Friday, January 1, 2010

Light Our Desert Pathway (Day Eight)

Popular Victorian hymnwriter Frances Ridley Havergal carried out a special annual New Years' tradition. Each year for many years she would write a poem for the occasion and distribute it to her friends and associates. They varied in length, but some of the longer ones (such as the one I wrote about last year) have had a more extended life as hymns.

This short Christmas text, a prayer by Havergal, conveys a different mood from the ones I have been presenting, but I think it's important to remember that not everyone is always in the mood for shepherds and angels and tidings of great joy at this time of year.

Mists and clouds and shadows
Veil the wintry hour
But the sun dispels them
With its rising pow'r.

Mists and clouds and shadows
Often dim our day,
But a Christmas glory
Shines upon our way.

May the Child of Christmas
Counsellor and Friend
Light our desert pathway
Ever, to the end.

Frances Ridley Havergal, date unknown; alt.
Timothy R. Matthews, 1862

Timothy Matthews has another more well-known tune sometimes sung around this time of year. North Coates was the village in Lincolnshire where he served as rector for many years.

One of my favorite Christmas ornaments on our tree when I was growing up was a small lantern, which came to mind when thinking about this hymn. The illustration above was as close as I could come to it.

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