especially the faux orange and berries. Thus, the festive feeling of my "fall" scarf (started in July) is being carried over to Christmastime.
*O Little Town of Bethlehem, What Child is This? Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
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