A Season of Right Doubt

Christmas is hard when your world is full of doubt.
When the world’s darkness seems to encircle the pinpricks of real light, your eyes squint tight against the harsh-colored glow;
your ears are cotton-shielded against the dissonant jangle of happiness and cheer.
Christmas is jarring when your life is full of darkness.
Elizabeth Jennings, in her poem November Sonnet, writes “This is the season of right doubt/While that elected child waits to be born.”
The season of right doubt.
Do you know that there is such a thing?
season of right doubt
“Right doubt” is, in part, what this season of Advent is about.
There is a rightness about searching and uncertainty. Nature reflects God’s truth, and so this rightness is reflected in the seasonal increasing of the cold and the dark.
We do, after all, see darkly and in a mirror, so we should never feel too certain about every aspect of this mystery who is God.
We can know, of course, that God is Love, but what does Love look like? What does Love do? How does Love act?
a good uncertainty
It can be good to let go of all your certainty and surrender to what is unknown and unsure.
It can be good to let go of your need for knowing and controlling all the answers.
The darkness has been defeated but has not yet been banished.
Death does not get the final word, but it has not yet been muted.
It is good and right to feel the weight of Advent, the weight of not yet,
the weight of our waiting.
There is a doubt that is good and proper. A right doubt.
Yet never forget that the Christ child was born and because he was born, because God fulfilled his first promise, we can be certain that he will fulfill the rest of his promises.
The Light will come again.
“Tall shadows step and strut/Facing the big wind daily coming on/Faster. This is the season of right doubt/While that elected child waits to be born.” ~ Elizabeth Jennings
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Art credits: Christmas photos by Kirk Sewell; Nativity by Charles Le Brun; all other photos copyright 2020 Made Sacred

When Advent Gives Way

I want to hear from God.
I want to see luminous brilliance,
be brought to my knees by incomparable glory,
hear divine language thunder loud.
I want King on white horse, sword in fist, charging in to right all my wrongs.
What I receive is a soft, still voice deep inside.
What I receive is minor light,
a golden leaf to seize my senses,
a tune to haul up my heart.
What I receive is Baby in manger, dimpled fists, slipping in quietly to die for all my wrongs.
In this world God is mostly still hidden, coming to us in glimpse and slant.
The veil is torn but not torn away.
We see in mirror but not in full.
We dwell in dawnlight but not in brilliant sun.
So we wait for one day (soon, I hope?) when Advent gives way to Arrival.

We Are Waiting and Longing for Advent

We are a people who, more than usual this year, realize that we are living in darkness.
We are longing for a glimmer of light.
We are waiting, holding our breath, for the promised light to appear.
This is Advent.
A longing for God to come.
A waiting for God to fulfill his promises as creator God and covenant God.
What has God promised?
He has promised to come to us, to rescue us from sin and death, to make us his perfect and holy people.
In a way, we have been in Advent for months.
We have been waiting and longing for God to come down and fix this, fix us, clean up this mess we’ve made.
In a way, we have been living in Advent our whole lives.
In this season of Advent, we wait for Christmas. We practice and imagine waiting as Israel waited for hundreds of years for Messiah. Savior.
How do we know that God will keep his promise? We have waited so long.
We know that God will keep his promise because he kept it once before.
Messiah came. He came and he defeated sin and death and now we can know that God keeps his promises.
And so we keep Advent this year, especially this year, to remind ourselves that God keeps his promises.
One day he will come again and rescue us and set things right for all time. He will come and we will be his people and he will be our God.
He will come and give us the best gift of all.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

all photographs are copyright Made Sacred 2020

O Antiphons

The O Antiphons are a sequence of seven Advent prayers written in the first centuries of the Church. These prayers call on Christ to come, addressing Him not as Jesus, for in Advent the Messiah has not yet appeared, but by titles given Him in the Old Testament.
The poet Malcom Guite has written seven sonnets in response to the seven O Antiphons. I am going to share two of them here with you today. The first is O Clavis, O Key, and the second is O Oriens, O Dayspring. The first speaks of the darkness of our humanity and our need for the Key to unlock our prison; the second speaks of the rising Morning Star that will come to illuminate all our darkness.
Linger over these. Read them slowly. Read them again. Let the Key, let the Morning Star speak to you in the stillness.
advent waiting
O Clavis
Even in the darkness where I sit
And huddle in the midst of misery
I can remember freedom, but forget
That every lock must answer to a key,
That each dark clasp, sharp and intricate,
Must find a counter-clasp to meet its guard,
Particular, exact and intimate,
The clutch and catch that meshes with its ward.
I cry out for the key I threw away
That turned and over turned with certain touch
And with the lovely lifting of a latch
Opened my darkness to the light of day.
O come again, come quickly, set me free
Cut to the quick to fit, the master key.
advent light
O Oriens
First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced
The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.
Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace
In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling:
‘Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream
For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking.’
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

The Deepest of Darkness

There is much darkness in our world.
It is tempting to believe it will always be so.
The darkness feels thick, impossible to escape.
We see glimmers of light here and there, glimpses of what should be, but the darkness continues to prevail.
Yet once in time, Light entered our world, and we who walk in darkness saw His face.
Light came
Light came for a time,
then He left, returning to the Father, leaving the darkness unchanged.
The same hatred, the same selfishness, the same desire to be God,
it all fills the earth just as much as it did before the Light was made flesh and dwelt among us.
Yet something has changed.
The quality of the darkness has changed somehow. It feels different.
It feels…
There is a frenzied quality to it, as though the darkness is no longer in its fullness, as though the Light who came was only a foretaste of what is to come.
There is much darkness in our world.
Yet the darkness that surrounds us feels now more like the deep darkness that comes just before the inexorable dawn.
glimmers of light
So keep watch.
Keep watch for the glimmers of light all around us.
Be a spark of light in the darkness around you.
No matter how dark the darkness, lift up your head and keep watch.
Morning comes
Morning is just over the horizon.


To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credit: final photograph is by Kirk Sewell; all other photographs are copyright Made Sacred 2019

Face the Waiting

We are all waiting.
For a job.
For a child.
For a result.
For a friend.
We spend, it seems, much of our lives waiting.
When we are waiting, how do we behave?
We fidget, we fuss, we find a distraction.
Very rarely do we stop and embrace the waiting. Very rarely do we still ourselves and contemplate the waiting.
We often avoid leaning in to the waiting because the moment we stare into the face of our unfulfilled waiting, we are overcome with a strange longing.
For what, we are not sure, but there comes to us a lump in our throat, a tightness in our chest, a blinking away of tears.
And so we turn away. We turn to the diversion rather than to the waiting and believe ourselves to be satisfied.
Until we catch another glimpse of the waiting and discover ourselves to be empty.
Advent is a time for us to practice wrapping ourselves in the unfulfilled waiting.
unfulfilled waiting
It is a time for us to practice waiting well.
What does waiting well look like?
It means an active waiting, one that works toward what we are waiting for, just as a gardener waits for his crop of lettuce.
It means a patient waiting, a waiting that trusts in the sure coming of what we are waiting for, just as an astronomer waits for his star to rise.
Returning to our gardener friend who is waiting for his lettuce, it is a waiting that is peaceful, trusting that the waiting is purposeful, that the end depends upon the means.
This is Advent.
waiting well
It is a time for us to still ourselves and gaze straight into our waiting, knowing that even as He came once before, so will He come once again. Knowing that even as He will come again someday, so also does He come to us right now, in little ways, all throughout this in-between time.
In Advent we choose to practice the discipline of bidding welcome to our unfulfilled waiting,
knowing that in the proper time,
our waiting will be fulfilled.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

photographs copyright Made Sacred 2019


Isn’t That Just Like God?

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There is darkness in our world this Christmas.
The news is currently full of war in Syria, a persecuted church in China, scandal at home.
There is, to be awkwardly transparent, darkness in my own self this Christmas.
be still
This has been a difficult year, full of the sorts of occurrences that God often uses to sanctify.
Medical troubles.
Bills resulting from the above.
Sanctification hurts.
As I sit in the darkness, in the stillness, in the waiting that is Advent,
sometimes I don’t want to be sanctified.
Sometimes I desire comfort and more than enough more than I desire to look like Jesus.
When we give our lives to God, He takes us at our word.
All that God desires for us comes steadily on, even when we sometimes would simply rather be left alone.
We think we know what we want.
We think we know what we need.
We think we know what to do to get it.
Especially at Christmas, we think that if we don’t do it, if we settle into the waiting and be still, it won’t get done, whatever it is.
advent waiting
Then God comes down into our darkness and asks us to see ourselves as we truly are:
empty-handed, powerless, dependent on One who refuses to leave us to our own devices.
This is often the way God loves us: with gifts we thought we didn’t need, which transform us into people we don’t necessarily want to be. ~ William Willimon
All of creation groans for redemption.
We are a people walking in darkness,
a people living in a land of great darkness.
we need a light
We are desperate for light, desperate for rescue, and God, in His great mercy, gives us


a baby.
We need a baby
Isn’t that just like God?

All photos copyright Made Sacred 2018

The Darkness of Advent

The final paper for my current master’s class was due this week, so I pray that this post from the archives blesses you. Thank you for your grace.

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.


Christmas begins in the dark.
Advent, this season leading up to Christmas, is for us. It is for we who live in the dark.
This season seems to amplify pain. Those who are lonely feel more lonely, those who are grieving feel their grief more deeply, those who are hurting seem to suffer more.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay not to feel happy this time of year.
After all, Christmas doesn’t mean much if we don’t need it.
Mary understood. Her angel visitation led to a rift between her and her beloved, a painful journey on a donkey, and giving birth next to a chicken.
Even as she clutched her newborn son, she heard the prophecy of a sword piercing her heart and wondered.
Even after her Christmas, her beloved son grew farther and farther away from her, uttering such things as Why would you look for me? Don’t you know I must be about my Father’s business? and, when she came through the crowds to see him, My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.
Yet Mary stayed close. She trusted and held on to her faith in her son no matter how distant he seemed, even when he died. She stayed close. Everywhere we look in the gospels we see Mary, hovering on the outskirts, still showing up, still coming back to her son again and again.
Stay Close
Can we do the same?
Can we hold on to our faith in the Son no matter how distant He seems, even if He seems to be dead?
This world is dark and we live in a continual Advent.
Don’t run away from the bitter-sweetness of this Advent season. You don’t have to pretend to feel joyful.
Don’t hide behind the tinsel and lights. Neither should you ignore the colors completely.
Linger as you abide with the sorrow and the joy, the hurt and the hope that are woven together in this season. Stay close to the Son however far away He may seem.
Settle into the knowing of how desperately we need Christmas, how desperately we need God-with-us.
Our Father promised that Christmas would come
and it came.
Our Father promises that He will come again
and it will be all the more beautiful for having lived through the darkness of Advent.

Art credit: Pieta by Michelangelo; all other photographs copyrighted by Elizabeth Giger

Waiting in the Dark

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We are all waiting in the dark.
Waiting for results,
Waiting for change,
Waiting for healing.
Waiting for
We often believe that we are waiting in the light.
We deceive ourselves into believing that we are not truly waiting at all.
Yet if we will simply be still in the dark,
if we will stop distracting ourselves with stark light,
if we will stop blinding ourselves with hollow sparkle,
there is a hope that whispers.
This hope whispers that all of your waiting is pregnant with promise.
This hope arrived once before.
This hope arrived silently, in the dark.
This hope will come once again.
This hope will come in a blaze of holy light, banishing the darkness forever.
And in this in-between time,
in this already-and-not-yet time,
keep waiting.
Keep waiting with confidence.
Keep waiting with action.
Keep waiting with watchfulness.
Keep waiting with joy.

all photographs copyright Made Sacred 2018

This Flickering Hope

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O Come
We cry out and we plead
O Come
We need You. We hope for You.
O Come
Our hope is a flickering flame.
There are no bonfires of hope in a world like ours, only flames that flicker.
Sometimes our flame flickers so much that it seems, at times, to go out completely.

Hold on

Yet even if the flickering grows faint, hold on. It will not be extinguished altogether.
He promised.
…a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice.
Hold on.
He will come
He promised He will come and set things right.
He is at this moment working through us – through you – to set it right.
His promise was proved by His coming the first time. As a baby.
As Emmanuel.
God with us.
God with us
He established His Word as true by making His Word take on flesh and dwell among us.
God with us.
O Come
O Come
We raise our arms to the heavens in a desperate cry of
O Come
He replies, I did come and I will come again.
Emmanuel has promised.