As stunning as Gabriel’s having plunged
through the mesosphere of pious rank
and pierced your ceiling of doubt—
as stunning as finding Gabriel in your kitchen
(sudden inhalation, wooden spoon dropped,
hand at your chest, glance at the door. Vivid silence.
Bits of light drifting down through the startled air.)—
as confounding as Gabriel looking you in the eyes,
flaunting propriety and shame’s vaunted exactitude,
agleam with flaming feathers of something vaguely
foreign yet familiar, humble and overpowering—
as inconceivable (yet you will conceive) as all that
is this: that it is you, yes, who Gabriel addresses:
that in you, you, something holy stirs, awaits your consent,
by no one else’s doing but your own:
that you might bear into this world a miraculous love,
that you might raise and nurture this divine gift,
feeding from your own breast, carrying in your own arms
this light from the first “Let there be,”
this power that will last—yes, you, if only you will agree—
and maybe most amazing, that Gabriel
with hope in those shimmering eyes waits patiently
for your word.
Prepare the way of the Holy One,
make a straight path.
“One who is more powerful than I is coming.”
John isn’t just hyping. He’s tapping
into your already surging longing
for the Holy One to be Present:
the Loving One, who has shown you the Way,
the way of love and courage and forgiveness,
the way of trust and gratitude.
Yes, you want to greet the Chosen One,
to be among the angels singing
“Glory to God in the highest.”
So how do you prepare?
How do you make a way for the Beloved,
and get ready to join the great Hallelujah?
As all the angels do.
Understand this: if the owner of the house
had known in what part of the night the thief was coming,
they would have stayed awake
and would not have let the house be broken into.
Jesus thief, you come in the dark hours
of my broad daylight nights,
sneak through my shadows,
slip unnoticed into my inner chambers.
Thief Jesus, you rob me of what I cling to,
pilfer my excuses, my mannerly arrangements,
my weary protections and pretensions.
You lift my anxieties, help yourself to my wounds.
You spirit away my shame,
relieve me of my possessions.
Walls breached and stronghold invaded, robbed,
I am at a loss. My world can’t be the same.
Jesus thief, you have stolen my heart.
I am awake, waiting for you to come again.
You must be ready, for the New Human
is coming at an unexpected hour.
Blessed is that worker who is at work
when the householder arrives.
—Matthew 24. 44, 46
rather than guess what the future holds,
what I really want
is to honor this deep longing in me,
in all of us, yearning for something holy,
something whole, something Home.
My longing is for your presence
that is already unfolding,
a home-strangeness from within-beyond,
this world mushrooming up out of itself,
the great change already upon us,
the birth pangs.
I long for this world to be changed,
but the world you give me is this one,
for my longing to change.
This is the world you give us in which to serve,
to work in the Household of Love
until all is transformed.
God bless the hope, and bless the waiting.
O God, my longing is yours,
my hope your hope welling up in us,
your Beloved, coming
As we sit at our table and feast
on food and love and beauty,
I am thankful for all the unseen ones
who made this possible.
For the pickers of fruits and vegetables,
and packers of meat,
and long haul truck drivers,
laboring so we may eat,
for the toll booth sitters,
the luggage handlers,
those who work so we can take the day off,
the long-shift hospital workers,
the laborers behind the scenes,
in the dark, underground—
all of them sit at this table.
All of them are blessed.
And for all of them I pray
for blessing and peace,
for beauty and joy,
that all of them may have
as much to be grateful for as we do.
Salvation is nearer to us now
than when we became believers;
the night is far gone, the day is near.
Everything is different,
yet this world is not traded out for another;
the sun has simply risen.
It is we who change:
when we finally see the world
in the right light,
as when you wake up
the day after the wedding and realize
the love of your life is your spouse.
What we await is not a future but a birth,
a surrender into a greater present.
What we await is not new history
but new eyes
to see what is already upon us.
It’s not that we are yet to be swept off our feet;
only that we have yet to say
Keep awake therefore,
for you do not know on what day
the One is coming.
The Beloved waits just on the other side
of the thin curtain.
The emperor and his minions,
the billionaire and his servants
want you to sleep, to stay oblivious.
Don’t open your eyes to beauty,
the etchings of the frost on the pond.
Don’t see what’s going on,
don’t notice injustice,
don’t think of who suffers.
Just buy, and sleep.
But an awakening stirs in you,
an ocean tide you can’t defy.
The Teacher knows.
A hunger, the hopeful gnawing
at the cracks in the world.
Attentiveness to where it hurts.
The mystery, the migrating nudge,
the first birth pangs,
angels’ sharp desire.
“I know you’re there.”
Keep awake. Watch. Notice.
You don’t know when
the Beloved will appear,
when the world will shift—
the bird at the window,
the bum on the street,
the prison door.
The fearful court your coma,
and disparage the opening of your eyes.
I am all nightfulness,
not yet me,
smoke wafting up out of a dream.
I have not come to myself yet,
my arms beside me
like two warm animals,
and two legs crawling up out of blackness
to join me.
My mind has not come to me yet,
nor the room, or the light,
or the universe.
Before I think of thinking,
of troubling myself with thought
you love me.
This alone wakens me.
Hold this seed in your hand
its durable wisdom
knowing all it does
how to wait
how to endure
how to become
how to accept confining soil
cruelty of all darkness.
Night and day
cold and thaw relentless
In grip of ice or fire
time digestion and
whatever may be called suffering
its bare moment
(hold it in your hand
the deep soil of your Being)
what it has been given
a word a world a blessing
It does not take—although
it could—our breath away,
this warm November day
that should be dense and dark;
instead it gives.
The park is washed: a tide of light
leaves the day’s bright spine
exposed, the clear sun beached
upon the evening’s shore,
reposed where children each
reflect it, young and pure.
How is this day not old
and grey, but yet a bride,
lap full of wedding gifts,
all tied with gold, with light?
It lifts our hearts, too cold,
and too soon winterized,
to watch our children run
in ribbons through the gold,
the bright gift
wrapping strewn, untidy sheets of light,
across the afternoon,
not innocently laughing
jewels into our laps
until our arms collapse,
and we are warm. How can
this laying on of hands
of light, so late, be right?
What are we to remember
of this gilded not-november
miracle of days?
The oracle of praise
this day of Magi lays
abiding at our feet,
the reason given
for tidings of light,
light piled against the trees and benches,
against our legs and feet,
against our thoughts of sleet:
God has no oughts, but gifts.
This is our tithe: let light
be more than interlude,
life little more than this—
delight and gratitude.