“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind receive their sight, the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have good news brought to them.”
We string up lights of joy at your coming.
We light candles for justice. We sing songs of hope.
But today I utter a prayer for healing.
I have been wounded. We all have been wounded,
in our bodies and in our hearts we have been broken
and we are not yet whole.
I am in need of mending, in need of forgiveness.
I am poor in spirit, weary of soul;
sometimes I don’t have what it takes.
My open wound is your empty manger.
With a broken heart I welcome you.
Come, beloved healer, come.
She lives a beckoning.
Her hands beseech
in drawing water, pounding grain.
An invitation dwells within
the practiced grace of tending to the elders,
the invocations and priestly gestures
of washing pots, of cooking soup,
the welcome of a small dirt floor made clean.
She lays her eyes like hands on things
and consecrates them: cups and stones,
and children, and their tears;
her noticing, her calling to the holy.
She knows no saintliness beyond the plain
embrace of all that is, the feel of walking,
the sacredness of how we’re given, pure,
so confidently to each other here.
She does not question the roughness of her life,
but uses it to scrub her wisdom’s tabletop;
and yet with every breath she begs a question.
Her undemanding silence is a bidding,
her simply being, her vocation here:
to make intimate spaces for eternity to dwell.
The great round pot sits, washed and empty.
And there, beside the broom, as yet unseen,
dear Gabriel smiles at her and draws a breath.
O Holy One, Newborn Love,
pour into my soul the mystery of this night:
the depth of the blackness, the faces of stars,
the moonlight sliding over the snow.
Pour into my heart the pure song of angels,
the music of light that tingles above me.
Pour into my mind the longing of the forsaken,
the hope of the prophets, the confidence of children.
O Dawning One, Rising Love,
pour into me the faith of trees thriving in winter,
the hope of the red sun patiently climbing the horizon.
Pour into me the love of your coming,
the joy of your presence,
the delight that draws you so gently to us.
O Perfect Mystery, Unsayable Love,
pour into me the perfect wisdom
of a mother holding her child,
the heart of a father weeping for his child,
with wonder of a child seeing
pure blue moonlight for the very first time.
O Wondrous One, Unfolding Love,
pour into me this night
your mystery, your darkness, your delight.
Pour into my body your heart.
Pour into my being the life-giving gift of
May it be for me according to your grace.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!
— Isaiah 64.1
Our longings pulse blood through us.
They are babies in us we don’t want to have.
Fearing them full grown,
we knot them down, deep and small.
But fear cannot kill them. Still we yearn.
Longings rise up through us from the earth.
Our hearts press against our chests.
We lean toward the light.
Advent is a time to enter the dark
where your fear is afraid to go.
Ask your soul: what do you long for?
Be still and wait for the answer.
Take much time, and listen gently.
Your soul will only whisper.
Your desires tangle down through the dark
like roots into the heart of God.
Your deep longings are the voice of the Beloved
longing for the New Creation.
It is desire that drew stars out of darkness,
green out of soil, life out of the grave.
Deepen your desire. Nourish your longing.
Let the One yearn within you.
Dare, with the dignity and power of God, to beg.
Take courage to want, in greatest measure.
Your longing is too large to be checked off a list.
Let your life be a holy plea.
Let what still comes unfold within you.
Creation’s deepest desire in you
is the bud already in the wintry branch,
drawing this world into the next.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit
is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Some folks imagine people are good trees
or bad ones, and the bad ones, well….
But this is not about others.
There are in me fruitful trees, and dead ones.
Now is the season of pruning,
that when the Beloved comes I will be ready
with abundant fruit.
What are the fruitful trees in me?
Where in my living does love flourish?
What moments leave others blessed?
What trees are unfruitful?
What of my habits or attitudes do not bear blessing?
What weeds crowd out my love?
God give me grace to feed the fruitful trees,
and to cut out the dead ones.
You have given me the courage and wisdom;
I have only to let them go.
The ax is lying at the root of the trees.
“One who is more powerful than I is coming…”
I despaired of cleaning off the driveway
of the mud and sand and gravel from the project.
But in the night a strong storm, and in the morning,
a pristine driveway, washed clean.
How often I think the world and I
are subject to our powers alone,
when there is a greater power at work,
gathering even now beyond the horizon.
Love knows what it’s doing.
It has happened before that things have happened
that had never happened before.
Even in this oil-stained world
a voice draws breath to say “Let there be light.”
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