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.

DAPPLED PATH

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Refrain from posting or commenting on all social media for the day. Instead, use that time to listen to what you are hearing from others and offer prayers on their behalf.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

As we head into the heart of Holy Week, we come face to face with grief and despair, longing for “the possibility of resurrection.” I am grateful for today’s post, a poem written by Susan Oxley. Susan serves Community of Christ as Apostle for Canada and Australia.

May you be attentive this day to those who stand “stunned in the valley” and share the hope of the path that leads to life. If it is you who stands stunned in the valley, may these words bring the hope you seek.

Dappled Path
By Susan Oxley

There is a dappled path from the Valley of the Shadow into life.
Those who walk the path move from joy to tears, from laughter to silent grief
As the foliage of memory parts to let life shine through.
Dark and light lay in erratic bands across untidy days.
I am surprised into dancing, one fleeting moment of unbridled motion
Affirming the existence of joy, the possibility of resurrection,
Before shadows close again in pain. But the moment quietly echoes on.
The light illumines memories, and they drift like leaves through autumn thought.
Brilliant colors remind me of all I’ve lost, and of the bleak mid-winter.
They touch my wet cheeks with gold, then fall lifeless in the dust.
Healing laughter parts the shadows. I stand amazed at lilting notes, and wander on..
My journey leads through other lives, other sorrows, other pains
And my wounded heart bleeds afresh in passing, pausing, weeping
With those who still stand stunned in the Valley.
I touch their sorrow and murmur, only half-believing,
“There is a dappled path from the Valley of the Shadow into life…”

We Wait: An Advent Poem

by Brittany Longsdorf

As a child watches the window
for signs of first snow
we wait
for you
oh, infant Christ

We have stooped low at the river Jordan
with John the Baptist
plagued by uncertainties,
our world in turmoil,
tempest-tossed days

We have been righteously called out,
over-taxed, burdened,
found wanting
on our journey

We have knocked at the Inn,
found rejection,
uncommon hope,
deep warmth
in the unlikely places

We have gathered here
compassion and community
sifting through the darkness
for one white flake
one flurry of light
for the world

We are watching at the manger
we wait
for you
oh, infant Christ.

Brittany Longsdorf is a University Chaplain at Boston University who specializes with international and interfaith students. With an undergraduate degree in Religion from Graceland University and an M.Div in World Religions from Princeton Theological Seminary, she has a passion for multicultural ministry, interfaith work, and spiritual formation of Young Adults. Brittany is currently an Elder in the Community of Christ church.