They Cannot See What We See

Danny A. Belrose ©

Short days stretched long, we sing our Advent songs
and lean toward a starlit stable scene.
Silent and serene. No speaking parts,
a multitude of extras each in place
staring into sacred space wherein the babe lies nestled.
Sleepy sheepless shepherds
wondering at the sight, puzzled, as are we,
that on this star-bright night
a child so small and helpless gives holiness its name.

For they behold a babe in arms, a feeding trough in muted light,
and question why angelic songs celebrate a birth tonight.

Parables and miracles are not within their sight
They cannot see what we see:
the hungry fed, the lame who walk, the lessons taught.
Absent is a crown of thorns, a prayer of tears.
and death upon a tree, an empty tomb, an Easter morn
—these they cannot see.
No king, no savior, no Prince of Peace, no sign of royalty.
Just a babe in swaddling clothes wrapped within a mother’s glow
whose future is unseen, a young bewildered carpenter
unsure of what this means.
Angel voices silent now, a “day-blind star” unglowing,
tomorrow yawns, morning dawns,
. . . and the world awakes unknowing.

* “day-blind star”—Wendell Berry in “The Peace of Wild Things”

Spiritual Practice: We hold in our hearts all that we cannot know, cannot see, in the waiting time of Advent. May we, as we “lean toward a starlit stable scene”, allow the significance of this story to illuminate significance through our own movement into a future unseen.

So, What Are You Waiting For?

by David R. Brock


Have you heard the question before? Have you asked it yourself? It’s often uttered with a bit of sarcasm. At least with a note of urgency; maybe even exasperation:

Get with it! Go! Don’t procrastinate!

Strike while the iron is hot! Get it done!

The early bird . . . .


Well, you know!


To add urgency and exasperation to the question, it was not uncommon in my growing up years to hear it said like this:

So, what are you waiting for . . . CHRISTMAS?!

Well, yes, exactly. I’m waiting for Christmas!

And you?

Mary’s waiting . . . waiting with expectant mothers everywhere (uncomfortably? Impatiently?) for this child to finally be fully formed and born! She and they are wondering:

What, child, are you waiting for?!

Joseph’s waiting . . . waiting for this child to be born, as the biblical account tells us, before he and Mary must trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. It won’t be easy with a newborn, but its sure going to complicate matters if she is still awaiting the birth which might happen anywhere along the arduous route:

What, little one, are you waiting for?!

You and I are waiting . . . waiting for the promised coming again of the Savior who will once and for all break down the dividing walls, establish the reign of God, and be crowned “Prince of Peace” in a place called “Shalom”:

What, Jesus, are you waiting for?!

And God hears the edge of impatience in the waiting. God knows the longing and expectancy that accompany the long wait. And, God, smiles as God guards in God’s own heart the thought: “You have no idea how long I have waited for you. You have no sense of the depth of my own longing and expectancy for you to come home to me. How often I would have gathered you, but you would not. I invite you to peace and joy and hope and love, every day, EVERY CHRISTMAS!”

What, my children, are you waiting for?!

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.

–Isaiah 30:18

Spiritual Practice: Pay attention to your longings. What are you waiting for? Dwell deeply in God’s longing for you.

The Slow Work of God

by Shandra Newcom

“Trust in the slow work of God.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

When I was pregnant with my son, 15 years ago, I found myself in a place of waiting. I was waiting for him to grow and waiting for him to be born. It took all I had to discover the patience within that allowed me to wait with anticipation and promise.

I like things to happen quickly. I’m a fast reader, thinker, and mover. But being pregnant brought with it a slowing down that really forced me to wait for the time to be right. I learned that I could live into a place of patience and soon enough, my child was born. And, of course, he was worth the wait.

I think I’ve learned to move quickly, from a culture that teaches us that individualism and self-concern are primary. If I move fast I don’t have to pay attention to people around me who may be suffering, who may be in pain. I can walk or drive by folks on street corners, look away when I pass someone in tears, not engage when someone wants to tell their story in a way that asks me to stop and listen. I can live in my own little world, safely insulated from the cares and concerns of others who may need something from me. And safely insulated from the relationships they offer when I realize that I need something from them too. There’s a back and forth, a give and take that I miss when I breeze through life. The way to experience deep and abiding love in relationship is through time and commitment to community.

The culture in which I live tries to keep me from this deep well of engagement. I feel the need to have an encounter with the Divine but I’m taught to look for that feeling of peace in the stuff I buy or the things I think I need. But what I don’t need is more stuff, more things, more ways to ignore the real lives of those around me, more ways to ignore myself. I can surround myself, insulate myself, with stuff and I will still be lonely, still desire communion with God, still feel empty.

God comes in the quiet times, the times when things do not have a hold on you. God comes in the waiting moments, the times when you pause and pray. God comes in the patient listenings, the times you open to peace and hear with your whole heart.

And this is not a quick fix for the problems you carry within you. This is not a sudden departure from concern or pain. This is a window into peace that brings patience and hope. This is a waiting for a birth that promises to be transforming.

We can’t jump there from here. We can’t skip over the journey. We can’t buy our way into the story. Our stuff won’t get us there quicker. In fact, the opposite is true. We must wait and walk together. We must stop and listen to each other. We must be counter-cultural and ask more questions than we give answers. We must give away the stuff that surrounds our heart and keeps us from feeling deeply, no matter if that stuff is what we bought at the store or gathered from our past or built on our own.

The slow work of God is leading us to new life. In patience we find promise. Our birthing pangs point us to possibility. Let us wait and slow down so that we will not miss anything. Let us join together to live this process in community so that all will be welcomed. Let us be together on the journey, stripped bare of the trappings of the season and filled with the heart of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Approach prayer with the intention of patiently listening. Allow yourself to simply be present to God in the silence.