Advent prayer


O Coming One,
give me a steadfast spirit
to wait for you with grace.

Give me patience to listen
for your breathing
in the breath of your people.

Give me courage to trust
your continually blossoming presence
even in the unseeing darkness.

Give me wisdom to see
your manger in rough places,
your star in dark nights.

Give me gentleness
to receive you as a child
amidst the shouting of kings and warriors.

O Blossoming One, you are the love
with which I wait tenderly
for the coming of your love.

O Holy Child, come to me
that I may fall in love with you,
and become wholly yours,
in faith, in love, in steadfast hope.


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.

         — James 5.7

The great scandal of incarnation is than in choosing to live in us, God assents to our vulnerability, suffering and finitude. God does not come in a palace, powerful and safe, but in a shoddy stable, in a lowly manger, poor and at risk. God willingly, lovingly lives in all that is not well in us. God lives in our hurt and our failure. Our pain and weakness, our anger and bewilderment, our lack of faith, this is the manger where Christ comes. God takes up a dwelling in our lives with great love, with tender delight and unflappable patience.

In entering into the heart of all that is, God enters as well all that is not yet. God is in all that is not right, not just, not healed, not yet finished. Mary sings of the transformation of our society, when the hungry are fed. Isaiah sees the desert blossom and all the exiles return. This has not happened yet. But God comes already anyway, and waits with us as grace unfolds among and within us.

In Advent we enter into God’s great patience. We enter into the healing of the world and we wait with God, who waits with us. We enter into the pain and the not knowing, the loneliness and the despair, and because God is there, we find hope and tenderness. We trust that what we await will surely come, and that even in our waiting God is already present.

Be patient and wait. Know that God is waiting with us with patience as well, and with great love and unimaginable power.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
         who has looked with favor on me in my lowliness.
The Mighty One has scattered the proud
                  in the thoughts of their hearts.
God has has brought down
                  the powerful from their thrones,
         and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
         and sent the rich away empty.”

                  — from Luke 1. 46-55

Mary is not singing about some metaphor. She is singing about us. We adore heroes and powerful people. We love to pretend that the Bible says (though it doesn’t) that “God helps those who helps themselves.” We cut benefits for the unemployed and give tax breaks to the rich. The cost to end hunger throughout the world is estimated at somewhere around $200 billion a year. Americans will spend $500 billion on Christmas. Yeah, that’s us she’s talking about.

The Magnificat is no sweet lullaby. It is a fierce revolutionary cry against our fear and selfishness, and the political and economic structures that are built on money, power and coercion. And it’s not just a promise of better times for the underdogs. God not only lifts up the lowly but brings down the powerful. And, most radical of all, it is not a dream, a wish, a hope for the future. It’s already been done; it’s an accomplished fact. God has brought down the powerful and fed the hungry.

Oh, yeah? It sure looks like the hungry are still hungry and the powerful are still powerful. —But that’s where we’re wrong. The promise of Christmas is that God comes among us in a revolutionary, life-changing way that transforms both our souls and our society—and that most of the world either will resist it or won’t get it at all. But Advent invites us to see what’s already here but unseen, to receive what’s already been given but not received. Mary invites us to see God’s favor for the poor, to see God’s presence in the lowly, and to see how the selfishly rich and powerful have condemned themselves to lives of emptiness and grief without knowing it. Advent invites us to join contemplation and justice in that mystery we call incarnation: God’s real presence among us in human flesh, the flesh of our companions on this earth: in a poor homeless peasant child laid in a feeding bin, a refugee family fleeing violence, a child among soldiers.

Jesus says, “Go and tell what you 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” (Mt. 11.5). In Advent we who are blind to God’s presence learn to see; we who are deaf to the good news begin to hear; we who think we understand have something new brought to us. God breaks in like a birth, like a death, and changes everything. God reverses the ways of the world.

This Advent contemplate this mystery: that what is done is hidden in what is not yet, that God’s blessing is hidden in powerlessness, that God’s judgment is masked by riches and power, that God’s presence is embodied among the lowly, that God’s Christ is born among the poor. This Advent contemplate the birth of the Prince of Peace, the Servant of Justice among us, whom we cannot see, but who is already here, reigning in the great power of his mercy.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

New moon, Advent


for the moon to fill
night by night
hidden sun pouring light into you

in the great deep night
of the virgin’s womb
holy child
floating in darkness
waiting to learn your name

soft crescent of dawn in me
out of darkness rising
in stillness, waiting

in this empty space
a presence

I am the holy child
the night my womb

not another season but
a new person

pale belly
beating heart
dark moon, whole and round—
ah! you are already here.


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

I prepare a place


Holy Child of mystery,
I prepare a place for you.
I remodel the inn of my heart.
I clear a room
and let go of many things.
I fashion a crib of finest wood.
I make a space that is just for you,
and open it up each day,
and in stillness I wait—
until I find that in darkness of night
beneath my knowing or waking,
in cold and poverty,
without place at all,
you have already come
and lie waiting in some
unexpected manger.


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Child of peace

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse….
         With righteousness he shall judge the poor….
The wolf shall live with the lamb….
         and a little child shall lead them….
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.

         — from Isaiah 11.1-11

“One who is more powerful than I is coming after me;
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

         — Matthew 3.11

Jesus is not coming to protect us from God’s condemnation, nor to set up a new hoop to jump through to get to heaven. He comes to save us from our own violence: to show us how to live gently with all Creation, since such harmony is what heaven is. He saves us by drawing us into God’s peace and breathing into us the fire of God’s love.

In this candled, starlit season we find it easier than usual to be peaceable with one another, to love our neighbors, to extend hospitality to strangers and enemies, to give gifts to the undeserving. It’s a good start. But Jesus does not come for a season, but for all eternity. He comes to change us forever. He comes as a little child, a child who will be hurt and destroyed—but he comes anyway. He comes as a lamb who lies down among us wolves, a lamb who will surely be eaten—but he comes anyway. He comes as the Gentle One to bear God’s tenderness to us; as the Harmless One to save us from our fear of God; as the Loving One to set us free from the terrible weight of our desire to hurt or destroy; as the Vulnerable One to invite us into that dangerous, world-changing place of non-violent love. He comes to transform us.

This Advent, pray that you may be baptized with the Holy Spirit of compassion, that the little child might lead you into a life of holy peace. Pray that the carols you sing, the gifts you give, the candles you hold, the greetings you send may change you forever. Pray that the gifts you receive this Christmas may be gifts of courage, love and creativity. In the Spirit of Christ, may you become more deeply a Child of Peace.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

The ax

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         John the Baptist said, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
         Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees;
         every tree that does not bear good fruit
         is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

                  —Matthew 3.8, 10

Beloved, take your ax
to the trees in my orchard that bear no fruit,
to the limbs that are not loving,
to the roots of the fears and desires,
the attachments and expectations
that get in the way of your perfect love in me.
Take your ax to the Way I Wish Things Were.
Come at the habits by which I grasp at control,
exercise power, protect my security.
Dig them out. Cut them down. Chop them up.
Throw them into the fire of your grace.
Let me bear the fruit of love, even in winter,
flowering within me.

As the Virgin Mother waits, ripe with Christ,
may I blossom with you.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ ”

— Matthew 3.1-3

When John the Baptist comes yelling out of the desert telling us to repent, we wonder, with maybe a little panic: Of what? How? What am I supposed to change? Repentance seems like something we have to work at to meet some externally imposed standard, something we have to start getting right. But Advent promises that it’s actually God who’s behaving in a new way, doing something new. All we we do is notice, and say “yes.”

Like Mary, swelling with Christ, we hold a new incarnation of God within us. God is in you, moving with new life, surrounding you, moving in a new way. What is God doing? How is God’s presence unfolding in you? To discern this, of course, you have to be still and watch a long time. It’s as if in the woods you find a little den of some sort and you want to know what kind of animal lives there. What you do then is sit off a way and wait and watch for a long time until whatever it is comes out. You have to be still a very long time.

Be still for a few minutes every day this Advent and wonder, “God, what are you doing in me?” Devote yourself to saying “Yes” to it, whatever it turns out to be. In silence, simply sit and wait. Don’t expect an answer. The little creature won’t come out for a long time. God is doing the work, and you are practicing being present. As you do, you will become more present all day long, all season long, until the truth is revealed. Let this redirecting of your will and your attention be your repentance. Let this attentive presence be your preparing. As Jesus says, watch. Keep awake.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Keep awake

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Keep awake, for you do not know when the Beloved is coming.
         — Matthew 24.42

You can’t tell beforehand
which manger will receive him.
You won’t expect how you will be met.

You don’t know when the Beloved will appear before you,
when your vision will break through the surface
to the holiness within,
when your belovedness will become evident.

You can’t predict how the One will come to you,
in what ordinary person
offering you grace,
needing forgiveness.

You never know when
you might see God in yourself
shimmering, breathing, calm.

Of the Present One
we only catch fleeting glimpses.
So keep your eyes open.
Stay alert.


Weather Report

Partly clear
as a high pressure area of
Having Been Here and Done That,
producing heavy overcast,
is dissipated by wonder and gratitude.
Expect coming,
with patches of disclosure
and isolated moments when the sun
(which has always been there)
breaks through.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Giving thanks for Thanksgiving

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Thanksgiving was wonderful. Gathering in a town where we’d never been (in South Jersey, of all places!) with twenty-one people, thirteen of them strangers to us, around a couple of tables squeezed in where the armchairs are supposed to be. A house rearranged for the sake of togetherness, decorated for the sake of joy. Strangers made family by love. Becoming part of a tribe we’ve never met. A kitchen crowded with cousins, aunts and uncles; tables piled with food; conversations rich with memories and discoveries. A nine-hundred mile drive there and back, picking up sons along the way, through the thickest holiday traffic that not only one city but Boston, New York and Philadelphia had to offer, and every mile worth it.

Isn’t that what Jesus envisioned as the Realm of God? The world rearranged for the sake of community. Beauty honored. Separations overcome. Food shared. Journeys toward each other undertaken. Family created. Isn’t this Jesus’ vision of The Real World? People around one table, eating and talking. Communion.

Today, of course, I’m in my own familiar house, all alone, eating cereal. But the vision lingers. The promise looms. I’m still there.

This is what God is trying to do with us. It’s so simple—and lovely, really: just to get us to sit down and eat together and enjoy it. This is as complicated as God’s will for us gets. This is what God is trying to get us to do every moment of our lives. Come to the Thanksgiving banquet. The furniture has been rearranged, the strangers have been invited, the food is all here. There’s an empty seat for you. The invitation is always open.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections
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