When I was 9, I left my local parish school. That fall I entered the thick grey walls of a girls’ school, a long streetcar ride from home. The halls that threaded the school where normally filled with the muted trampings of rubber soles and the rustling of black habits and long rosary beads. Those first months I felt the walls had eyes and ears that peered into my soul, weighed me and found me lacking in grace and whatever other qualities where expected in a student there. And I shrank into my introverted shell.
Then came late November and a gift was dropped into my soul. All the elementary students gathered at the beginning of the day in a strange wide place filled with windows in an otherwise enclosed hallway. The windows stretched from steamy radiators almost to the high ceilings. I remember that Monday filling the space with grey early light. There was a surprise as the heavy scent of Christmas hung in the air as we pressed in to be close to the large wreath of fresh greens somehow suspended above us. As a candle was lit, those several hundred voices sang out, “O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel…” I don’t know if I understood the words but enclosed in the sound was mystery and comfort.
I’ve sung and heard this hymn sung every year since and when I hug it close and let myself return to that dark place, I hear the echo of those voices down through time and touch again the mystery and the comfort.
I believe that God Himself touched that lonely little girl with His presence and began a game of hide and seek with her. It would take many years but again in real time He would touch my soul with the mystery, wonder, and comfort of His presence and I would know His name – Emmanuel – God with us – God with me.
Ann Voskamp is sharing about Advent wreaths, Jesse trees and keeping Advent. Ann has such insight and grace to touch mystery and wonder; you might enjoy a visit with her at the farm.