Advent, Day 1: Stars

LOOK: Beyond the Stars by Zarina

Zarina_Beyond the Stars
Zarina (Indian American, 1937–2020), Beyond the Stars, 2014. Woodcut printed on BFK light paper collaged with gold leaf and Urdu text, mounted on Somerset Antique paper, 24 × 23 in. Photo: Farzad Owrang.

Printmaker Zarina Hashmi, who preferred to identify herself professionally by her first name only, was born and raised in the small university town of Aligarh, India, and was displaced to Karachi, Pakistan, after the partition of India in 1947. She had a cosmopolitan education, studying woodblock printing in Bangkok and Tokyo and intaglio in Paris. At the beginning of her career she moved to New York, living and working there for forty years before finally moving to London in 2018 to be near family. She passed away two years later.

In Beyond the Stars Zarina shows, through the medium of woodcut, the glory of a night sky. Innumerable stars dot the black ink, as do a smattering of small 22-karat gold orbs that could be read as angels or as the divine presence made visible. 

LISTEN: “All Shall Be Well” by Jill McFadden, on Good News by Ordinary Time (2016)

He called him into the night, said
Abram, count the stars so bright
Through you true peace will come
To every tribe and tongue
Though no one knows my Name
Blessing is coming all the same

And all shall be well

Now many years went by
Of withered hopes, unanswered cries
Till one night a virgin heard
A cry that broke the silence of God
That star above them bright
Had shone for Abram that night
This child so weak, so small
Brings peace and rest to all

And all shall be well (2×)

The years unending seem
Here in this in between
“Peace on earth, God’s will for men”
Seems like it came and went
The wars, they linger on
The darkness overcomes
We need not stars but sun
Break in, O Coming One
Sometimes we cannot tell
That You will make all well

But all shall be well
All shall be well

Jill McFadden is one-third of the sacred folk band Ordinary Time. She wrote the song “All Shall Be Well” for a Lessons and Carols service, to correspond with the Genesis 22 reading (cf. Gen. 15), where God tells Abraham, “I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore . . . and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves” (vv. 17–18).

This covenant extended down through the ages, reaching fruition many generations later in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Promised One from of old and on high, born to make all things well. As the song’s lyrics put it: “many years went by of withered hopes, unanswered cries, till one night a virgin heard a cry that broke the silence of God.” That is, the cry of Mary’s newborn son, whom the angel Gabriel called the “Son of the Most High” and said would establish a kingdom that has no end (Luke 1:32–33).

The Star of Bethlehem, the song says, was one of the millions present when God first promised to bless the world through Abraham’s seed, and now it burns particularly bright over the spot where that blessing is enfleshed in a brand-new and earthshaking way—for the babe in the manger is God incarnate.

But has all really been made well by God’s coming in Christ? There’s still violence and sin and pain and relational fracture. Where’s the peace?

The third stanza of “All Shall Be Well” entreats Christ’s second coming. It laments how peace and light seem elusive here on earth and asks God to make good on his ancient promise. Show us the blessing! Show us the new day, that universal redemption. We’ve received foretastes, but we want to sink our teeth into the whole magnificent meal.

The refrain is a reassurance rooted in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness: “All shall be well.” No matter how far-off that total wholeness feels for you, know that it’s written in the stars, so to speak. The God who created everything good will make it good again as he promised. Until then, we continue to hope and pray, work and wait.

If you would like a harmonized lead sheet, chord chart, and/or string parts for this song, email, and Jill will make them freely available to you.

3 thoughts on “Advent, Day 1: Stars

  1. Thanks Victoria,
    I’m in India right now. Just got WiFi connected. Love the stars. A reminder that the sons of God will be as numerous.


  2. Dear Victoria,
    Thank you for your posts. Beautiful and inspiring. Jill McFadden’s song reminds me of the words of St Julian of Norwich, ‘All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’. St Julian’s experience was beautifully portrayed in a cycle of paintings by the late Australian painter, Alan Oldfield. His artworks “Revelations of Divine Love of Julian of Norwich’ are cited on the Julian of Norwich website.
    Michael Donnelly, Melbourne, Australia


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