A New Song

Psalm 98:1-4, Advent Week 1: Hope


Rev. David Domanski

12/3/20234 min read

Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!

His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. (Ps 98:1)

No more let sins and sorrows grow Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as the curse is found. (LSB 387:3)

Little Mary sank exhausted into a bed of straw cradling the Child to her breast. She dozed, as she often did, pondering in her heart what had come to pass through the birth of her Child. In the half-dreaming haze of a woman exhausted by the visitations of strangers and full of the joy at the appearing of God with us, she became aware of a rustling of leaves stirred by a chilling wind from the east. Shivering, her first thought was of her swaddled Boy, and, looking upon him, she could see that his infant eyes were not on her, but riveted on the low entry of the peasant’s hut in which they sheltered.

Brittle leaves scuttled into the hut, spinning in dusty eddies of death about the feet of a decrepit crone, as though the wind-borne carpet of leaves conveyed her into the hut. Mary became aware that the Child knew her and that she that knew what she was seeking in the hut. Her hungry eyes searched for the Child in the darkness. Wrapped in rags that hinted of weariness and dismal decay, the woman shuffled toward the Child. The little fire, the hut’s only proof against the chill, seemed to shrink, dampened by the old woman’s appearance. The flickering flame struggled for life. The shadows advanced.

Mary held the Child closer, for the chilling presence threatened. And, looking closely at the intruder, Mary could see that, though she might once long ago have been dazzlingly beautiful, the woman’s face was a death’s head of crags framed by wild silver hair. Cold and lifeless eyes peered from deep sockets. Her sagging skin bore the graying hints of ever-stalking death.

Mary pitied her, for she seemed to bear a thousand years of sorrow. Mary felt in her heart that this woman had lost a thousand children that she had mothered, had seen a thousand cheering armies march away into slaughter, had witnessed a thousand proud kings fall, had suffered every disappointment, had experienced centuries of dashed hopes, and had carried every grief that could be borne. And down Mary’s lily white cheek, a tear of sympathy for this old woman fell.

Mary’s sympathetic reverie was interrupted when she saw the specter move. The woman’s gnarled old hand rummaged among her ragged coverings. She was looking for something, something to give the Child. Her hand was clenched as she unsheathed it from her rags. Though what was in her hand was only a shriveled little thing, she lifted it as though upon it balanced the weight of the world. Bending into the dust of the hut and not daring to look up, she knelt before the Child, and for a long while she was still. Her clenched hand held that something, still extended toward the Infant.

After what seemed like several minutes of the most uncomfortable pause, the woman’s shoulders began to shake, and Mary heard grief-wracked sobbing emanating from a throat that was brittle with age. Agonizingly slowly, the knotted hand loosened its grip, finger by covetous finger loosened. Finally, she dropped her clutched burden at the Child’s feet. Though its burden was crushing, still she desired to possess this ancient artifact; her imagination still inflamed by its horribly enriched but impossible promise. For that, too, she wept at the feet of the Child. What she laid there appeared to be a worm-infested apple core blackened by much age and handling, though it matters not what fruit it was, as much as the fruit that came from it.

Now the Child whom Mary had fed with curds and honey (Is 7:15) reached a tender little hand and, grasping the repentance-salted core, picked up the old woman’s burden. Now it was no longer hers, but his. What she could bear neither to love nor to give up, the precious Child took. He took what he did not love and did not have to take up. And before Mary could stop the Child, she saw with horror that He swallowed the terrible fruit.

Immediately, His eyes became like burning coals, flames of fire that pierced the dark. Mary could see that those eyes were fixed upon the face of the ragged, old crone, whose eyes, formerly cold pits, now reflected the light that came from the Child’s eyes. From first her eyes rekindled by the Child, a transformation spread over her face. Eyes bright with life shared by the Child now gave new youth. Her rags were replaced with royal robes. Her head scarf sparkled with seven stars. She rose with her head raised in reverence to the Child. Her glorious transformation ended, the woman turned to go back into the night, now taller and regal—attired as though she might be a bride ready to receive her bridegroom. She turned to leave, and looking over her shoulder, she gave the Child a loving glance. Mary gasped, for upon seeing the woman’s transformed face she realized that the woman looked like her. The woman flashed a dazzling smile of joy at Mary and disappeared into the Judean night.

In the morning, Mary was not sure if what she had seen had only been a dream. But the neighbors were all astir that day because beautiful flowers and fruitful trees had sprouted up overnight in the town. Where there had been only the brown world of wintry death, the neighbors said that there now seemed to be a little slice of the Garden of Eden all over town—all over again. In the cold midwinter, life had returned to their village in full flower. Even the lilies were blooming where they had never been before and the rose of Sharon sprang to life. At the birth of Jesus, Creation sang a new song. Everything was made new. Our hearts and voices sing of the Goodness of God—Praise be to our Savior and Redeemer, the Babe of Bethlehem!