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.
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
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?
Light
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.
Colors
Tinsel
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.
Christ
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
Christmas
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

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.

 

We are all waiting in the dark.
dark
Waiting for results,
Waiting for change,
Waiting for healing.
Waiting for
Something.
We often believe that we are waiting in the light.
deceitful
We deceive ourselves into believing that we are not truly waiting at all.
false
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.
hope
This hope whispers that all of your waiting is pregnant with promise.
promise
This hope arrived once before.
This hope arrived silently, in the dark.
joy
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.
waiting
Keep waiting with joy.

all photographs copyright Made Sacred 2018

This Flickering Hope

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.

 

 

O Come
Flame
We cry out and we plead
O Come
Flickering
We need You. We hope for You.
O Come
Hope
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.
Emmanuel
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.
Emmanuel.
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.
Hope

This Industrious Advent

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.

 

It is a quiet hush, this advent, but a hush that is expectant.
hush
It is a silent waiting, this advent, but a waiting that is heavy.
waiting
It is the upraised conductor’s baton before the explosive opening salvo.
advent
Don’t let the quiet waiting deceive you. The very idea of the God who spoke light into existence becoming an eyeless embryo swimming in the dark of a womb is astounding.
Don’t let the season itself distract you. The caroling and feasting, the decorating and gifting, it all tries to smother the startling significance of advent.
bling
Candy cane 2We must try to “restore that quietness, that inner peace, that willingness to wait unfulfilled in the dark, in the midst of a season that conspires to do nothing but fling bling and tinsel at us right through December.” ~ Malcolm Guite
Find your quiet moments and stay focused.
quiet
Advent celebrates a visitation to our world. A visitation that will happen again.
The visitation of our God upon this little planet of ours happened once and will happen again and we are to work to bring it about.
It is not a passive waiting. It is a heavy and expectant waiting. A waiting into which we are welcomed.
That is why, behind all our fun and games at Christmastime, we should not try to escape a sense of awe, almost a sense of fright, at what God has done…Nothing can alter the fact that we live on a visited planet. ~ J. B. Phillips
This advent is a waiting in which we are to pray and work for the spreading of God’s kingdom, for His will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
This advent is a waiting in which we are to be awake and alert so that His coming will not be a horror to us but an unending joy.
It is a quiet hush, this advent, but a hush that is focused.
It is a silent waiting, this advent, but a waiting that is industrious.
advent
E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

All photographs copyright Made Sacred 2017

Living in the Dark

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.
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
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?
Light
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.
Colors
Tinsel
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.
Christ
Settle into the knowing of how desperately we need Christmas, how desperately we need God-with-us.
Our Father promised that Christmas would come
Christmas
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

Longing and Hoping He Will Come

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.

 

Advent is a time of waiting. A time of light and of dark, a holy season of expectancy.
Come
Come
Advent means arrival and we are waiting for your arrival, oh Light of the world.
We sing our beautiful songs of longing and of hope and we pray that you will come.
Come
Come
Kings and prophets of old prayed, Come!
All my life, I have prayed, Come!
Yet has humanity gotten any closer to you in these thousands of years of our existence?
Have I gotten any closer to you in my few decades of life?
Or is the distance to you always the same no matter how far we travel?
When our bleeding feet have apparently covered a part of the distance to your eternity, don’t you always retreat twice as far away from us, into the immense reaches filled only by your infinite being?
You tell us that you have already come, once upon a time, as a baby in the straw. You tell us that you have come, have settled in among us and shared our drab and ordinary lives, but to be honest, it is hard to see you in this place.
Come
Come
To be honest, your arrival often feels more like a departure.
You came as you promised, but you did not change our poor and finite sort of life as you lived it. Instead, you became like us in every regard.
You lived every moment carefully, not letting any sort of torment slip from your cupped hands. You felt deeply every drop of this life and suffered it all, right to the bleeding end.
You, too, felt death coming for you, steadily, relentlessly. You, too, when you looked up to the One who is called Father, begging for comfort in your pain and dread, were met with deafening silence.
Is this why you came? Is this birth in Bethlehem and death on Golgotha the coming that is to redeem all of us from our human misery? Are we to be comforted simply because you also wept and met your end?
Come
No, now I begin to understand that we sing and pray this Come of hope and longing because you are still in the process of your coming. Your appearance as part of the very dirt you created was only the beginning of your coming.
You chose to rescue us from our misery by taking on our very misery and bringing it to the triumphant ending we could not have found. You alone are able to take the cross we all bear and change it into a triumphant banner of victory.
It is said you will come again, but again is misleading. It is said that you will appear again, and perhaps this is a better way of understanding because you have never really gone away. In all of our human existence you have never left us.
Come
Behold, you come. Now it is still the one single hour of your Advent, at the end of which we too shall have found out that you have really come. O God who is to come, grant me the grace to live now, in the hour of your Advent, in such a way that I may merit to live in your forever, in the blissful hour of your eternity.

~ all quotes are from Karl Rahner (1904-1984), German Jesuit priest and theologian. Many of the ideas in this essay are also from him.

Be Still

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.

 

Be still.
Be Still
Wait.
Wait
Be still and wait for God.
Wait for God
Be still and wait for God to come.
God will come
Advent is waiting and so we become still while we wait for Him to come down and rescue us.
We pause in our fighting and our striving, we rest from our grieving and our mourning, we stop to breathe in our busyness and our too much.
Just for a moment.
It doesn’t take any of it away. Yet.
But we become still like Moses with the Red Sea before and the Egyptian army after and we wait for God to fight for us.
We who have lived with the pain for far too long, we who have just received the phone call and sit at our kitchen table in stunned silence, we who can’t see how we will put one foot in front of the other much less get up from our beds in the morning, we who hide in our closets and weep our wracking sobs while we rock back and forth,
God comes
just for one moment we become still.
We remember that God is and that He is fighting for us.
God fights for us
It doesn’t solve or heal any of it. Yet.
But it will.
God will heal us
Oh, how it will.
We become still and we wait for Emmanuel. We wait for Emmanuel, God-with-us, to come down.
We wait in this season and we wait in this life for our Emmanuel to come down and fight and make it all okay again.
So for just a moment, take a breath and remember how He already did this once to show us that He will do it again.
He is with us
Be still.
Emmanuel
Wait.

edited from the archives

Mary’s Soul

There is a stillness and a hush.
Stillness
There are words that shred her heart.
It is after the man of light, speaking words of miracle.
It is after the shepherds of dirt, speaking visions of angel army chorales.
It is after the star of God, shining spotlight on her baby.
It is after the scholars of heavens, laying rich treasures down.
Nativity
There is the temple and the sacrifice and the consecration of a baby.
There is a man who raises hands and speaks words of praise to God.
There are words that shred her heart.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
There is a stillness and a hush.
And ever after, she lives and follows Him, trusting that God will keep His promises. She is faithful in her trust.
Three Crosses
And she stands at the foot of a cross, watching her innocent child as He is brutally tortured and murdered. As He is pierced with a sword.
And her own soul is pierced as well.
It cannot have made any sense at all.
The murder of innocents never does. Death itself never does.
There is a cross.
Cross
There is ugliness and pain and sorrow and grief.
There is beauty and rescue and hope and the promise of life for all time.
There is faithfulness and trust in a God Who keeps His promises. Always.
In the stillness and the hush,
Hush
In the joy of angels singing
Joy
as well as in the piercing of your own soul,

Pieta

Trust in our God whose Word never fails.
I pray for a joyful New Year for all of you, worshiping the God who makes all things beautiful in His time.
Beautiful Christmas
art credits: snow photo by Kirk Sewell; The Nativity by Correggio; The Three Crosses by Rembrandt; Cross photo by Asta Rastauskiene; Annunciation to the Shepherds by Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem; Pieta by Michaelangelo; Advent wreath photos by Elizabeth Giger

Be Still and Wait

Be still.
Be Still
Wait.
Wait
Be still and wait for God.
Wait for God
Be still and wait for God to come.
God will come
Advent is waiting and so we become still while we wait for Him to come down and rescue us.
We pause in our fighting and our striving, we rest from our grieving and our mourning, we stop to breathe in our busyness and our too much.
Just for a moment.
It doesn’t take any of it away. Yet.
But we become still like Moses with the Red Sea before and the Egyptian army after and we wait for God to fight for us.
We who have lived with the pain for far too long, we who have just received the phone call and sit at our kitchen table in stunned silence, we who can’t see how we will put one foot in front of the other much less get up from our beds in the morning, we who hide in our closets and weep our wracking sobs while we rock back and forth,
God comes
just for one moment we become still.
We remember that God is and that He is fighting for us.
God fights for us
It doesn’t solve or heal any of it. Yet.
But it will.
God will heal us
Oh, how it will.
We become still and we wait for Emmanuel. We wait for Emmanuel, God-with-us, to come down.
We wait in this season and we wait in this life for our Emmanuel to come down and fight and make it all okay again.
So for just a moment, take a breath and remember how He already did this once to show us that He will do it again.
He is with us
Be still.
Emmanuel
Wait.

Small is Sacred

These feel like frightening times. The world at large keeps crashing into my small frame of reference.
Burning
Crashing
It doesn’t feel as though I can do anything against the hatred, fear, and violence that keeps cropping up all around us.
Violence
Part of my helpless feeling comes from my own world currently being very small.
My world
Full of littles
My days revolve around nursing babies, napping toddlers, and newly-become elementary students.
What I have to give, what I have to offer to stem this dark tide is small.
Our season in life leaves little room for discretionary income and time.
Hard season
I wonder if anything I do makes much difference.
In this season of Advent, this season of preparing ourselves for the biggest Gift of all, the gifts that I bring to our God, to our world, seem insignificant, tiny.
Leaving my own book to read one more story aloud? Trifling.
Baking cookies to give to our neighbors? Inconsequential.
Giving up a meal out to purchase toys for a toy drive? Insufficient.
Yet as I read still another version of the Christmas Story to my girls I am reminded that an act does not have to be big to be sacred.
Small
Small acts of kindness to those I know, small smiles and gentle words in passing to those who seem different from us, small gifts to strangers are all as sacred and beautiful as the act of preaching to thousands.
Light
You don’t have to have endless resources to be able to change the world.  You don’t have to accomplish something enormous to let a glimpse of light in to the darkness.
After all, what is Advent but the remembrance that it was the smallest, most fragile gift of all that was sacred enough to change our world forever.
Smallest Gift