Nativity

Danny A. Belrose ©

Angels’ wings, camels and kings, shepherds and sheep,
stable in starlight piercing night’s ink, soft hallelujahs stirring inside
a babe, a manger, a carpenter’s bride hope leaning forward,
joy fills the earth, peace wrapped in starlight
. . . Easter is birthed.

Spiritual Practice: How are you invited to pay attention to the significance of this Christmas Eve? What promise of hope does it bring into your life, the world?

Waiting for Emily

By Carolyn Brock

(This article first appeared in the December 1986 Africa Herald Magazine.)

One year ago I was waiting; I was full of energy waiting to break forth, full of life waiting to be born. I was waiting for Emily. I didn’t know at the time, however, that I was waiting for Emily. The baby kicking and hiccupping inside me was an unknown life, a mystery yet to be encountered. And it was perhaps because Emily had not yet been revealed to me that I felt so excited about her coming.

To feel something growing inside me, transforming my body, changing my emotions, creating new meanings for my life… this had been the process going on for many months. Now it was reaching a peak, and the awareness that this new person was actually alive and real, though inside of me, was very intense. I wanted to open myself up and see who was there (I actually dreamed about doing that one night).

One thing was becoming dramatically clear– a monumental change was about to take place. There would be no going back to a pre-Emily state. From now on she would be part of everything I experienced and chose. We were committed to share life together and be bound to each other forever. This was a rather terrifying thought at times when I realized the quality of life I would like to offer my child, the quality of person I would like to be for her so she could grow up whole and holy. Was I really ready to be a mother? Was I ready to be the grace and love of God to a child given me by the divine Parent? Waiting, I asked myself these questions and tried to prepare my heart.

As I reflect on these feelings, a year later, I realized I was not ready to receive Emily with the purity of heart with which all babies deserve to be greeted. But she came anyway. She came into the midst of my weakness, came and humbled me to tears with her beauty, came and challenged my selfishness with her need for nurturing. Emily didn’t wait until I was the perfect mother before she arrived on the scene. She had to enter my life and begin happening to me every day before I could understand how to be her mother.

Is it not just this way with the coming of Jesus? So often we feel we are waiting for him to become more real in our lives. We long to see and touch him in more tangible ways. We long to feel him growing and living inside our very beings. We long to give birth to him so his goodness can be visible to our eyes. And yet when we realize the holiness demanded of us as bearers and birthers of the Son of God, we suddenly meet our total unworthiness and unpreparedness.

Babies don’t wait for parents to become perfect before entering their lives. And Jesus doesn’t wait for us to become perfect before he asks to be carried by us into the dark places of our world. In moments when we feel most unready and most unworthy he enters our hearts, surprises us with his energizing presence, humbles us with the beauty of his love, and transforms our selfishness into service through a gracious vision of those who need his care.

There is really no going back to a pre-Jesus state once we have felt his life pulsing within us. There is no disconnecting the cord of commitment without forsaking the persons we had hoped to become through the flowering of his love in our souls. We are forever bound to him once we have invited him to take up residence in our hearts. He keeps living in us, growing, moving, revolutionizing the very fiber of our beings.

This is what we open ourselves up to anew each Advent season. This is the time of waiting, the time of preparing, the time of expectancy. Into our imperfect hearts Jesus enters, bringing newness of life, freshness of hope. Let us wait for the miracle of his coming with joy!

Spiritual Practice:

When have you experienced the sacred within even when you felt less than perfect? How are you invited to be a bearer of God this season even if you don’t feel totally prepared?

“She had to enter my life and begin happening to me every day before I could understand how to be her mother.” Rest in the assurance that preparation happens along the way.

Dark and Light: A Solstice Blessing

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“You are the one who knows, behind the rising, falling tide of shadow, the moon is always whole.” -Barbara Kingsolver, Another America

Dark and Light
Are not so separate
As we often imagine.

What of dusk and dawn?
What of starlight radiance
And glow of moon?
What of cloud-cover and rain
Obscuring sun at noon?
What of shadow and shade?
Glimmering, flickering flame of candle–
Circle aglow in surrounding night?
Sunlight streaming through trees,
Sideways beams in late afternoon–
Beauty in the balance
Of the luminous
And hidden?

And so it is in us.
The necessary pull of moon
And rise of sun
Sustaining life.
The inner shadows
Inviting healing,
The spaces of shade
From the too-brightness
Of what seems to sear.
The colors of dawn
Gleaming in the
New-day soul.
The descending dusk of
Letting go into the night
Where the Spirit
Works unseen within.
The edges of light
Greeting darkness–
Spaces of passage
Where what we
Try so hard to keep
Divided
Becomes
Indistinguishably
One.

And the longest night
Of my life is,
Across the globe,
The longest day
For another.
And my longest day
Is another’s longest night.
The light does not ever vanish,
Nor does the darkness.
What I seek and
What I resist
Always present somewhere
Even when they are not
Visible–
Always an invitation
And inevitability.

And so blessed are you
Who live in the intersecting places
Of darkness meeting light,
Who refuse to see as separate
The union needed for fullest life–
The balance needed for growth at all.
Blessed are you who enter
The longest night with a heart open
To the gifts the darkness brings.
And blessed are you who bask
In the longest day to soak in
The fullness of what is revealed.

Blessed are the dark
And the light
And the spaces
They gather
To meet
In every season,
In every heart.

Spiritual Practice: Where do you see the meeting of light and dark in your life? How do darkness and light contribute to the growth of your soul? In this Advent season, how does the encompassing darkness prepare us for the arrival of the great light?