Still coming and already here

            Among you stands one whom you do not know,
            the one who is coming after me.

                         —John 1.3-4

The great paradox of Advent
is that we await the coming
of the One Who Is Among Us,
here already, profoundly present,
yet still coming, not done arriving.
Christ is not coming from a great distance,
inching closer to us from some far-off heaven,
but unfolding among us, within us.
We are pregnant with Christ,
who is here and yet who is coming,
whose presence is full and yet blossoming.

Jesus, silently gestating in us,
tender, innocent, dependent,
unknown, yet who loves us intimately
with infinite grace and wisdom.
           and give thanks,
                                      and wait.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Categorized as Reflections

Becoming ready

Star rising over me.
       Manger within.
              Word becoming flesh in my flesh.

The darkness of gestation.
       The waiting of faith.
              The silence of the holy.

Not seeing, not knowing
       what I shall be,
              though indeed I shall.

Open now,
       becoming ready
              to be changed.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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The light that does not fail

          Hanukkah begins this evening,
          recalling the restoration of the temple,
          and the oil in the lamp that burned for eight days.

Amid war and conquest, domination and violence,
O God, may the oil of your peace burn in me.
May your grace be the light in me that does not fail,
and love the lamp that does not go out.
May I have courage to be faithful in the face of difficulty,
to meet wrath with mercy and fear with compassion.
May my trust not falter, my hope not be extinguished,
my commitment to justice or my will for peace not run out.
I pray not for my strength but for your loving presence,
for despite all hopelessness or my despair,
you are the light that does not fail.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Prepare the way

           In the wilderness prepare the way of the Holy One,
                      make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
           Every valley shall be lifted up,
                      and every mountain and hill be made low;
           the uneven ground shall become level,
                      and the rough places a plain.

                         —Isaiah 40.3-4

Love would move through me
but for the rubble and clutter I cling to.
God, move aside what needs to be moved.
Clear a way for loveliness.

Fire up the gentle bulldozer of your grace.
Put your little orange stakes of mercy where the road goes.
Mark what needs to be cut, and cut it.

Fill with your presence my pits of fear,
my potholes of discouragement and despair.
Level my piles of self-importance.
Smooth out my bitterness, straighten what’s bent.
Clear out what’s in the way of love.

In that wilderness in me, prepare the way
for your mystery to unfold.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,
but of course it’s not. It’s Advent,
the Season of Not Yet, a time of waiting.
Some dreams you work for;
for others you can only wait.
We can’t hurry The Time, we can only wait for it.
Sometimes the poet searches for the word;
sometimes they can only wait for it to come.

At the end of the musical piece,
just before the final note— the musicians pause,
for in that little pause the music arrives.
The magician knows, just before removing the veil
to reveal the amazing feat, just then—
… to wait a moment,
for it is in that moment that your heart leaps up.

In Advent we pin our hearts on what we’re waiting for,
and we rest our hearts in the waiting itself,
for in waiting is the meeting of the power of our longing
and our powerlessness, and there,
in the openness, in that magical blank space,
mysteries often happen.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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           Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
           Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.

                         —Isaiah 40.1

My people,
as you light candles and sing songs
I hear your hope and longing, yes,
but do not minimize the darker songs beneath that,
the deep energy beneath your yearning:
your grief and your terror.

I see that shadow of what you have lost,
what you have done, what you fear of yourselves,
the looming threat, the smoking ruins.

My people, do not be afraid.
My arms are around you.
I murmur gently to Jerusalem
even in the throes of your fear and anger,
the rage, the devastation, the unthinkable.
I know. I see the splinters of the manger,
the swords of the soldiers,
the nails of the cross. I see them.
And I am coming, not to vanquish,
but to comfort. To heal. To hold you,
with you, always.

Even in your despair, be at peace.
Be still enough to hear me
speaking tenderly.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Tear open the heavens

           O that you would tear open the heavens
           and come down!

                         —Isaiah 64.1

But that’s not the way it works, is it?
You come slowly, quietly, infinitesimally.

Under the huge minor chords of our pleading
you are a single note, changing everything.
Beneath the dissonances of our longing,
the passing tones and conflicting lines
of our anxieties, your presence is the silence.

In the storm of our injustice you stand,
quiet, resolute, unbowed.
In the barren moonscape of my prayers
you abide calmly, giving breath.
And in the future I sometimes fear,
the uncertainty, the dark blank,
there you are, at peace.

No, what needs to be torn open
is the veil over the eyes of my heart,
to see you here in every little thing,
present in every moment, even times of terror,
the whole world opening like a flower
with you at the center, if only I will see,
… and if I can’t see, at least trust.

                He is near, at the very gates.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Unsuspecting at first, of course,
you only gradually begin to feel
an urge, a leaning,
slow to become a promise,
a yearning that will become
its own gift, given from beyond.
It grows from a tiny seed,
a grace that is not your doing,
a single cell:
a change of season,
a subtle turning of the heart,
until by some grace you will know.
But now you do not yet,
you are still only longing
for the longing.
But know this, you are Mary,
and Gabriel is near.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Categorized as Reflections

The deepest “Yes”

Geese abide on the pond, even as ice descends,
reflected in the iron water, walking on air.
Winter closes in. How do they know when to go?

In the stillness they kneel
on the slate tiles of their water chapel.
Earth tilts in them, southern lakes open.
Something in them (the scientists will never find it)
reaches out to them.
When it is time they don’t know, they simply go:
not an understanding achieved, but a beckoning accepted.

We enter that sanctuary, let the silence reach out to us.
We kneel, and allow the needle of our compass to be turned.
We wait for the longing that emerges in us,
stronger than our mere desires,
the invisible, deepest “Yes” that calls.
It leans us, until we lose our balance and step forward.
It spreads its wings in us, and only then
we rise and go.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Categorized as Reflections

Porch light

           It is like someone who goes on a journey,
           who leaves home and puts their workers in charge,
           each with their work,
           and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.

                         —Mark 13.34

There is something we’re waiting for—
a newness, yes, a change, and yet,
a return.

What you’re watching for is not a stranger,
but familiar, not someone new, but the one
who rules your household.

It’s not guarding, what you’re doing,
not fearful or protective:
it’s yearning.

Go, then, sit out on that porch and peer
deeper into that darkness: what is
that deepest longing that is given to you?

Honor it.
Let it be the porch light
that draws the Beloved home.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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