Advent — December 13, 2017

December 13, 2017 (In A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge two hidden children Want and Ignorance. Beware them, says Christmas — beware Ignorance the most.)

Emmanuel, every hungry child is mine.
Every homeless child is mine.
Every abused child, every child
who has been made ignorant,
full of hate, full of anger is mine.
The murdered child
and the child who murders are mine.

Emmanuel, in this season now –
this very present Christmas –
there is no hiding
behind the manger or the sleigh.

More than the food basket,
the toy drive, the heating oil for winter,
the dresses for the prom …
more than one well dug,
school built, shipment of vaccine,
free dental care, recovery program
and yet including them all,
this one thing is true.

At the intersection
of want and ignorance
a star shines
and there is Bethlehem.

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Advent — December 12 / Dia de Guadelupe

(In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is taken by the Ghost of Christmas Present to see the Christmas Day celebration of his nephew Fred whose invitation he turned down as a waste of time.)

God, forgive me the invitations
I have rejected –
the play that seemed childish,
the food offered and the laughter,
I was too busy to enjoy.

I glimpse you at the rent party,
swinging wildly at a piñata,
willing to be foolish
acting out Christmas carol charades,

in fact, God, you pantomime
an amazing herald angel,
then all the verses of the Huron carol,
then Rudolph.

I am serious, earnest,
and certainly don’t have time for fun.

You help to puff out candles
at a child’s birthday,
while I shop online or send a gift card.

You dance the hokey pokey,
you cookie swap, you celebrate
chosen families.

On this Dia de Guadalupe,
you teach us all
that when we open our lives
they are going to be filled with roses.

(On December 12 many people, especially in Mexico, remember that Juan Diego was invited to open his tilma, his cloak, and received roses and an image of the Lady of Guadalupe.)

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Advent — December 11, 2017

(In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is taken by the Ghost of Christmas Present to witness the unexpected happy Christmas of those he considers unfortunate)

God, show me cratchitt chrismases
all around me.
Show me people who choose joy,
even when I think
they should be miserable.

Sing me carols
in a home during hospice.

Let me watch the gift exchange
in a homeless shelter,
the Skype with a soldier deployed,
the thin bright tinsel-smiles
between parents
holding their babies in NICU,
the way a widow pats the arm
of a young man newly unemployed
at the Blue Christmas service,

the deep-as-santa laughter
in a memory care unit,
a drug rehab,
a California fire evacuation center.

God, you bless us, everyone.
Remind me how blest I am.

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Second Sunday in Advent, December 10, 2017

In this shortest of all Advents, two weeks left, old Dickens and his Christmas Carol seem to be calling me. Such a simple thing — this week learning from the Ghost of Christmas Present. And what would a season with the edge of apocalyptic be without a week with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

God, for Christmas present I give thanks.
I would say Advent present,
and that’s what Dickens means —
for now.

For now.
For the imperfect –
for lop-sided trees, a dead string of lights,
which bulb can it be?
for not being able to fix
someone’s depression or sadness
or alcoholism,
for the news of California fires,
and rocks and rubber bullets
that my country
sent flying in Ramallah.

For now.
For the becoming perfect —
for poems written
in a Virginia church basement,
for an old dog with disc pain
but a wag like the best
bow on a present,
for the people I see this year
and the happy selfies sent
of those far away,
for the smile of the man
ringing the sally bell
outside the supermarket,
and inconvenient beautiful snow.

For now?
For me in this Christmas Present?

Returning the smile,
trying to not be
that burnt out bulb –
so many bulbs depend on me.

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Advent — December 9, 2017

God, for reminders from the past —
the jacob marleys we see in door knockers, the therapy we work with,
inventories we make,
journals we re-visit,
childhood names we “friend,”–
and all the healing they bring,
we thank you.

From our honest knowing
of a family’s brokenness,
a community’s illnesses,
a church’s mistakes,
even the past of our culture
filled with racism and violence –
may we learn.

In the holy long, long ago,
remembered in jumbled fashion
of shepherds and magi,
stable or house,
Mary’s angel, Joseph’s dream –

seen in crèche, sung in carol,
written in scripture,
and re-written in poem, story,
film, pageant –

may we find Bethlehem
that opens our hearts to the world.

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Advent — December 8, 2017, Jerusalem

In a long Christmas past,
three who were wise, three star-followers
went to Jerusalem and they were told –
this is not the place.

In our day, the wisest we have
in this country and others are saying
of Jerusalem –
this is not the place.
Placing authority in this city,
divided by a long histories of struggles,
will endanger so many.

God of mercy,
help us to protect the innocents
of Palestine and Israel. amen.

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Advent wreath for California

God, this year I offer a new Advent wreath.
The circle is your love for people in California
and in each place for a candle,
we pour a cup of water.
The first cup is an easing of wind,
The second cup is care for firefighters.
The third cup is shelter for the evacuated
and the fourth cup rescue for all who fear.

On Christmas Eve I will remember —
the child was born in straw,
to share our vulnerability,
and grew up to give us living water.

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