Advent mysteries

As I make my way through Advent,

What mysteries will manifest this Advent?

What mysteries will manifest this Advent?

an unexpected, personal Advent calendar mysteriously opens up before me.

It is a calendar that comes in the form of box or drawer that daily reveals, from the depths of clutter, long forgotten wonders and joys,

like this poem I wrote, for our church magazine, not long after our arrival in New Zealand.

The Strangers’ Christmas

Dark outside is the winter sky,
a strange, foreshadowing sky
to catch the warmth
of the midnight candles,
tightly held and sheltered,
in our tent of strangers.

Dark outside is the winter sky,
a strange, foreshadowing sky
to hold the guns
of strangers standing,
as black-robed angels,
cornered to our circled light.

Dark outside is the winter sky,
a strange, foreshadowing sky
to loose the star
of the warm, sweet babe,
delivered to Mary, carefully cradled,
in the stable of strangers.

Dark outside is the winter sky,
a strange, foreshadowing sky
to gather the ages
of then and now,
and the light that is the warmth,
within the lives of strangers.

The poem is a reflection on a Christmas Eve service in Maadi, Cairo,  in the late 1990s, during a time of terrorism and tension.  I am trying to capture the peculiarity of the lovely warmth of a service celebrating the “The Prince of Peace”, yet taking place under the protection of armed soldiers and police. Like Mary, we, too, were all strangers far from home, full of joy, but also anxious about the world to come.

The service, organised by the Maadi Community Church was held in a tent attached to the St John the Baptist church in Maadi.

Both churches continue to offer fellowship, a home away from home,  and solace to strangers, to this day, and seem to be thriving.  St John’s was established in 1931. Throughout the Second World War it served troops from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Paton, Harold Gear, 1919-2010. Brigadier Kenneth MacCormick and Mrs MacCormick leaving the church after the marriage ceremony, Egypt. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-02075-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23112562

Paton, Harold Gear, 1919-2010. Brigadier Kenneth MacCormick and Mrs MacCormick leaving the church after the marriage ceremony, Egypt. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-02075-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23112562

These days St John’s (Anglican/Episcopal) serves a diverse English-speaking congregation from many different backgrounds, ( Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and Catholics ), and provides worship space to the Maadi Community Church, and Korean, Sudanese, West African, French Reformed, Scandinavian and Egyptian congregations.

In 2006, to commemorate its 75th anniversary, St John’s commissioned artist Debra Balchen to design/make nine stained glass windows focusing on the role of Egypt in the Bible.

Windows by Debra Balchen, commissioned by St John's Church, Maadi, Cairo.

Windows by Debra Balchen, commissioned by St John’s Church, Maadi, Cairo.

I would love to see these special windows in situ. Maybe that is an Advent-ure (thanks for the word, Linda 😉 ) that awaits me.

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

 

147 thoughts on “Advent mysteries

  1. Mélanie

    Dearest Lady-G… mille merci-thanx a bunch of December roses for your generous wishes dropped @ my playground… ❤ guess what: according to WordPress, you've been my most constant commentator this year!!! so I'm deeply thankful, grateful and honored… my very best for the coming year: health, joy and love – to you and to all your loved ones… friendly and same heartfelt thoughts, Mélanie NB

    Reply
  2. Marylin Warner

    I’ve had a profound appreciation for stained glass creations ever since I took a 3 month course in stained glass work, and the examples you share are beautiful. This is a lovely post, a touching and inspiring combination of poetry, personal details, and art. Nicely done.

    Reply
  3. peakperspective

    What a stirring poem–and I’m such a massive fan of stained glass windows. Sadly, I spent most of my time as a child in church gazing upon all our glorious windows rather than paying attention to any sermons, but the glass gazing has left me with a deep and peaceful feeling I continually crave (which I suppose is a bonus if you’re trying to get folks to come to mass, right?).
    Happy Holidays to you!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am sure many a sermon has been saved from a mass audience exit by the beauty of stained glass windows. Embroidered prayer cushions and alter cloths and flowers were/are also satisfactory diversions.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you so much Jo. The same to you. There’s a lot going on at the moment. Hopefully, I will be ready to blog again in the New Year, which is approaching fast.

      Reply
  4. gpcox

    Very sorry I missed this post, something is going wrong with my connections. So sorry to see the Australian tragedies in the news lately – not what people need this time of year. I hope you and yours have the best of Holiday Seasons, Ann – ALL the best!!!

    Reply
  5. Leya

    A beautiful poem from a wise and talented lady. I saw in your comments that the tragic events in Sydney are followed by many. I understand if you are shocked – and that you were there when the first terror attack happened so many years ago – I understand if this stirs up unpleasant memories.

    I must compliment you on making de-cluttering such a story weaving possibility too…If someone is to manage that, it’s you. And we all benefit from it!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you Ann Christine for your kind words. I would have more stories to tell but for this wretched cold/sore throat that has taken hold of me! Everything has come to a halt as I attend to my nose…I will be like Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer by Christmas time. 😦

      Reply
      1. Leya

        My son has also caught this now…and he was so happy about getting a job over Christmas – earning some money for a poor student…. Now he fears he cannot perform the way he wants to.
        Hope you’ll recover before Christmas!

        Reply
    2. Dina

      After I have read your touching post with the wonderful poem and all the comments, Gallivanta ( I had to scroll and scroll and scroll) I let Ann Christine speak for me to with her wise and beautiful words, I couldn’t say it any better.
      Such a sad day. For all of us. My thoughts go the families and you all.
      Dina xo

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thanks for that link Linda. I was watching on BBC. I didn’t know that ABC had removed its geoblock. Let’s hope the situation can be resolved peacefully. Just over 30 years ago I was present at Sydney’s first terrorist incident. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/the-sydney-hilton-bombing-of-1978/story-fnat7jnn-1226539686853?nk=e423ed0e2b084a24f0f3a5bb74c3742f I was one of the delegates staying at the Hilton. I had just walked in the door of the hotel, and reached my room, when there was an enormous noise and shaking. For awhile of course we didn’t know what was going on. The incident has given me a lifelong distrust of rubbish bins in public places!

      Reply
  6. Clanmother

    Thank you for a wonderful poem. The light of hope that is captured within this season shines brightly over our troubled world. I am so very thankful for the artists, the poets, the writers – they remind us that compassion and joy are still with us.

    Reply
  7. sandra

    All I’ve ever known about Maadi (despite visiting Egypt twice) is that that was where the Cup came from! The Maadi Cup for under-18 boys rowing eights is keenly contested at the secondary schools Maadi Rowing Regatta each year in New Zealand (apparently the largest secondary schools sports event in the country). The cup itself dates from 1943 when a NZ forces eight beat an Egyptian eight in a race on the Nile! I think it was Bernard Fergusson (later Governor-General) who organised it all. Anyway the Kiwis gave the Egyptian team the cup “in friendship”, and later they gave a cup back, and it’s this that has become the Maadi Cup.

    It’s lovely to find out more about Maadi, thank you.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, I absolutely love that connection with the Maadi Cup. I sometimes wonder how much of that history is known to the participants. Wouldn’t it be incredible if they could organise a rematch of the original race or some sort of regatta on the Nile as a special anniversary event. Sailing or being on the Nile is a beautiful experience in itself, isn’t it?

      Reply
  8. Letizia

    I love the poem. You have a wonderful way with words. I do hope you’ll share more with us in the future. And the advent calendar in the form of little drawers is such a lovely idea (the penguin is fantastic!). I’ve been pleased with my advent surprises (chocolates, a small glass apple with a smiling worm, a chess piece… very unusual but makes opening those little doors quite exciting).

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Letizia, I have lots more to share. Writings, photos, all sorts of little treasures have been found. Yesterday, I discovered, in an old letter, that I have a distant relative called Ebenezer. I bet he hated his name once a Christmas Carol was published. Glad you like my penguin. Did you see the little eggs inside the glass hen? I am sure I would love your glass apple with a smiling worm!

      Reply
  9. shoreacres

    Your poem perfectly captures the tension of worship ni an ambiguous situation. While I’ve never attended a service with a police presence, I have had the experience of worshipping in a quite different culture, and I have had the experience of face-to-face interchanges with the likes of undisciplined military in Liberia, and arrogant military in Franco’s Spain. Put all those experiences together in a bag and shake them up, and I suspect the result is akin to your experiences in Egypt.

    Deciding to commission those windows was a real statement of faith, wasn’t it? Fragile, beautiful, easy prey for any forces of mindless destruction — and yet there they are. Isn’t it nice that the light can shine through our poety, photos, paintings, writing, as surely as it does through the windows?

    Reply
  10. Tiny

    How beautiful! I love your creative advent altar. And the poem was truly reflective of the situation you experienced. I wish I’d seen this church during my recent visits in Egypt…but the situation was so tense last year that it was all business and not much else. But such is life…I’m happy for this beautiful season. And that you seem to be back 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Only back for a moment Tiny. I probably won’t be back to full blogging till next year. I have way too much junk in my house. I am really appalled by how much has accumulated without my knowledge. 🙂 Maybe if you get to Egypt again you may make it to Maadi. Mind you, there is so much else to see in Cairo if one has time and the conditions are right. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Cynthia Reyes

        Don’t worry. You have to clean and there is that little work of art you mentioned – I would love to see you complete that too.
        I’m trying to honour the season of Advent in certain ways this year so I am not as focused on my blog or others either. I do it when I can. Be well.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          It’s lovely that we have so many ways to honour the season. As for being well….my body has decided it’s overworked. I suddenly have a cold. My first one in years. Grrrrr.

        2. Cynthia Reyes

          Sorry to hear that. There’s no accounting for why people get colds.
          Or what cures them. I use grated ginger, garlic, cider vinegar and honey, simmered on the stove. Tastes awful and I don’t know why it works.

        3. Gallivanta Post author

          I like ginger and honey, and I have, in the past, eaten copious amounts of garlic at the onset of a cold, so why not put them all in together. 😉 But mostly I would like to go to bed now and wake up beautifully refreshed and brand new in 2015!!!!!!

  11. Juliet

    That’s one of the pleasures of clutter clearing: you unearth treasure – the evocative poem, the memories, the advent altar. Those stained glass windows are lovely, very 3 dimensional.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      And amongst all the rubbish today I found some lovely papyrus notepaper and some beautiful mulberry/banana paper. For the papyrus paper an ink pen is recommended. Sadly my ink pens, being cheap ones, were in no state to be kept. Perhaps I will treat myself to a new pen next year.

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          A new pen would be lovely. It makes me smile though when I see that a good new pen costs about as much as mobile phone or a small tablet.

  12. Sheryl

    This post reminds me of how much I enjoyed doing advent calendars with my children when they were small. We typically had ones where a window was opened each day.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I haven’t had an Advent calendar for years; but, yes, they were fun to do with the children. My surprise today was finding an old Christmas gift from my son… a note promising me 20 pounds and all the reasons why he was giving me 20 pounds. One reason was because I made him good pancakes! Did I ever actually get the money? I can’t remember. 😀

      Reply
  13. ordinarygood

    Your post that includes Cairo opened a window for me. My youngest son and his wife head there in Feb 2015 as part of their OE. They have a few days in Egypt and then will be based in UK to work and travel as much as they can.
    A Gift from the Sea and for Free! Now that is a treasure and a gift. And I have the Swiss Ball that mysteriously entered my garden. After 3 days no one has claimed it and my brother told me it is a high quality ball and it will be good for me to use for my ageing body. So if anyone comes to claim it I will hand it over but for now I am making lemonade from my “lemon” as I first thought of it.
    I did manage to drop a bag of old or unwanted clothing items in a charity bin yesterday and sorted some other items to go to a community group. Some things need washing first and today it is pouring with rain:-((
    I applaud your dedication to the decluttering task.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Rain here too but I am glad because it relieves me of the task of watering the garden. More time for sorting out…haha! How wonderful that your youngest son and his wife are planning a trip to Egypt. Egypt was never on my wish list of countries I wanted to visit but I ended up there anyway, and I am so glad I did. I even got to visit El Arish which is where my grandfather was at one stage during World War One. My uncle was also at Maadi Camp for a while.

      Reply
      1. ordinarygood

        My Grandfather was “admonished” for assaulting an Arab in Cairo during WW1. He was a very short chap in the medical corps. I just hope Egypt does not explode in violence while they are there. They are going to visit Aswan and I remember seeing a Black and White film about the making of that dam.
        Some flooding up the Kapiti Coast and surface flooding in Porirua but the rain has stopped now. Just cold and windy and the Tuis obviously hate wet pollen/nectar in flaxes as they are drinking the bottles dry here in quick time.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I would hate wet nectar, too. 😦
          I didn’t ever get to Aswan; only made it to Luxor which was fabulous enough.
          Did you happen to watch the Anzac Girls last night? I saw some of it; just enough to feel confused about what was happening. 😉

        2. ordinarygood

          They are going to Luxor, via the Nile I think.
          I decided not to watch Anzac Girls. I just don’t have the capacity to watch tough/sad stuff…..it has been a solid year on so many levels.

        3. Gallivanta Post author

          I may not watch the rest of Anzac Girls for the same reason. Not sure yet. My sister was very taken with it when it was broadcast in Australia but she found it very emotional to watch.

  14. Mary Mageau

    I loved this blog post with its fascinating window on a past Christmas, gorgeous stained glass windows, and your expressive poem. Many threads were skillfully interwoven to create an amazing Christmas tapestry.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you Mary. Your comment makes me wonder if I should have called my post “Windows”. It would have made an excellent title. At some stage, I am hoping to write a post, inspired by your book, on my antique/vintage brooches. But first I have to locate them! I know where two of them are but I am not sure about another 2. I used to love wearing brooches but they don’t sit well on the T shirts I live in these days.

      Reply
  15. Alexander Lautsyus

    Many poems have been written under some circumstances and impressions and when people read them cannot realize what poet felt by that time and even what did he/she want to tell to readers. This is why short explanation helps to understand and feel what was that about. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Alex, you are right. My favourite book of poems at the moment is this one http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/poem-for-the-day-two/9780701173364 For each day there is a poem, with a short explanation or comment about the poem and the poet. The explanation makes the poem so much more enjoyable for me. Some poets may feel that their work doesn’t need explanation but for me, as a reader trying to understand, I usually need all the help I can get.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you April. And one of today’s little mysteries was finding poetry written by my son when he was at primary school. I had forgotten about them, and so had he.

      Reply
  16. restlessjo

    What memories you have unearthed from your declutter, Ann! I can’t wait to share some more. Those must have been strange times but it’s wonderful that the church has survived so well. The stained glass is really lovely! Yes, what a joy to see them in place 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Jo, I am sure there are plenty more to be unearthed. And, heaven forbid, I phoned my cousin today and he says he has found a box of my belongings at his place. How, what, why, I have no idea. It seems I have spread my clutter far and wide. 😦

      Reply
  17. BEAUTYCALYPSE

    I’m happy to see you blogging again, even more so with such a deep poem and sharing a special memory with us!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Nath, some finds just have to be shared! However I doubt I will get to blog again before the New Year. I started work on the cupboards in the garage, today; truly a mammoth task in there. My bedroom is completely tidy. The living room and kitchen are reasonably so. I am making progress. 🙂

      Reply
      1. BEAUTYCALYPSE

        Ha, I have caught the annual tidy-up bug also!! Have just plowed through the half of my kitchen stuffs and it feels good.

        Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      And your post on Nemesis was also stunning. Sometimes I think my clutter is my Nemesis. Certainly the reason for my clutter has a lot to do with Hubris…so much stuff that I thought was important, that I was proud of, but with no justification. 😀

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thanks Lavinia. The flower in the nativity scene is an iceberg rose from my garden. I was trying to indicate that behind the rose there is a mystery yet to be revealed.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I needed some nurturing/nourishment after a hard week. 🙂 And I am getting on well with my book reading so I felt I could have a little WP time. Glad you like the poem.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Hmmm…trying to put a positive spin on things. 😉 Today I am not feeling quite so positive. Perhaps that’s because today’s decluttering hasn’t revealed any happy surprises…yet! There must be one. It’s Advent after all. I better go and look again.

      Reply
  18. KerryCan

    Isn’t it nice that the hard work you’re doing is rewarding you with treasures and memories?! I know nothing about poetry but I find what you wrote very affecting–the contrast of a familiar, beloved story with the scary and unsettling.I do think you need to go see those stained glass windows in person–they look stunning!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, some treasures. They have been thin on the ground (or in the clutter) today. It’s interesting to see what maintains its value over time. I found some old articles which I obviously thought were very meaningful at the time I set them aside. Now they seem irrelevant. Yet other items seem more relevant; they have been enriched by the intervening years.

      Reply
  19. thecontentedcrafter

    You have led such an interesting life – and all the memorabilia that attaches to it seems to be readily available to you. I am a little in awe of that ability! I hope your Advent weather is more seasonal than ours, here it is yet another coolish, greyish December morning.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Pauline I am not sure about the readily available bit. I found the poem in the dark depths of my desk in a folder full of rejected job applications. Why I kept them together and why I kept the rejections I have no idea. Anyway, the rejections are now in the bin and the poem lives on in a special folder of my collected works (sounds good, doesn’t it? 🙂 ) It’s cool and grey here, too, but all the lovely comments have brought warmth to my day.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I hope so too. My special surprise today was finding a free copy of The Gift from the Sea by A.M.Lindbergh at the recycle depot. Of course, I wasn’t supposed to be bringing home anything but I simply couldn’t resist it. It had my name written all over it!

      Reply
  20. LaVagabonde

    I can feel the tension and gratitude in your poem. It must have been a peculiar and special service. Happy Advent to you, Gallivanta.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Very special. It made the drama of the Christmas story palpable. Also many of the congregation were Sudanese refugees. Their passionate response to the story/service was deeply moving; they weren’t recounting something that happened thousands of years ago; they were living it, and each one of them was hoping for a Christmas miracle.

      Reply
  21. Mrs. P

    What a wonderful poem and I think you really communicated the essence of the time and situation quite well.

    Before I even read the text that went with the stained glass, I instantly was reminded of my childhood church, St Mark’s Episcopal…and then I read that yours too was Episcopal. 😀 An adventure would be nice! I hope you go.

    And, lastly, are the clematis in your header from your garden? They are beautiful!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I wish the clematis were from my garden. It belongs to the neighbour. I want to grow my own next year because it is such a beautiful plant. It is a Native New Zealand clematis.
      How interesting that the Maadi church reminded you of your childhood church. Most of the time we were in Cairo I went to the services in the tent attached to the church but, in the summer, I enjoyed the small quiet service in the cool of the church. Church services were on Friday because Sunday was the beginning of the working week in Egypt.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thanks Aggie. 🙂 I probably should point out that at the time of that service we were being protected not because we were Christians but because we were foreigners. Foreigners/tourists had recently been subjected to attacks by militants.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.