About 5 years ago, my husband Claude and I escaped to friends’ river house for a rare birthday weekend respite, after the start of the new school year, but before the holiday season. However, soon after we arrived he received a call from work to return the next morning for an emergency meeting with a general or some such VIP. Consequently I found myself all alone in a quiet beautiful place, with pen, journal and a copy of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, which I was taking my son’s homeschool Literature class through; it was the perfect (creative) storm. I later added the presentation elements ( wreath, candles and songs) in order to adapt it for presentation to the ladies’ ministry for our church: the only place it was ever delivered. Feel free to enjoy, with proper attribution to Denise Stair Armstrong, please. Grace to every Pilgrim on the Journey this Advent.
(An Advent wreath is prominently displayed and four pre-selected persons prepared to light each candle and lead the singing of each portion of music. Sheets or overhead projection of the songs/hymn portions should be available to the attendees)
Christian, the Pilgrim, one night on his way,
Again lost the Path to that City of Day.
So great was the darkness, so black was the land,
He fumbled and stumbled for places to stand.
Shades of death overtook him; he cowered and creeped.
Then slid, falling down, struck his head, fell in sleep.
He heard ancient prophet foretelling the time,
When Messiah would come through a virgin sublime.
“The people that walked in great darkness” he said,
“Have seen a great Light in the land of the dead.
His name is called Wonderful, Counsellor Great,
Father Eternal, Peace Prince we await.”
(Light the First Advent Candle – representative of ‘the Light of the Hope of the Prophets’)
– Song : “Oh come, O come Immanuel…”
Arousing himself our dazed Pilgrim espied,
“First Light! Yes I see! Though I thought I, had died!
I know it is leading me back to the path,
Out of this darkness, this dread land of wrath.”
But alas! Our dear Christian was soon lost again,
This time drawn by lights seen through earth-tainted lens.
“Bright lights, there! I see them! A-sparkling on trees!
Red ones, and green ones! Declare ‘X-mas’ glee?
This place I have come to in search of the light
Is called…’X-MAS CITY?’ – the ‘X’ is my plight.
Its lights call out to me to stop and to stare.
To quench self’s lusts, pleasures with all fleshly fare.”
“Eat drink and be merry! From nothing refrain!”
I heard its shrill call luring men to the vain.
‘Twas Vanity Fair bidding, “Indulge your flesh!”
Its center had Herod’s agenda enmeshed.
“The light is your own!” I, confused, heard him say.
“Remove Christ from Christ-mas. Mark ‘X’, It’s your day!
Let’s search, find your own divine spark; it is true.
And then help you worship the Christ that is you!”
Before I could gather my wits ‘round about me
The ‘X’ passions clashed; ‘twas a self-striving spree!
Breaking stores’ doors down and trampling on workers!
Racking up debt – tribute for X-mas altars.
I fled from that town with the twinkling lights:
Visions of death! Not the Glory of Christ!
Stumbling, de-lighted his hands on his head
Eyes downcast, dejected the young pilgrim pled,
“O Lord, I don’t see You; the path I can’t find;
What darkens my vision? What’s keeping me blind?
Then that’s when I noticed, beyond X-mas walls,
The suffering, forgotten, the weak and the small.
Like sheep lost and scattered their shepherds were few.
I stepped back o’erwhelmed; did not know what to do.
Then a bright stranger shining laid hand on my shoulder.
He put me to sit ‘mongst the sheep on a boulder.”
“Open the eyes of my heart Lord
Open the eyes of my heart,
I want to see You…”
“The Light that you seek is quite near where we stand.
Remember the words of the Scroll in your hand:
The Virgin-born child, God incarnate appointed,
Laid in a creche by the Spirit anointed
To bring the Good News to lost sheep such as these,
To bind up torn hearts, give the bound liberty.
Avoid the vain gifts to consume on man’s lust
Guide men to the Savior, lift hearts from sin’s dust!”
(Light second Advent candle – representative of ‘The Light and warmth found by Mary & Joseph in a ‘stable’)
Then out from the clouds burst a light shining glorious!
Of angels proclaiming Messiah victorious!
I saw where He made His incarnate abiding –
Midst prisoners and orphans, despairing and dying!
Shepherds and carpenter, young maiden lowly
Knelt in a grotto that God had made Holy.
Light of His birthplace bathed all in his Glory.
I basked in His love; pledged to reflect His story.
The Light and the warmth we had found in that place
Was the Light of the Glory of God in Christ’s face!”
(Light third Advent candle – representative of ‘The light and joy which surrounded the shepherds & also sent them forth’)
Song – “O come all Ye faithful…”
I knew I should go with the shepherds to tell
The dark world, X-mas world, of Immanuel.
But first, Lord, before I continue my mission
I must offer to You, Blest Pearl of my vision,
My heart’s dearest treasure, its every aspiring,
Ignite in their place Your bright flame’s Holy firing.
The work of my hands, deeds that shape all my days-
The feeding of sheep, finding lambs gone astray,
Also can capture my heart it is true
Replacing this glorious vision of You.
Daily attract me to bask in Your light,
As I sojourn in ‘Babylon’, capture my sight.
Though I face lions, furnace or pow’r crazed rulers,
To You, keep me faithful, blest Sovereign & Savior.”
Song – “We three Kings of orient are…” )
I step here aside, for new guests now I see,
Star-guided, have also brought gifts – 1, 2, 3.
Kings bring gold for Kingship, incense for Your praise,
Myrrh’s bitter taste for the day You are raised
Up high between earth and the dark sky where rays
Now beam down from Your Light, O Ancient of Days.
Shine on! Light Our paths! One source of Holy fire,
You’ve ravished our hearts, You, our one Great Desire!”
(Light fourth Advent candle – representing the Light of God’s Truth which guides Wisemen to Jesus and also keeps them on the path)
Song – “Shine Jesus, Shine…!”
Quiet, meditative closing and exit.