Stories of Hope – December 21

12 21There comes a ship a-sailing
With angels flying fast;
She bears a splendid cargo
And has a mighty mast.
This ship is fully laden,
Right to her highest board;
She bears the son from heaven
God’s high eternal word.
And that ship’s name is Mary,
Of flowers the rose is she,
And brings to us her baby
From sin to set us free.
The ship made in this fashion
In which such store was cast,
Her sail is love’s sweet passion,
The Holy Ghost her mast.
-15th Century German Carol

The image of the ship is a common one in American churches, especially Lutheran churches.  We are a people who come from the heritage of a hopeful ship sailing across to a new land. We are an immigrant people by religious heritage.

And though ships don’t carry such a positive symbol universally, it was not uncommon in ancient days to hear Christ’s journey across heaven and earth likened as that of an immigrant moving from one land to another.  The familiar carol I Saw Three Ships is probably the most familiar image of this, but even modern-day immigrant tales can speak to the same hopeful expectation.

God came into the world in an unexpected fashion, hidden in a common vessel: humanity.  The Divine saw fit to enter our world as a wanderer, and in these wandering Advent days we’ve been weaving in and out of hopeful thought after hopeful thought, reminding ourselves that God’s hiddenness should not be confused with God’s absence. God’s passionate love, the “sail” of God’s immigrant vessel, is full and will not be stopped.

God in Christ is almost here.

  1. What are the stories of hope from your family’s immigrant past that you can draw on in difficult days?
  2. What symbols of Advent and Christmas are most meaningful to you? Make or share that symbol with someone who needs a little hope in these long December days.

Let us pray. Wandering God, you came as one unknown into our world.  Be with everyone who feels unloved and unknown in these days.  Be with all immigrants in every land, as they seek out a place of safety and belonging, and help us to make our world more and more that place.  In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.

All italicized quotes, poems, and prayers come from An Advent Sourcebook (Liturgy Training Publications/Chicago, IL, 1986).

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