December 30, 2020

Perfect Light - Gloria Guest


“We three Kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar…..”

“O star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, west-ward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light….”

Those are just a couple of  lines  from the familiar Christmas Carol, We Three Kings*. The popular Carol is often sung at Church Christmas pageants, with the usual bath-robed and towel turbaned three children walking down the aisle, carrying their tin foiled gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, to kneel at the manger of baby Jesus.

It was over two thousand years ago that these mysterious Wisemen so determinedly followed an intriguing star in the ancient sky, through 'field and fountain, moor and mountain,' and were rewarded with  finding the Christ Child, where they worshipped Him.


Most in our modern world have heard of that rare aligning of the planets Jupiter and Saturn that occurred on December 21st. It was aptly given the name of The Christmas Star. Many biblical scholars and scientists believe that the planets Jupiter and Saturn aligned, along with other celestial bodies, during the birth of Christ and hasn’t been seen in almost eight centuries.

I really wanted to see the Christmas Star. The last time the planets formed a closer conjunction and lit up the sky so brilliantly was on March 4, 1226. It would be a sight to behold and it made me feel a slight kinship to those Wisemen of old who had witnessed something similar and burned within to learn more about it. But unlike the Wiseman I wasn’t going to  load up my camel and travel across treacherous lands. I was simply planning on observing it from my back deck.

This event was different and not exactly the same as the original Star of Bethlehem. We also don’t really know what possible spiritual significance it has, but Christians do believe that God is revealing His signs of the times. We can only wonder what that could be.

I didn’t get to see the star. The night skies had other plans for me, and most of Canada in fact, as our sky was overcast with clouds, obscuring the view.  So I settled for some magnificent pictures captured around the world. Still, I wish I had seen it.

All the talk of the Christmas star made we wonder how the Wisemen felt each night as they lay their heads down,  the star of Bethlehem shining overhead, “always leading, always guiding,” as the song says. They must have anticipated what they would find. Would they find anything at all?

In Matthew 2: 9 -12 we are told a part of their story,

“When they had heard the King (Herod) they departed, and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, the presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” KJV

Our own Christmas Star all these years later leads me to believe that God is still asking us to trust Him and follow Him. Through the deserts of our lives, through the treachery, through the mystery and unanswered questions. While we aren't to worship the stars or use them to guide our personal lives, they do speak to us of God's glory and are a constant reassurance of His presence.

"Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth." Isaiah 41:6 NKJ

2020 was no easy year for pretty much anyone on the face of the earth. Some have had it much harder than others with the loss of loved ones, through Covid or consequences from Covid restrictions, others have lost businesses or suffered trauma through abuse or neglect, made easier through isolation. It’s heart-breaking. There was much heart break in the days after Jesus birth, as when the Wisemen felt directed to not bring King Herod the news of where they had found the baby, he sent soldiers to Bethlehem, prophesied as the place of His birth, to kill all of the male children two years and under. Bethlehem became a place of weeping and mourning.

What is God doing on the face of the earth today through our own sufferings and grief? Where do we find Him? Thirty three years after His birth this same Jesus gave His life for our sins upon a Cross. He has been all of ours ever since. We don’t have to physically seek after Him. But we do have to spiritually seek Him.

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” Col 3:1 KJV

As we enter a new year full of uncertainties we can know that if we follow Him, He will “guide us to His perfect Light.”

A starry night and some fun with a camera Ap.

 *We Three Kings, originally known as Three Kings of Orient was written by John Henry Hopkins Jr; published in 1857.

Gloria Guest enjoys many starry nights in Caron, Sk. where she also writes, blogs and studies editing.

December 29, 2020

Seasons Greetings From the Executive

On behalf of InScribe Christian Writers' Fellowship and the current executive, here's wishing all our readers and contributors a very Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year. 

2020 has been a year of challenges, but it has also been fertile soil for many deep reflections here on the InScribe blog. Thank you to the faithful regular contributors for their contributions as well as to our variety of guest bloggers. You are what keeps this blog going! I am more than thrilled with the quality of writing this year, despite the challenges we faced. 

Our organization faced other challenges, too. On November 30 we lost one of our executive team. Bobbi Junior will be missed, not only because she served so diligently as treasurer for more than eight years, but she was wise and witty, too. Despite the many trials in her life, she never complained, but just told her stories with quiet grace. If you want to read a tribute I wrote on my personal blog about Bobbi, you can visit it here: The Reluctant Mentor

We are looking forward to 2021 with anticipation, knowing that God is in control and that He has a good plan for our lives and for InScribe. Keep on praying for the executive as the team put in many hours on your behalf and things (like technology )do not always run smoothly! 

God bless and keep on writing for Him!

- Tracy Krauss on behalf of the ICWF Executive -

December 28, 2020

Christmas Without Christ - Bruce Atchison

"Things Fall Apart" by Christie is a song you most likely won't hear blaring from shopping mall public address systems or on every radio station you tune in. It tells the story of a woman who feels jaded about all the manic holiday celebrations. She remembers how Christmas used to be a magical time but it's become one huge bore.

I think it's a shame that the wondrous birth of Christ is blotted out by all the secular celebrations. People get too drunk and talk too loudly, all the while thinking they're having a good time.

Even with Christians, the Christmas Eve service is only for an hour. Then everybody drinks apple cider and talks about everything else but the Messiah.

Most people don't realize that Christ's coming to our world was forecast from the beginning. When God pronounced judgement on Satan in Genesis 3:15 (King James Version), he said, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."

In order for that to happen, Jesus had to be born. Isaiah 7:14 (KJV) reads, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." That name means "God with us."

As we read in Luke's gospel, several people actually met the newborn Messiah and knew from God that salvation had come. Simon was one of those fortunate few. Luke 2:28-32 (Bible in Basic English) records, "Then he took him in his arms and gave praise to God and said, 'Now you are letting your servant go in peace, O Lord, as you have said; For my eyes have seen your salvation, Which you have made ready before the face of all nations; A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.'"

Anna was another fortunate person whom God blessed with the realization that the Messiah had come. Luke 2:38 (BBE) tells of her reaction after meeting the Christ child. "And coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, talking of him to all those who were waiting for the freeing of Jerusalem."

May we all do like Anna this year and always.

December 27, 2020

Christmas Joy by Lorilee Guenter

 Since the very first Christmas morning music has been part of the season. The shepherds witnessed an angel chorus proclaiming the Good News. They responded immediately and went to check what the angels had told them. Our songs capture this story as they encapsulate the same Good News that the angels proclaimed, "The Lord is come!"

Likewise, music has been part of my Christmas season for as long as I can remember. Everywhere you go, Christmas music is heard. Stores play it in an attempt to elevate the mood of shoppers. Old favorites are pulled out for our church services and on the radio. These are joined by newer songs that encourage us to pause and reflect on the older familiar words.

This year, as I reflect, I find myself wondering why we save favorites like "Joy to the World" only for the Advent and Christmas season. The Good News we echo from the angels should permeate all of our life, not only one or two months each year. Every day, we need to prepare Him room or, in the words of another song, ask, "Is there room in your heart for Him?" It is a question I have been reflecting on as part of this season. What have I been making room for?

I mourn the loss of family gatherings, of sharing food and laughter, of hugs and the hum of conversations. I miss the Christmas parties with friends. There are many things this year that we have lost. But amidst the losses, I have found more time to reflect and consider the words of my favorite songs of the season. Songs that are full of story and wonder. Songs that echo the words of the angels: "I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all the people." Luke 2:10.

As we move from 2020 into the unknown of 2021, I hope I don't lose these lessons I am learning. Maybe I'll even continue to sing, off key and with great joy, my favorite songs that proclaim, "The Saviour reigns!"

December 26, 2020

Do You? - Marnie Pohlmann

I rose from beside the fire, turning away from its warmth and light to adjust my eyes to the night.

“Father,” I heard the whisper of my son.

His call did not sound tired, as though he were eager to give the over-watch of our sheep to me so he could sleep beside the warmth in our camp for a few hours. Yet there was an urgency to his utterance. Not exactly fear, or even excitement, but… something different caused me to move quickly toward his voice. As I approached him, I looked about at our sheep. Each one was on its feet, looking in one direction. I reached Daveed’s side and saw he was not watching my approach but was also staring into the sky.

I looked upward, noticing the night sky was not as dark as normal. Was it already morning? No, the light was coming from a star that was brighter than the rest and seemed to be pointing, almost touching the land a few miles away.

“Do you see what I see?” my son asked, reaching to touch my arm. I placed my hand on his shoulder, assuring him I had arrived by his side. I could not move my eyes to look at him. I, too, was mesmerized by the star.

Out of the star’s center something seemed to be moving quickly toward us and soon took on the shape of a man. I drew my son closer to my side and behind while feeling for the sling tucked into my sash. I sensed the restlessness of the sheep and knew they were gathering, huddling together, and trusting I would protect them.

“Do not be afraid.” I heard a crackling in the air and was astonished to understand the words the sound formed. The crackle continued. “I bring good news. The Messiah has come. He was born to a virgin girl, just a little way from here. If you seek him, you will find him wrapped in a simple blanket and sleeping in the hay of a manger.”

Suddenly, the sky burst with colour. Green, blue, purple, and red flickered from amongst the stars, dancing about while the crackling sound became lyrical tones. “Hosanna!” I heard the most beautiful music surround us, inviting us into the celebration.

The music and dancing lights gently faded as morning’s soft light began to dawn along the distant horizon. Still, we stood looking into the sky.

“Father, did you hear what I heard?” my son still whispered but my attention was finally able to move to him.

“Yes. Yes, I did. Our Saviour is born!”

Daveed’s eyes were twinkling like the stars we had seen dance through the sky. “Can we go see him?”

“Yes. Yes, of course we must! Why else would the angel have told us?”

We left the sheep, who had calmed and were laying in the field at peace. We ran to our camp.

“Grandfather,” Daveed called. “Grandfather wake up! We are going into Bethlehem.”

My father groaned from stiff muscles as he rolled over to look at us with bleary eyes.

“Will you come with us, Grandfather? You won’t believe what we are going to see!”

“Humph. Crowded streets, Romans counting us to know our people’s strength, and probably to steal our sheep for taxes. Tomorrow is soon enough for me. But you go ahead. I’m staying right here.”

Daveed was about to protest, but my look told him to respect his grandfather’s wishes. Obviously, he had slept through the whole amazing announcement, and besides, someone should stay with the flock.

“May I choose a lamb to offer to the King?” Daveed suggested.

“Yes. Yes, a good idea. Hurry, though.” 

With the unblemished lamb across his shoulders, Daveed skipped to keep up with my quick walk, but I did not wish to slow down. Soon we saw other shepherds moving toward the town. The boys, cousins from the same family line as us, of Jesse and David’s heritage, ran to one another.

“Did you see what we saw?” “Did you hear what we heard?” The excitement of the youth bubbled about.

I joined the other men for the walk into Bethlehem. We tried to contain our exuberance, choosing instead to speak of the Scriptures we had been made to learn before being allowed into the field to join the family business.

“Didn’t Isaiah say the Messiah would be born of a virgin?”
“Immanuel, God with us.”
“Micah said our King would come from Bethlehem. Imagine, our little town of Bethlehem!”
“The coming of the Messiah will change the world.”

The adult chatter soon became as chaotic and joyful as our sons' loud voices. We carried on over the hill and down into the town of Bethlehem to look for the baby the angels praised. I never imagined the Saviour of our people would arrive as a baby!


The popular Christmas song, “Do You Hear What I Hear” was written by Gloria Shayne Baker and her husband, Noel Regney, in 1962. Bing Crosby sang the song the next year, and many artists since, including Whitney Houston and Carrie Underwood, have performed this favourite since then. My favourite version is done by the accapella group, Home Free, recorded in 2014.

This song reminds me that my Saviour is coming so I need to be ready for his appearance, however that will look. I believe Scripture prophesies Jesus’ return as accurately as his birth. We need to learn the prophesies and watch for the signs, even though I am sure we will still be as surprised as the shepherds when He does come. Will you join me in the waiting and watching?

Do you see what I see?
Do you hear what I hear?


photos courtesy of CCO license,

In northern BC, Marnie Pohlmann listens to an assortment of Christmas music including classic, country, African, Celtic, and even The Benedictine Monks, who Chant Noel.

December 24, 2020

The Music of Christmas by Sharon Heagy


            When asked to write about the music of Christmas, my heart became overwhelmed.  I happen to love Christmas music. A warm summer day in July may find me diving into the Christmas CDs for an unseasonal listen…alone. Anytime of year is the time for the music of Christmas for this gal.

Listening to those melodies gives me fodder for warm and cherished memories. Like the good-natured great tinsel wars of family tree decorating from years past. “You throw it at the tree in bunches!” “No, you place it on the branches carefully one strand a time.”  Memories of singing, on or off key, along with whomever sat down at the piano to play a few Christmas melodies. My Mom playing by ear and my Dad plunking away with the same 3 chords for each and every song.  Recollections of crowded kitchens, the aromas of baking cookies and roasting turkeys. Nostalgic reflection of people with whom we shared this special day – those still with us and those long gone. And memories of music everywhere. On the radio, in the malls, on the many TV musical variety shows that used to be so popular and in our hearts. But even more than the music itself, I enjoyed the stories behind the songs.

Stories like the one about the composition of ‘Silent Night’ – a poem written by a young priest named Joseph Mohr and his request to Franz Gruber, the school master and organist, to put the poem to music for guitar just hours before the Christmas Eve service.

Or what about ‘Oh Holy Night’. Another poem written by poet Placide Cappeau with music composed by Adolphe Adam. It was performed in a church for one of the Christmas services. The church eventually banned the work because it was written by a socialist and a Jew.  Yet, this anointed piece so moved the hearts of the people that they continued to sing it anyway until the ban was lifted and it was accepted once more.

The story is what I long to hear because it exposes the hearts of the writers and because I enjoy a good story.

Today takes us back to THE story, the one that started it all. Since I have been assigned the 25th of the month it is only appropriate that I kneel before the King of kings and Lord of lords, to the One who inspires and guides each one of us at Inscribe, and relate His story as written through the physician, Luke.

May God be with you and bless you this Christmas Day and every day of the year. Without further ado I give you the Christmas Story because “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown” (C.M. Schultz)

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying. ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”   Luke 2:1-20 NIV

Merry Christmas.

Handel's Messiah, Our Messiah ~ Valerie Ronald




I first experienced the majesty of Handel’s musical oratorio, Messiah, in a quaint stone church that had been converted into a community theatre. My enjoyment of classical music had been nurtured through my daughter’s education as a pianist through the Royal Conservatory of Music. She chose just the right Christmas gift with this musical evening out for both of us.  

Once the performance began, the stuffy, overcrowded theatre was soon forgotten as the beauty and grandeur of Handel’s music captured me. The instrumental ensemble and choir were small, the soloists gifted amateurs, yet their ardent presentation revealed true hearts for the music. I knew Handel’s famous oratorio was about Jesus Christ, but was surprised to hear verbatim Old Testament prophecies beautifully set to music, foretelling the coming of a Messiah, a Savior for all people.

I felt a thrill in my soul when the choir burst forth with, “Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.” (Psalm 24:10)

But nothing prepared me for the emotional impact of the renowned Hallelujah Chorus. All around me people rose to their feet as the glorious anthem rang out. By the time the last “Hallelujah!” faded, I too, was on my feet with tears streaming down my face. I felt as if a portal of heaven had opened so we could hear the angel chorus and experience a foretaste of being in God’s presence.

To this day, whenever I listen to Handel’s Messiah, I am overwhelmed with the majesty of God and awe at His divine plan to give us His Son in order to free us from our sins. Spirit-inspired music, biblical text so skillfully, at times brilliantly, assembled, combine to transport me out of my common humanity and lift me into transcendent worship. 


Handel’s Messiah has become a musical institution, traditionally performed at Christmas by choirs around the world. In 1741 George Fredric Handel composed the music for the world-renowned oratorio in a mere three weeks, after reading scripture passages and excerpts from the Book of Common Prayer compiled by his friend, Charles Jennens. History records that upon reading the texts, Handel was so overcome with their power that he shut himself in a room and worked day and night composing, often forgetting to eat. His servant sometimes heard his sobs as he labored over the inspired text. At the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters "SDG"—Soli Deo Gloria, "To God alone the glory.”

Handel is quoted exclaiming as he wrote the famous “Hallelujah Chorus”, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself!” At a performance of Messiah in 1759, honoring his seventy-fourth birthday, Handel responded to enthusiastic applause with these words: "Not from me - but from Heaven - comes all."  

Jennens, who compiled the scripture passages of Messiah, prefaced the first edition of the libretto with the scripture, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1 Tim. 3:16 KJV)  

Jennens chose the scripture passages for Messiah to illustrate the person and work of the Lord Jesus as summarized above. The great mystery alluded to in the prophetic passages of Part 1 of the oratorio, is realized as God manifest in the flesh through the incarnation. Part 2 focuses on Christ’s redemptive work on earth and Part 3 culminates with His resurrection and future reign. Throughout Messiah, composer Handel employs a technique called text painting, where the musical notes mimic the lines of text. Therein lies the reason for Messiah’s power and longevity. Given the God-breathed words of scripture concerning Christ, combined with the God-given musical gifting of Handel, this timeless classic continues to inspire its listeners to rise to their feet, a custom established since England’s King George II rose at the first Hallelujah of the famous chorus in 1743.

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever.

Valerie's devotionals can be read on her blog

December 23, 2020

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence by Joylene M. Bailey

Image by janeb13 from Pixabay 

There is no way I could possibly come up with a favourite Christmas carol. I love most of them, as I mentioned here, in a former Christmas post.

But there is one carol that has been echoing through my mind for weeks now, especially the first line:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence.

The haunting, chant-like tune wafts ethereally through my thoughts at least once a day, and I ask my Father, what are You trying to tell me? Help me to grasp it.

It's in keeping with a theme that has been predominant in my life for several months now; a singular ribbon woven in and out of my daily-ness: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. 

To make a long story short: two sermon series on the Lord's prayer, and two books (I highly recommend them) have focused me in one direction: God's holiness. Yahweh. I Am.


Interestingly, the lyrics of the hymn are based on a part of the Liturgy of St. James, an ancient liturgy believed to have roots in the ministry of the Apostle James in Jerusalem.


"The Liturgy of St. James includes a Communion rite with a vivid and memorable text, chanted by the priest before the bread and wine are presented ... The text draws in part from Habakkuk 2:20: “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”   Find the link here.


They were translated into English from the original Greek by Gerard Moultrie, first published in 1864 in England, and entitled "Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn."


The text expresses awe at Christ's coming (st. 1) and the mystery of our perception of Christ in the body and blood (st. 2). With images from Isaiah 6 and Revelation 5, it portrays the glory of Christ (sung to by angels) and his victory over sin (st. 3-4). Although it has eucharistic emphasis, the text pictures the nativity of Christ in a majestic manner and in a much larger context than just his birth in Bethlehem. We are drawn into the awe and mystery with our own alleluias." Find the link here.


"We are drawn into the awe and mystery ..."

We are also drawn into the awe and mystery by the tune, which was not paired with the lyrics until 1906 by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The melody was originally a French Traditional Carol and some scholars believe it dates back as far as the seventeenth century.


Dr. Ralph Vaughan Williams, with his usual genius for finding a suitable tune to accompany a text, set Moultrie’s hymn to the tune PICARDY, a tune which greatly helps to enhance the hymn’s expression of the sense of awe and mystery we experience in the Eucharist where, in ways beyond our comprehension, our Lord comes “from the realms of endless day” to be present with us “with blessing in his hand.” Text and music together provide a memorable description of the Eucharist as a “window” through which, for a brief moment, we may glimpse the eternal praise and worship offered by “the host of heaven” Find the link here.


Awe, mystery. That's often what prompts silence, isn't it? Put that together with a newborn ... 

Think about it, when have you ever witnessed someone walking into a new baby's nursery with loud voices and clamouring noises? We don't. We enter the room hushed and on tiptoe. There is wonder as we look down on tiny clenched fists and soundly sleeping face. We watch the little chest rise and fall.

I think of the rough, unpolished shepherds coming into the stable. Hushed, in awe. Because they knew this wasn't any baby. This was THE baby. What a holy moment that must have been. Could they take it all in? Can I?

For many of us, this Christmas will already be quieter. Perhaps not of our own choice. But maybe this is an opportunity to gaze with awe on a Holy God in the form of a human infant. God With Us. Emmanuel.

God. With us. 

Keep silence. Take it in. 


Below is a version of the song on YouTube. If you can't view/hear it from here, please take the time to find it online somewhere. 

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,

and with fear and trembling stand;

ponder nothing earthly-minded,

for with blessing in his hand,

Christ our God to earth descendeth,

our full homage to demand. 


    King of kings, yet born of Mary,

as of old on earth he stood,

Lord of lords, in human vesture,

in the body and the blood,

he will give to all the faithful

his own self for heav'nly food.

    Rank on rank the host of heaven

spreads its vanguard on the way,

as the Light of light descendeth

from the realms of endless day,

that the pow'rs of hell may vanish

as the darkness clears away. 

    At his feet the six-winged seraph,

cherubim, with sleepless eye,

veil their faces to the presence,

as with ceaseless voice they cry,

"Alleluia, alleluia,

alleluia, Lord Most High!"



Joy will be spending Christmas at home in Edmonton with The Cowboy, Babe, and a snowman named Jubal, instead of the usual crowd of kids and grandkids. It will be a quieter Christmas, but she's looking forward to it. Find more of her joy-infused take on the world at Scraps of Joy.


December 22, 2020

Christmas Singing with Our Teachers by Alan Anderson



“I thank my God every time I remember you.” –Philippians 1:3.


I dedicate this message to the memory of our beloved friend, Bobbi Junior. She often encouraged me to write about those I call, “my teachers.”


Life in a long-term care facility can be lonely, where a resident is mindful of losses and memories of family and friends. The loneliness is difficult for most residents to deal with. In my role as chaplain, I had the honour of coming alongside many elderly, ill old people. I regarded each of them as my teachers.


I will never forget one Christmas Eve day. Here is the memory. A practice of the leadership team at Christmas comprised visiting the various neighbourhoods in the facility. With each visit the team sang Christmas carols and songs for the residents. Our residents lived with many serious health challenges. We loved them as people and respected them for their life experiences.

Memories of walks to the neighbourhoods stay with me even now. When the team entered the neighbourhood, the residents would wait for us to begin. Their faces of smiles like bright lights drew the team to them. We sang to our elders as people entrusted to us by families who knew we cared for their loved ones.


The songs we sang were Christmas classics like Silent Night, Away in a Manger, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and catchy songs like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Residents and staff along with a few family visitors smiled, laughed, tapped their toes, and clapped their hands.


Occasionally residents held still by the progression of Alzheimer’s disease swayed to the rhythm of the songs. Traces of smiles brought their lips to life for a moment. One lady who had been a choir leader years ago moved her hands as if she took on the role of the team’s conductor.


When our Christmas song time would end, the team would return to their various responsibilities. We also had time to reflect on the honour of our call to serve our beloved elders. Neighbourhood staff had by then turned on Christmas music now heard throughout the care home. We all hoped this act of Christmas cheer helped our residents enjoy memories of the season.


As I would come alongside residents, especially those who were dying, they often reminded me of their precious memories. Most of their memories were of times with family and loved friends. The elders, my teachers, confirmed life is a gift we are to live and love. There were a few each year who knew this Christmas would be their last. This made singing for them more than Christmas cheer. This would be a time of farewell and memories of precious people.


I conclude this post with a personal note.

Bobbi is a precious person to me. I only met her once in person. What a wonderful memory I have of meeting her at our 2019 InScribe conference. My wife, Terry, and I met Tracy first as we entered the room at the conference. I turned around and there was Bobbi. She had a big grin on her face, and she said, “We finally get to meet each other.” We then shared a hug. I still remember her hug and I will always remember Bobbi.


Merry Christmas, Bobbi!


Alan lives in Deroche, B.C. with his wife, Terry. He contributed stories to Good Grief People by Angel Hope Publishing, 2017 and Story by Story: The Power of a Writer, Unstoppable Writers Publishing, 2018. Alan has also written articles for FellowScript Magazine. Blog: Alan is the Provincial Rep. Liaison and BC rep for InScribe.

December 21, 2020

Meaningful Music - Tracy Krauss

My all-time favourite Christmas Carol is Silent Night. I wrote about it last year in December, recounting a bit of its history and my fond childhood memories of it being sung in German. (Sentimental Silent Night)  Since I don't want to repeat myself, and since so many others have already written about it this month, my thoughts went to other Christmas songs that I love. 

I could mention Mary Did You Know, What Child Is This? or O Come O Come Emmanuel. Trying for something less known, how about Third Day's Jesus Light of the World?

As I tried to choose just one song, I realized that I genuinely enjoy Christmas music during the holiday season - period! There is something about listening to Christmas music that puts me in the Christmas mood. I especially love old favourites like Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. Christmas music - both old and new - is the perfect backdrop for baking, decorating, wrapping and all the other 'chores' that come with the holiday season. It brings me joy, no matter how many times I hear the same songs sung by different people. I also enjoy playing songs and carols on my piano. 

I suppose it speaks to the power of music in general. Music can have such a profound effect. It's why worship is so powerful and why I believe we must be mindful of what we allow into our minds through music. Isn't it interesting that this is one time in the year that the message of Christ can be heard coming from the mouths of both the secular and religious alike?

So, crank up the Christmas tunes, everyone and enjoy the holiday season!

Tracy Krauss
is currently serving as InScribe's president. She writes from her home in northern BC. -fiction on the edge without crossing the line - 

December 20, 2020

On the Way to the Baby – Denise M. Ford

Prior to the latest round of restrictions in Alberta, we met our grandchildren for a morning walk to a neighbourhood park. Holding 5-year-old Violet’s gloved hand, I twirled her around and started to sing Jingle Bells.


“No Nana let’s sing my favourite,” Violet stopped and pulled me down, closer to her.

“There was a little baby,” she began to sing. From the inside of the stroller, where her 2-year-old brother Finn sat, a “Me too!” called back to us.


The carol singing began with Violet and Finn chiming together on the refrain.


There was a little baby, Oh my Lord.

There was a little baby, Oh my Lord.

There was a little baby, Oh my Lord. Way down in Bethlehem.

They layed him in a manger, Oh my Lord.

They layed him in a manger, Oh my Lord.

They layed him in a manger, Oh my Lord. Way down in Bethlehem.

They named the baby Jesus, Oh my Lord.

They named the baby Jesus, Oh my Lord.

They named the baby Jesus, Oh my Lord. Way down in Bethlehem.


Violet chose this song because we had sung it together at Christmastime whenever she came to visit. Raffi, a popular singer/lyricist of children’s songs, had featured it on his Christmas album. This became her most requested song during December 2017 when Violet as an older two-year-old became aware of a little baby coming to join her family in the summer of 2018. Not surprisingly when her Mommy and Daddy asked her what they should name the new little baby, Violet declared that he/she should be called Jesus.


A simple song, with a catchy rhythm. A refrain that resounds throughout the Christmas season, “Oh my Lord, Way down in Bethlehem.”


This month I discovered this song has a profound history, rooted in the African American Spirituals from the slavery period. Derived from the spiritual called, Mary Had a Baby, it has been recorded by various gospel singers over the years.



Saint Helena Island Spiritual

Collected by N. G. J. Ballanta-Taylor

Mary had a baby, oh, Lord,

Mary had a baby, oh my Lord,

Mary had a baby, oh Lord,

People keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.


What did she name him? oh, Lord,

What did she name him? oh my Lord,

What did she name him? oh Lord,

People keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.


She named him Jesus, oh, Lord,

She named him Jesus, oh my Lord,

She named him Jesus, oh Lord,

People keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.


Named him King Jesus (My Lord)

Named him King Jesus (Oh My Lord)

Named him King Jesus (My Lord)

People keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.


Now where was he born? oh, Lord,

Where was he born? oh my Lord,

Where was he born? oh Lord,

People keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.


Born in a stable, oh, Lord,

Born in a stable, oh my Lord,

Born in a stable, oh Lord,

People keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.


And where did she lay him? oh, Lord,

Where did she lay him? oh my Lord,

Where did she lay him? oh Lord,

People keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.


She laid him in a manger, oh, Lord,

Laid him in a manger, oh my Lord,

Laid him in a manger, oh Lord,

People keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.


Several more verses follow as transcribed and recorded by N. G. J. Ballanta-Taylor, who went to Saint Helena Island, off the coast of South Carolina, to purposely document the African American Spirituals before they became changed and altered.


Freed slaves and their families lived on the isolated island after emancipation. They continued the practice of singing spirituals in the worship services held at the local praise houses and in their daily work.


In the book Celebration Stories of the Songs of Christmas by Linda Hargrove-Teets, she states: “Mary Had a Baby celebrates the birth of Jesus, the Christ, who brings salvation from slavery of every kind. This spiritual focuses on the gift of the Christ Child, but it is a celebration of mother and child also. First the call, an announcement: Mary had a baby! Then the response of appreciation and awe: Oh my Lord. The refrain, The people keep a-comin’ and the train done gone, ends every verse. Trains represented a new opportunity…They reached and linked places. And they offered a way out. Train imagery figures prominently in African American legends. There were also real trains of the Underground Railroad: “the freedom train,” “the lonesome train,” “the gospel train.”


In further research I learned that this song belongs to a group known as the Marian spirituals which included “Mary Had a Baby, Sing Hallelu,” “Mary Had a Baby , Aye Lawd,” “Mary Had a Baby, Muh Lawd,” and “Mary Had de Leetle Baby,” all four dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the birth of Jesus.  The Saint Helena Island Midwifery Program employed these songs during the early 1900’s to remind women of the holiness of giving birth. Although slaves had been trained as midwives during the slavery period, (owners would send them to Charleston for formal training), after being freed many returned to old superstitions and folk remedies. The Marian spirituals became prominent during the Saint Helena Island praise house services to reinforce the sacredness of birth.


This song seems more poignant than ever to me this December. Violet and Finn’s day home owner suffered a miscarriage and closed her facilities to recuperate. Suddenly I had unexpected company as I provided care for my grandchildren. We reveled in our time together decorating the Christmas tree, making crafts, baking cookies, putting on plays, setting up trains, playing in the snow and singing our favourite songs. While I prayed over the loss of one baby, I thought of Mary pondering the pending birth of Jesus. As all mothers do, she probably worried over the travail of labour. As did the mothers who suffered through slavery and the agony of bringing another child into a world of such brutal abuse. As mothers do, continually facing childbirth throughout time, mothers all united in one thought, the baby.


I now sing this song with an awareness beyond imagining. Simple, sweet, rhythmic, profound. This song reminds me that despite the woes of the common world we need to focus on the baby, on Jesus, while on our way to Bethlehem.


Saint Helena Island is part of the Sea Islands region, comprised of the North Carolina, South Carolina, and the Georgia coastal area. Scholars have studied the rich history of African American spirituals coming from the home of the first freed slaves.

Saint Helena Island, Chapel of Ease

Freed slaves worshipped here holding praise services and sang their familiar spirituals.