Near (Artful Devotion)

Praying Youth (early medieval fresco)
Fragment of a Roman Christian fresco, 8th–9th century. Dumbarton Oaks Museum (BZ.1938.59), Washington, DC. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones.

Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

—Luke 21:28


This upcoming Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, a yearly church season of waiting, watching, hoping, praying, and preparing for the coming of the Savior.

There are theological reasons for observing a serious Advent without being swallowed up prematurely by the Christmas rush. Advent offers an unparalleled opportunity to take a fearless inventory of the darkness in our world and in our hearts, into which the True Light will come.

Fleming Rutledge

The season of Advent is an opportunity both to discover the nature of our enfeebled waiting muscles as well as our tired practices of anticipation and to discipline our hearts and minds, bodies and lives so that we might become, together, a people who wait with hope, who anticipate with faith, and who welcome the arrival of the Lord with courage in our hearts.

W. David O. Taylor


SONG: “Christmas Is Now Drawing Near at Hand” (Roud 808) | English folk carol, 16th century | Performed by James Elkington, 2017


This carol, likely from the sixteenth century, was traditionally sung by beggars, travelers, and the “roaming folk” of England around Christmastime. Because of its strong moralism, it has fallen out of favor, but interest in it revived somewhat when it was recorded by the Watersons on their 1965 album Frost and Fire. Their version is based on one of those found in the 1914 edition of the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, compiled by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Cecil Sharp from the West Midlands and counties adjoining Wales. James Elkington’s rendition adds a blues tilt, as his “masterful picking style tumbles and curls around the mournful melody,” accompanied by organ and slide guitar.

Christmas is now drawing near at hand
Come serve the Lord and be at his command
God a portion for you will provide
And give a blessing to your soul besides

Down in the garden, where the flowers grow in ranks
Get down on your bended knees and give the Lord thanks
Down on your knees and pray both night and day
Leave off your sins and live from pray to pray

So proud and lofty is some sort of sin
Which many take delight and pleasure in
Whose conversation doth God smirch as lie
And yet he shakes his sword before he strikes

So proud and lofty do some people go
Dressing themselves like players in a show
They patch, paint, and dress with idle stuff
As if God had not made ’em fine enough

Well, even little children learn to curse and swear
They can’t rehearse one word of godly prayer
Teach them better, oh teach them to rely
On Christ, the sinner’s friend, who reigns on high

This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the First Sunday of Advent, cycle C, click here.

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