When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph,
and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
Luke 2:15-16 NIV
I am searching this Advent season for hope—hope that’s a tiny bit brighter, hope that lifts up my eyes to see more than I have seen before, hope that stirs in my heart, even for a moment. I feel the words of this hymn, ”I come in half-belief.” It’s not the most promising mood to bring to Advent, but it’s all I’ve got. The reasons don’t matter. They are myriad, as perhaps your reasons for hesitatingly approaching Advent.
The truth is that many of us have experienced struggles in the past year. The truth is that our country has seemed unbalanced, troubled, confused. It is also true that suffering has made its way into villages and cities and hamlets all over the world. I feel the strain. It affects my soul and troubles my spirit, so I longing for a gentle sign of hope to make its home in my heart.
My contemplation led me today to the hymn I share with you for your own reflection as we approach Advent’s first Sunday. I hope you will ponder the text and listen to the video of the choral arrangement. I am moved by this hymn every time I hear or sing it. The words invite me to the manger, the place where there is room and welcome always and forever. Even as hope eludes me, the eternal truth still stirs my soul: How could I forget how Love was born, and burned its way into my heart—unasked, unforced, unearned, to die, to live, and not alone for me. For all the world, the Hope of the world!
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 NIV
Where shepherds lately knelt and kept the angel’s word,
I come in half-belief, a pilgrim strangely stirred;
But there is room and welcome there for me,
But there is room and welcome there for me.
In that unlikely place I find him as they said:
Sweet newborn Babe, how frail! And in a manger bed:
A still, small voice to cry one day for me,
A still, small voice to cry one day for me.
How should I not have known Isaiah would be there,
His prophecies fulfilled? With pounding heart I stare:
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me,
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me.
Can I, will I forget how Love was born, and burned
It’s way into my heart—unasked, unforced, unearned,
To die, to live, and not alone for me,
To die, to live, and not alone for me?
Dr. Jaroslav Vajda (1919-2008)
“Where Shepherds Lately Knelt” arranged by Craig Courtney | BYU Men’s Chorus
featuring Laurence Lowe, French horn