Sunday, December 11, 2011

Clap for Joy

This painting by Brian Kershisnik of the Nativity always makes me wish I was one of those angels, crowding shoulders and bending long, for a glimpse of that tiny babe in Mary's arms. To see Him in the flesh, to know what had just been set in motion, to hear Mary's voice as she whispered what she knew and wrapped her fingers around his. It's almost too sacred to imagine.


Kershisnik's painting reminds me of something Madeleine L'Engle wrote:

"Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?"

I like to think we were there. Clapping our hands for joy, singing that ancient harmony.

This season of Advent, as observed by many Western Christian Churches, is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the Nativity of Jesus. It marks something momentous: Christ's coming into our midst. Not just in the past. But here and now.

In our own ways, we anticipate His coming. We light candles, count days by filling tiny doors with treats, peel paper chains. But this year I wanted to do things a little differently. I wanted us to read His words, and serve Him (by serving each other).


So into each pocket went a small prize and a yellow cut-out star.


If it's your day to empty the pocket, you claim your small gift (like a pencil, stickers, lip gloss - which I can't put in until right before it's time or it will go missing!) and then you give a gift. A gift of kindness, by doing something for someone else in the family like making their bed, putting their clothes away, emptying the dishwasher. Then you leave your star at the place of service as a token of your doing.

Spencer helping me make Ali's bed.

On each star I've written a scripture reference - mostly passages from the New Testament with some from The Book of Mormon.

I know many of you are not Mormon (or LDS), but I believe you can still appreciate this book for its remarkable spirit and history. It documents the civic and religious history of a people who came to the American continent hundreds of years before Christ's birth.


Prophets among these people (one of whom was a contemporary to Jeremiah in Jerusalem) prophesied of the Messiah, promised he would come. And although these people would not see him at his birth, they would see the signs:

A day and a night and a day with no darkness - so powerful in its symbolism.

And a new star in the sky.


One of the readings I included from The Book of Mormon is about a people who were persecuted for their belief in Christ's coming. Many of them were about to be put to death. Yet, they continued to look with longing and faith for the signs.

At the last moment, when their hopes hung as desperate prayers, a Nephite prophet, bent in earnest pleading for them, heard a voice saying, "Lift up your head and be of good cheer... for on the morrow, come I in to the world" (3 Nephi 1:13).

And on the morrow, Christ came. The King of Kings arrived in a lowly manger, bringing with Him the signs that had been foretold - signs that testified of His birth.


Each day we sit round the table and read our Advent reading. Sometimes it's over breakfast. Sometimes it's over dinner. Usually, it's loud and boisterous and I compete with the boys (and their car noises or banging of plates) to be heard. I interrupt myself to explain big words, set the scene, try to bring all those wandering eyes back to mine.

But we do it. And bits of truth float in the air, land softly in our hearts. One layer, one line at a time.

Here's the list of readings I put together.

Day 1 John 8:12 I am the Light of the World

Day 2 John 3: 16-17 God so loved the World

Day 3 Luke 1: 26-33 Annunciation to Mary

Day 4 Luke 1: 46-49 Mary's Response

Day 5 Matthew 1: 18-24 Annunciation to Joseph

Day 6 Luke 1: 39-45 Mary visits Elizabeth

Day 7 Helaman 14: 5-12 Samuel the Lamanite tells of the Signs

Day 8 Luke 2: 1-5 Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem

Day 9 3 Nephi 1: 4, 8-15, 19-21 Signs Fulfilled in America

Day 10 Luke 2: 6-7 The Birth of Jesus

Day 11 1 Nephi 11: 8-23 Nephi's Vision of Mary (592 BC)

Day 12 Mosiah 3: 5-8 King Bejamin prophesies of Jesus' Birth (124 BC)

Day 13 Alma 7:10-12 Alma prophesies of Jesus' Birth (83 BC)

Day 14 Luke 2: 8-12 Annunciation to the Shepherds

Day 15 Luke 2: 13-18, 20 Angels and Shepherds Proclaim the News

Day 16 Luke 2:19 Mary ponders these things in her heart

Day 17 Luke 2: 25-35 Simeon sees the Christ-child

Day 18 Luke 2: 36-38 Anna the Prophetess sees the Christ-child

Day 19 Matthew 2:1-12 The Wise Men visit Jesus

Day 20 Isaiah 9:6 For Unto us a Child is Born

Day 21 John 10: 9-15 Christ is the Good Shepherd

Day 22 Matthew 11: 28-30 Christ says Come Unto Me

Day 23 Matthew 25: 31-40 When saw we thee a stranger?

Day 24 John 14: 2-3, 6, 15 I go to prepare a place for you

Day 25 Mark 12: 30-31 The Two Great Commandments

If you don't have a copy of The Book of Mormon and would like one, I will happily mail you one - my gift to you - even if you live far across the world. (Just send me an email:

I also recommend this book to you.

It is Sunday morning and we just finished our reading. It was about the Virgin Mary and how the prophets saw her, holding a child in her arms. They described that image as a gift of love that would shed itself abroad in the hearts of men - one that would be most joyous to the soul.

And I clapped for joy.


  1. Actually, if _you_ send me your snail-mail-address, I'd love to send you a christmas card, ;-).

    So long,

  2. i love this catherine. Made me tear up and clap my hands. I've been looking for a good advent guide, I'm gonna get started today (we've got some serious catch up to do!)

    And, oh how I love the Kershisnik painting. It hangs over my fireplace all winter long I love it so much. In fact, I was just going to post it up on my blog....maybe I'll still get around to that. If not, I'm glad it's out there.

    Hope you guys are well!

  3. Corinna - just left you a comment on your blog. I would be delighted to receive your christmas card! :)

    Saydi - would have been nice if I posted these readings before December 1st, but I hadn't compiled them yet. I too, have been looking for good Advent ideas. And I know you love this painting. I remember you pulling it out for us last October when we stayed with you. It's such an emotive piece. I think you should still blog about it. I'd love to read your thoughts. Hope you are well too. Much love.

  4. Cath, thank you so much for the list of scriptures. I will definitely print this off to help me out with our scripture reading. That painting is incredible. There is so much powerful art out there that I haven't found yet. Thank you for giving me one more artist to explore. Madeline L'Engle's quote...I read it several times to take in the words. How can someone string words together like that?

    What a great idea to have your kids focus on service this time of year. Your star idea is just perfect.

    The image of you gathering your children around to talk about Christ is such a sweet one. xo

  5. That Madeleine L'Engle quote is stunning.

    So glad to have read it today.

    And I love that painting, too.

  6. One day I'll get that print...I love Brian Kershisnik's paintings. What a sweet post. I love your advent idea, and just may steal your idea next year of giving a gift when you get your turn with the advent calendar.

  7. Thank you for this post. It made me teary the minute I saw that painting. Thank you for the list of scriptures and the wonderful ideas. I love you.

  8. this is a painting that i can hear. the very first time i saw it i was in Julie Cowley's home and it was captivating then as it is now.

    for me...any woman is that mother surrounded by those who have been and those yet to be.

    i love you catherine. xox

  9. Anne Marie - I know. Madeleine strings words like no other. I love her. You might enjoy Kershisnik's website. Hope your week is going well. Sending you lots of love (and you remain in my prayers each night).

    Elizabeth - yes, stunning. Thanks for your presence here. I love your comments.

    Kerri - Me too. I would love to hang this print at Christmastime. So enjoyed your gratitude list. Sending love.

    Samsel - I love you too. Hope you're back to the norm (if there is one!) after the storm.

    Cristie - Oh, Cristie. I love you so much. What a profound thought - "any woman is that mother surrounded by those who have been and those yet to be." That forms a lump in my throat.

  10. Love this post...thanks so much for sharing. So happy to have stumbled upon your blog!

  11. Thanks for sharing these. I found them on Pinterest and was happy to have some scriptures from the Book of Mormon included as well!


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