This will be our first Christmas without our Mom Ashley among us, since her passing some seven months ago.This morning I pulled a small blue leather book from our bookshelf, a book that Mom loved dearly and read often – The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Rather randomly I landed on a prayer called “Blessings”. At my first read-through, the old English wording sent me to the dictionary for a vocabulary review. Upon a second reading, and then a third, my mind was captivated with the depth of meaning and expression found in the poem’s lyrics. Having now returned to the prayer several times, I am compelled to share it with you as this day comes to a close.
Author of all blessings I enjoy,
Of all I hope for,
Thou hast taught me
that neither the experience of present evils,
nor the remembrances of former sins,
nor the remonstrances of friends,
will or can affect a sinner’s heart,
except thou vouchsafe to reveal thy grace
and quicken the dead in sin
by the effectual working of thy Spirit’s power.
Thou hast shown me
that the sensible effusions of divine love
in the soul are superior to and distinct from
and that oft-times spiritual comforts are
at their highest when physical well-being is at its lowest.
Thou hast given me
the ordinance of song as a means of grace;
Fit me to bear my part in that music ever new,
which elect angels and saints made perfect
now sing before thy throne and before the Lamb.
I bless Thee for tempering every distress with joy;
too much of the former might weigh me down,
too much of the latter might puff me up;
Thou art wise to give me a taste of both.
I love thee
for giving me clusters of grapes in the wilderness
and drops of heavenly wine
that set me longing to have my fill.
Apart from thee I quickly die,
bereft of thee I starve,
far from thee I thirst and droop;
But thou art all I need.
Let me continually grasp the promise,
“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”
Mom Ashley understood these truths in a very personal way. She knew the grace of God in her own life. She had learned that spiritual comforts are at their highest when physical well-being is at its lowest. She loved the gift of music, “the ordinance of song” and repeated beloved hymn lyrics often. She experienced the divine tempering of distress with joy. She had been the recipient of “clusters of grapes in the wilderness” and knew that God was all she needed. This Christmas, her longing for a taste of heaven has been satisfied, and she, with the “elect angels and saints made perfect”, now sings before the throne and before the Lamb. Our confidence in this eternal reality, made available through the work of the Son of God whose birth we celebrate, is indeed the greatest Christmas blessing.