I Cannot Go to Bethlehem

By Susan Oxley

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
Life moves too quickly.
The press of people blocks my way.
In the noise and confusion, the clutching of hands, I feel no angel wings.
You who are caught in the maddening whirl of activity, trapped in a crowded inn,
Peace. Be still. God comes to you quietly, in a stable, singing in you his new song.
Let your heart be a listening hillside, and the brush of angel wings will follow.

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
There’s too much sorrow and despair.
Grown people turn away, unfeeling, uncaring. Death reigns supreme.
How can I believe in a Baby? I hear no announcement of good news.
You who brood in sadness, by the echoing chasm of grief,
Remember the one who comes and abides. God With Us, Emmanuel.
Touch Him in your winter loneliness, hear him as a shout against despair,
Until, transformed by grace, your griefs become your joy.

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
Doubts and questions bar my way.
Fear whispers from all sides.
Journeys require faith—don’t ask me to go. I hear no songs of faith.
You who search and doubt and journey,
The Word has been shaped by love, spoken in fire, captured in flesh.
Traveler, have faith in beginnings and believe in preparation beyond knowing.
Kneel in the whispers of the mind, in the doubts of the night, and hear faith being born.

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
Inside, there is darkness, cold silence, empty echoes.
The voice I hear is only your darkness speaking to my darkness.
Without light, I can’t find the way. I see no stars to guide me in the night.
You who live in darkness, prisoner of the winter that knows no spring,
The people of echoes and silence have seen a great light!
Believe in a brightness that is beyond you, surrounding, invading, within you.
This Advent, let us all go to Bethlehem, and find our kneeling places.

Spiritual Practice: Spend a few moments in silence, breathing deep and listening within. Where do you find yourself reluctant? Where do you find yourself hopeful? What are the strongest movements within you at the beginning of this Advent Journey? What is the state of your heart as you make this journey?

Click the image above for a free Advent Spiritual Retreat resource.

Click the image above for a free Advent Spiritual Retreat resource.

4 Comments on “I Cannot Go to Bethlehem

  1. The authenticity of your own life journey speaks through each verse, Susan. You are a gentle guide on our stumbling way to see the baby.

  2. We may take difference paths on our journey to see the baby but I take great comfort in knowing I will kneel with you when we arrive.

  3. Bethlehem PA. created steel with which to build bridges. Visiting our “spiritual Bethlehem” may help us to become “iron women and men,” – disciples of steel, with spiritual strength and an unbreakable witness of the Lord, to build bridges with all our neighbors. Our love for everyone is stronger that steel!

  4. Dear Susan,
    Your words of poetry found me in a rather difficult and dark place this afternoon.
    The way your words confronted that darkness with healing has been pure grace.
    Thank you.
    Art

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