Twelfth day of Christmas

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Twelfth day of Christmas
too long, too late
for any but those
committed unlike others,
devoted to something counter
to all that out there:
in no hurry,
impervious to expectation,
to quick fix, instant on,
no drive-by incarnation:
a rhythm from otherwise,
a stream from elsewhere
within, a blessing
that takes more days
to take in
than most will surrender,
infinite heaven on earth,
a dwelling among us
(most of us uncomprehending)
that gestates slowly,
emerges only in fullness of time,
unfolds leisurely,
a faith that gives us,
God within us, permission
         to sit here
                  and ripen.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Have you been saved by being told
to believe, and what, and how?
What we need is not
to believe what we haven’t seen
but to see what we have.

Enough of shadowed pulpits,
enough of having to believe.
Let star-led magi instead
teach you to wonder—
to see with the eyes of your heart
what is before you, shining;
to look for grace and beauty,
and expect holiness;
to see this world as wrapping paper
with a divine gift within;
to seek the holy child,
the radiant Presence,
the Indwelling One,
in every moment.
You don’t need a once-in-a-lifetime star:
any one will do.
Travel this wonder-spanlged world
with a heart open to glory,
open to heaven on earth,
open to God among us.
Don’t be surprised how many times
you fall on your knees and worship,
and open gifts from your treasure chest.
Could the very next moment
be the one of epiphany, of revelation?
I wonder.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

The tenth day

Dearly Beloved,Grace and Peace to you.
Today is the tenth day of Christmas. The Christmas festivities are over, the presents have been put away, and families have dispersed. We’ve cleaned up after the New Year’s party, and even the die-hards are thinking about when to take down the Christmas decorations. Today is just plain old Monday. We get back to work, back to “normal.” But it’s still Christmas! The shepherds have gone back to the fields, but the magi are still on their way.

This is the test. What just happened? Was that just a little walk with the shepherds, or will we join the two-year trek with the wise men? Can we live in the “real world” with the same peace and beauty that we felt on Christmas Eve? Can we make our daily lives the same kind of joyful gift-giving that we practiced last week? Are we as deeply aware of the Beloved’s presence in the world as we were when we stood around the manger? Or was that just a winter break?

As we enter a new year my prayer for you is that the birth of Christ may fill your heart all through the year. May deep beauty adorn your heart long after the decorations are gone. May peace and awe be yours all the year long. May the presence of the Beloved enfold you, the Word made Flesh accompany you, the mystery of the Incarnation bless you. May this new year be graced by the unfolding light of God among us. In this new year, may your heart be open and your spirit awake to the song of angels, the dawn of love, the presence of God.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. May it guide you, bless you, and give you joy.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Isaiah 60.1-6

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Arise. Shine. Your soul is light.
         Your face glows with the Beloved’s gaze.

The world is draped in black.
         People live in darkness like black paint.
But the Lover dawns in you;
         you radiate her beauty.
God’s presence in you will be light for others.
         Even those who have it all will be grateful.
Open your eyes. Be aware.
         The Divine Presence gathers people.
We are bound by this umbilical light.
         It makes us family, even strangers.

Your eyes take in glory, and shine with glory.
         Let this give you joy.
Receive the gifts this life has to offer.
         Accept the world’s abundance.
Let the world kneel at your feet
         and bring you gold and frankincense.
This giving and receiving
         is holy praise.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Journey of the magi

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
         — Matthew 2.1-2

God is in the world. And there are wanderers in our heart seeking God, not satisfied with the surface of things alone, not wanting to be distracted by all the fads and fancies of the world, but hungry for what’s deeper and more life-giving, desiring connection with the Beloved. Our spirit of wisdom and curiosity seeks expanded awareness of the Holy: of a truth, a dimension, a reality that exists beyond and yet within the visible world. It’s a journey of consciousness. If we are wise, we go with the magi.

We leave our familiar surroundings, even our religious trappings, and venture into the foreign and unknown, into the darkness. We are pilgrims. We feel our way along a strange path and an uncertain way. We ask directions, and, trusting, we are willing to be led. We learn to find God in the world, to see the Divine Presence in our daily lives. Some people only ever see what everyone says they are supposed to see. They pass by the humble stable without suspecting. But some see the Holy Child, the light of God, the Word made Flesh. Because they are looking, some see.

Take time to acknowledge the magi within, and give thanks for them. Give them what they need for their journey. Commit to going with them. Seek God in this world. Seek Christ in your daily life. Keep your eye on the star that shines in your heart, the promise that God wants to be found, that God is in fact leading you. Look through the surface of this world, to the child in the manger. Each moment you are asking, “Where is the child….?” And each breath you breathe you are getting closer.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Your star

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
They set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising.
         —Matthew 2.9

Head lights, foot lights, spotlights, street lights,
little LED indicators that are always on,
blinking your busyness, connectedness, being on,
a million things to do and ways to go ——

ignore them.

Close your eyes.
Within shines a star,
a small one, gentle,
that you can see only in darkness,
in solitude, in mystery,
sometimes in unknowing,
confusion and even pain.
Real darkness.

Beyond within you shines your star,
your pioneer, always going ahead,
always guiding you,
always silent,
but reaching out its hand.

It knows where the Holy Child is.
It is set there by God,
a Word, a promise, a hint, a Presence.

What would you have to lose to follow?
What would you have to be willing to find?

When will you set out?

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Three French hens

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
It may be startling news to anyone who lives at a mall, but Christmas is not over. It’s just begun. The secular world thinks Christmas runs from Thanksgiving to December 25, but it actually begins the 25th and goes for twelve days. Today is the third day. Three French hens.

Christians may object to the commercialization of Christmas, but we seldom do anything else with it ourselves, do we? I mean, my gosh, what are we supposed to do with the next eleven days, after we’ve pretty much blown our wad on the first one?

We use the twelve days to practice a faith of the Incarnation. Practice beholding the mystery that God’s Word of love is made flesh among us, in Jesus of Nazareth and in one another. Practice giving thanks that God does not just watch us, but accompanies us, lives within us. Practice looking for God.

Practice sustaining the love and peace you felt on Christmas Eve for another twelve days. Practice seeing the light in people’s faces as if they’re sitting in a beautiful sanctuary singing songs, with a candle in their hand. Practice seeing the divine child within each of us. Practice sensing that this particular time, this present moment is holy.

Practice the anticipation of knowing that you are about to receive gifts. Practice the joy of seeing others receive your gifts. Practice generosity. Practice getting a kick out of making a special effort for someone. Practice noticing the poor, lonely and hungry more than usual, and reaching out to them with joy rather than obligation. Practice treating people with blessing. Practice thinking of all humanity as family.

Practice attending to the mystery that God is present in poor and ordinary things and people. Practice awe and reverence. Practice hope, joy, peace and love. Faith is not an accident, a product of a certain event or season. It’s a choice. It’s a practice. Keep it going. If you can do it for one night, you can do it for twelve days; and if for twelve days, you can do it for eternal life.

Merry Christmas!
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

A psalm of the Nativity


For unto us a child is born,
         unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor ,
         Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
         Prince of Peace.

                  —Isaiah 9.6

Holy One, Loving Mystery,
         Mother of Life, Eternal Companion,
you have come to us.
         You have come to save us,
to heal us, to set us free,
         to bring us into your Realm of light.
You have begun something great among us,
         hidden in the life of a child,
         tendered to us from among the poor.
You have come to us as our little brother,
         and made us all sisters and brothers.
Our salvation will unfold
         in the life of this child,
in his words, his deeds, his love,
         and even in his death.
It will take time, and require of us
         patience and trust.
But already, even in winter
         the bud has opened.
Already, even in the darkness,
         even in our doubt and unworthiness,
we are saved,
         for you are with us in grace.

In awe and wonder we kneel.
         In silence we bow.
In tender love we reach for the child.
         In gentle devotion we hold him.
In our arms, in our hearts,
         in our neighbors, we hold him.

Praise! Sing hallelujah!
         Go ahead and wake the baby!
He too will sing for joy,
         for God has married her people.
God has given birth to us again!
         God has created the earth anew!
Christ is born!
         Let there be light!


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Christmas prayer


Infinite One,
depth of night,
breath of galaxies:
come to me.

Holiness within,
gestating heaven,
revealing yourself:
let me see.

Tender One,
not afraid of my death,
gentle amidst the storm:
enfold me.

Holy Presence,
enter me.

Heavenly Lover,
journeying with me,
bearing my life:
marry me.

Child from heaven,
come out
and share my world.
Let me hold you.


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

An inside job

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
The story of the Nativity of Christ is not just a lovely, starlit moment of precious magic and calm adoration. It’s the story of God’s subversion of the world, through no power at all except love. Read the stories (one in Matthew, one in Luke) without romanticizing and you see a story of God’s vulnerable presence amidst poverty, oppression and danger. The manger is not a cute image. It’s about a family that is homeless, at risk, and coping. The magi work knowingly around political and military repression. The family escapes death squads and becomes refugees. And where is God in all this? In a baby.

This is the story of God’s incursion into our power structures, to transform them from the inside out with nothing but radical presence and compassion. God does not act as a king or a warrior, but comes as a vulnerable, powerless child, who makes rough shepherds tender, who draws kings to worship on their knees, who threatens Herod and reorganizes society. God does not impose laws for us to follow: God gives us love to fall into.

The festival of the Nativity of Christ is the celebration of God’s radical presence with us, among us and within us, with nothing but love. God changes the rough world into a world of gentleness, from among the vulnerable and marginalized. It’s an inside job. And God enlists us to join the movement. God invites us to live in the world with this spirit of presence and compassion, to be gentle in a rough world, to be loving when it is a risk, to exercise the power of powerlessness, to trust grace. God extends this invitation by coming into the rough and lowly places in our own hearts, and living there with healing power, with nothing but love.

This Christmas may you be more deeply inspired to embody God’s love and emboldened to bear it into this sometimes dark and rough world. May God’s Word become flesh. May Christ be born in you this holy season, and throughout the new year.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections
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