We stood on the hills, Lady, Our day’s work done, Watching the frosted meadows That winter had won.
The evening was calm, Lady, The air so still, Silence more lovely than music Folded the hill.
There was a star, Lady, Shone in the night, Larger than Venus it was And bright, so bright.
Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady, It seemed to us then Telling of God being born In the world of men.
And so we have come, Lady, Our day’s work done, Our love, our hopes, ourselves, We give to your son. ~Bob Chillcott “The Shepherd’s Carol”
We harbor low expectations in our self-protection against disappointment and discouragement. We are a chronically underwhelmed humanity created by Our Maker to be anything but. Yet here we are, holding out thimbles and teacups as His loving dam of grace breaks wide open.
Our capacity for awe is restored at Advent, eyes wide, jaws dropped, hearts overflowing. God has given His all; we are overcome.
What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing all hopes is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us and our own snowbound, snowblind longing for him. ~Frederick Buechner from Secrets in the Dark
With the turn toward winter is the disappearance of the familiar world, of all that grows and thrives, of color and freshness, of hope in survival. Then there comes a moment of softness amid the bleak, a gift of grace and beauty, a glance of sunlight on a snowy hillside, a covering of low cloud puffs in the valley, a moon lit landscape, and I know the known world is still within my grasp because you have hold of me.
Heaven could not hold God. It is beyond my wildest hope He chose to dwell here, among us and within us. Imagine that.
God is not infinite; He is the synthesis of infinity and boundary. ~Coventry Patmorefrom The Rod, the Root and the Flower
He chose to cross the boundaries into the finite; to be helpless as a baby, to love flawed parents, to be dusty and tired and tempted, to weep, to be hurt, bleeding, bound by nails, dead and buried as man, to await rising as God.
Living and dying within such boundaries as ours shows us His infinite Truth: He knows, as infinite God, what it means to be finite, just like us.
Praise be that this thin mark, this sound Can form the word that takes on flesh To enter where no flesh can go To fill each other’s emptiness. To words and how they live between us To us and how we live between the worth
And in between the sound of words I hear your silent, sounding soul Where one abides in solitude Who keeps us one when speech shall go ~Carrie Newcomer and Parker Palmer “Two Toasts”
In the quiet of a room they sigh. In candle’s glow they live under An icon’s shadow and an unheard cry And the Truth-bearing words that thunder– Those Sacred Silences who tenderly await the soul.
They speak of His coming, not delayed, but near for etched in unknown depths, they say, the same Image of the One whose patient tear slays the heart and gives all away– In those Sacred Silences who tenderly await the soul.
Let saving truth’s grammar unbound Those lips thirsting for syllables of love To drink deep the wisdom in whose font resound Those words below of the Word above: As enveloped in great silences The soul awaits His coming. ~Anthony Lilles
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1: 1-5
Somewhere between the Word in the beginning and the Word that becomes flesh and the Word that now exists in our hearts and hands, there is the sacred silence of God.
Advent is a time of quiet stillness, awaiting the Light brought by the Word; a flint is struck to our wick, the Darkness abolished in the eternal glow of His illuminating Word.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; Ponder nothing earthly minded, For with blessing is His hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth, Our full homage to demand. King of kings, Yet born of Mary, As of old earth He stood, Lord of lords, In human vesture, In the body and the blood; He will give to all the faithful. His own self for heavenly food. Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on the way, As Light of light descendeth from the realms of endless day, That the powers of hell may vanish as the darkness clears away. At His feet the six-winged seraph, Cherubim, With sleepless eye, Veil their faces to His presence as with ceaseless voice they cry: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Lord Most High!
He will come like last leaf’s fall. One night when the November wind has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth wakes choking on the mould, the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost. One morning when the shrinking earth opens on mist, to find itself arrested in the net of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark. One evening when the bursting red December sun draws up the sheet and penny-masks its eye to yield the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come, will come like crying in the night, like blood, like breaking, as the earth writhes to toss him free. He will come like child. ~Rowan Williams “Advent Calendar”
How have we diminished the worth of a child?
More and more we resist humanity’s mandate to ensure a future for those who come after us.
Our excuse: the world is dying, the climate an emergency, how do we dare expose future generations to desolation and destruction?
Better to have no children at all. So many choose childlessness, doing whatever it takes to remain childless.
Yet all feel outrage at the images of children suffering and dying trying to escape poverty, homelessness, war and evil:
A toddler lying face down in the water on a Turkish beach, at first glance almost as if napping, but this sleep is forever. A father drowned in the Rio Grande protecting his daughter, also drowned, trying to bring her to a safe future in the States.
This is nothing new in the history of humanity. We kill unborn children every day in our own private wars that we justify without guilt or regret.
When confronted by images of dead children while eating breakfast, when millions cry out with the shame of it, so many tears falling like raindrops soaking deep on holy ground, ground we share with the poor and oppressed and homeless, ground we no longer can hoard.
These images change from one day to the next, birthing life, taking life, a child in the womb becomes ghost in the tomb, so we come undone, forced to unbuild walls we hide behind.
God Himself came like a child – bloody, broken, crying. The earth writhes in the reality that if conceived today, Jesus would likely be washed away before His birth, considered inconvenient and so unfortunate to be born to an impoverished refugee family. The world was much too harsh for Him to thrive.
So we would toss away the Son, the Light, the Hope and cling to our darkness.
What is the worth of such a Child? He answers clearly: He came because we are worthy of both His birth and His death.
…wealth and cleverness were nothing to God — no one is too unimportant to be His friend. ~Dorothy Sayers from “The Man Born to Be King”
No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look Down on others, those who have no need even of God – for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God. ~ Oscar Romero
No one wants to admit to being needy. It is, after all, allowing someone else to have strength and power to deliver what one is desperate for.
Relinquishing that control is painful but it is more painful to be so poor that one is hungry without food, thirsty without drink, ill without medicine, cold without shelter, alone without God.
When we are well fed and hydrated, healed, clothed and safe in our homes, it is difficult to be considered “needy”. Yet most of us are ultimately bereft and spiritually impoverished; we need God even when we can’t admit our emptiness, or we turn away when He offers Himself up to us.
Despite the wealth with which we surround ourselves every day, our need is still overwhelmingly great; we stand empty and ready to be filled with his abundant and lavish gift of Himself.
Helpless and hungry, lowly, afraid Wrapped in the chill of midwinter; Comes now among us, born into poverty’s embrace, new life for the world Who is this who lives with the lowly, Sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger? This is Christ, revealed to the world In the eyes of a child, a child of the poor
Who is the stranger here in our midst, Looking for shelter among us? Who is the outcast? Who do we see amid the poor, the children of God? Who is this who lives with the lowly, Sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger? This is Christ, revealed to the world In the eyes of a child, a child of the poor
Bring all the thirst, all who seek peace; Bring those with nothing to offer. Strengthen the feeble, Say to the frightened heart: “Fear not: here is your God!” Who is this who lives with the lowly, Sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger? This is Christ, revealed to the world In the eyes of a child, a child of the poor ~Scott Soper (1994)“A Child of the Poor”
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it – because he is out of place in it, and yet must be in it – his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected because they are regarded as weak; and with those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, and are tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst. ~Thomas Merton from Watch for the Light
God makes us happy as only children can be happy. God wants to always be with us, wherever we may be – in our sin, in our suffering and death. We are no longer alone; God is with us. We are no longer homeless; a bit of the eternal home itself has moved unto us. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A Child in a foul stable, Where the beasts feed and foam; Only where He was homeless Are you and I at home;
To the end of the way of the wandering star, To the things that cannot be and that are, To the place where God was homeless And all men are at home. ~G.K. Chesterton from “The House of Christmas”
There have always been people living in boxes and tucked up against underpasses and under bridges. I’ve spent considerable time with those who come in from a bare existence outside when they are ill and need care, warmth and food. They would be offered a bed and protective shelter at discharge yet usually preferred to go back to the woods or street life they know, not trusting the gift of grace and mercy. They are so used to not belonging anywhere, they can’t imagine another way to live.
Homelessness has become an epidemic. Now we find tents lining urban sidewalks, and rundown RVs parked on streets with an attached generator. Cities are struggling to solve the dilemma of providing shelter for those who do want a different life, while moving those who don’t want to give up their piece of sidewalk.
We who have roofs over our heads are not so different, keeping our hearts safely out of God’s reach, preferring duct tape and baling twine to patch up our brokenness rather than accept His healing touch.
From our God, born homeless, comes a clear invitation to find home in Him. Rather than settling for a box and sleeping bag and tarps, there is a place built just for us, where we are safe and loved and wanted.