O Emmanuel

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.
Malcolm Guite

Christmas Card

(This is a previous post, but it’s just worth reposting every year . . . )

I don’t usually post Christmas music videos before Christmas.  (Trying to keep Advent Advent.)  But this one is special.  And it’s for all of you who are having a hard time during this Advent season, finding it hard to be joyful like all of those around you.  This one’s for you (from Steven Curtis Chapman).

And here’s his story behind the song.

Now, go back and listen to the song again, written just for you.

“When you can’t find the Merry in your Christmas”

When You Can’t Find the Merry in Your Christmas

It’s here whether we like it or not—Christmas.

For many this season is filled with the fullness of family togetherness. The turkey with all the trimmings. It is the time for unwrapping the red-ribbon-gift we placed first on our list. It is the season of sparkly lights and the steady fragrance of evergreen. Cut trees dressed and centered in our homes displaying ornamented memories and present day mementos of our own Christmas present and pasts.

For others—like us— it will be the first without our most cherished loved one (R.I.P Dad Brown). It is the season of skipping to pay the rent in order to afford to put something under the Christmas tree. The homeless among us will seek to find a warmer cover, an even hotter cup to grip away the cruelty of the cold.

Christmas can fill you with joy and wonder and Christmas can make you feel marginalized and alone.

I’ll never forget the Christmas Mommy and I were all set and packed to visit my Grandmother Patricia in Kalamazoo, Michigan for the last time. It would be the last time because cancer… well,  cancer said so. “Gabby” had battled hard and surrendered even stronger to the fight. She was still trying to hold on for us though. Mommy and I had our tickets ready on the dining room table. We were sad but excited to have the opportunity to say our final good-bye. We were flying out of Portland bright and early the following morning, but we didn’t make it in time.

Just a few hours before “the call” I sat in our family living room, wrapped in the strong arms of my brand new fiancée. My then boyfriend of two years had popped the question and presented the ring on Christmas Eve. The same ring I was staring at when down the hall I heard my mother scream. Her daughter-griefed-weeping followed, and I knew Gabby was gone.

The sparkle of my new ring and the glare from my streaming tears were both there at that moment, right there at the same time.

Christmas can give you your most desired longing, and it can deliver your greatest heartbreak.

This season, once again I feel like I’m holding a little bit of both possibility and grief. Possibility in that this same Jewish baby Jesus who made His way through oppression, homelessness and rejection will continue to find rescue, covering and favor for me. Grief in knowing that I can’t control the timing of death, the depths and disgust of man’s broken humanity or the schemes and snares of our raging enemy.

But like my ring and my tears I will continue to hold both. This tension of both possibility and grief are calling forth a deeper vulnerability in me, a deeper desperation to both be cherished and rescued.

This Christmas I am desperate to find true meaning in both the unwrapping and the grabbing hold of our Immanuel—God with us, God with me. I’m being drawn to get closer to the Christ child and not Christmas, the holiday. You don’t have to find the “merry” in your Christmas if it’s not there. Just draw near to Him.

Jesus of our possibilities.

Jesus acquainted with our grief.

Jesus of Christmas who knows each of us—that Baby from the manger who knew just how to “be.”

Originally published here.

Tenth Month

Advent

Those heavy days, the Child cramped
within you and girding his limbs,
your lungs squeezed breathless-high,
the ordinary, unnerving simmer
of black waters within, Woman,
what did you think?

Or was thought
all prayer—trust in the buds
of epiphanies, the unquantifiable
blood to be let. But Mother,
those unspeakably swollen days,
olives combed out of ashen leaves,
or wine leeching out its vinegar smell,
did you feel the tug of split hearts,
in city streets, at tabernacles, in bars?
As your belly drew down, drawn
by hormones and truth, did you weigh,
too, the clumsy imploring down all
our bloodlines, for this saving parcel of flesh?

Sally Read