Advent, Time of Waiting

Andrea_Mantegna_The_Adoration_of_the_Shepherds

At Advent we remind ourselves that once upon
a time there was despair, and we remember
hopelessness, for we were tethered to the law.
Errors came with penalties; forgiveness was a
hit-or-miss affair. We paid the price for lovelessness;
we died inside and knew not how we might revive
or where new life resided… and the promises of
Jesus Christ were just a rumor then, confusion in
the holy scriptures as to heaven, hell, and who
could earn salvation by obedience and birthright…
till one night there came a star, and who do you
suppose were chosen to perceive its consequence
but three nomadic Zoroastrians and scattered
shepherds—not the proud, the arrogant, or even
the religious. God implanted into humble hearts
the certainty that victory required not swords and
shields but purity. Freedom had arrived not on a
charger but an ass, not in a palace but a stable,
where the baby born of Mary slept unwitting in a
manger.

We’d do well to not forget the time of waiting, not
be careless of this annual anticipation, not dismiss
the lesson that began when shepherds and the
three wise men were chosen to behold Christ’s
coming, God with us, Emmanuel… lest we be
deceived into believing power emanates from
mighty arms instead of gentle spirits, guided by
compassion, mercy, holy love, firm faith to find our
peace on earth and life eternal in the indestructible
embrace of God.

Advent Hymn 2

magi

Waiting, we are waiting, for the wonder of his birth—
the child sent down from Heaven bringing peace to all the earth;
the one who will teach happiness, kindness, humility;
the savior who would die for us and set our spirits free.

Singing, we are singing, for the child who is to come—
our hymns of gladness ringing as we hail the holy one.
We join the joyful chorus—angels, shepherds in the hills
who gathered ‘neath his star on high, the star we follow still.

Journeying, we journey like the magi from afar
who like the lowly shepherds took direction from the star.
They knew the ancient prophecy whose time had come to pass.
We travel like the three wise men to know God’s child at last.

Praying, we are praying that we have the eyes to see
and ears to hear his message of salvation. May we be
as eager as the humble shepherds and the noble kings
to celebrate the baby’s birth and with the angels sing:

Alleluia! Amen. As the planet holds its breath.
This is the final battle, yielding vict’ry over death
by one child’s birth; the day is won, all glorious, all joy.
Now wait with us—his time is near—the little baby boy.

Anticipating Dawn

before-sunrise-pixabay

I have been a stranger in a strange land,
where my compass failed and every step was
labored and directionless. I prayed; I listened;
you said, Come out of the shadows. Barely
visible above a silhouetted slope, a gold-red
sliver broke the firmament, restored my
equilibrium, and gave me hope. Because I
asked, you spoke. Because you showed me
heaven’s glorious awakening, I promised, I will
follow you.
Before the sun went down, I had
forgotten all of it, and even now, beset by
doubts, I wander off, disoriented, lost. Again
you take my hand and lead me from a
treacherous and twisted path onto a high,
straight, sunlit road. Friends wait, you say,
hospitably at this day’s journey’s end. And so it
is that to my left are shade at noontime and a
place to rest, and to my right, a dozen steps
beyond, fresh water gushes from a spring
between two ancient moss-clad stones. In you
I lack for nothing; I have all I need. With you
beside me, I am not alone. I lean upon your
strength; it never stumbles. Night holds neither
mystery nor terror, though the moon is dark,
the stars dim. At the cusp of morning, redbirds
interrupt the silence with their song, and
poplars and acacias whisper, Carry on—
anticipating dawn.

Amen.