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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Advent — December 7, 2017

(In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is taken by the Ghost of Christmas Past to remember choosing business success over love and family)

God, if I am visited by
the Ghost of Christmas (Priorities) Past,
I will have some sad moments.

I see myself baking cookies at night,
because doing it with kids
takes so much time,
also picking a tree, making ornaments.

I see myself not playing dreidel,
not reading that silly Christmas mystery,
not walking in the snow
with my dearest love …
cutting my Christmas card list
by those who did not write last year,
without wondering
what happened in their lives.

I have made good choices
at this season of the year and others —
I have not always chosen money,
work, the expectations of others or my own,
over things that truly matter,

but such a Spirit’s visit to the heart
is not about rattling chains of my mistakes,
but about coming to this time
alert, aware,
open to small, sweet, transitory joys,
while I can still say, “I have not missed it.”

“The Spirit of Christmas Past,” scanned from Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol — A Ghost Story of Christmas. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1868. The illustration, based on a wood engraving by Solomon Eytinge, Jr. (1833-1905),

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Guest Post — Christine MacDowall, Australia

Christine MacDowall writes this note  and the following poem. If you want to share some southern hemisphere poetry or liturgy with Christine please send it to And I can send it on … or even post it here if you are willing.

I was born in the northern hemisphere so Advent was always the time of darkening and cold. I have lived in Australia for years and years, and still find myself ‘out of season’ when Advent approaches. My friends and I are using Haphazard into Starlight by Janet Morley for our Advent meditations. This is an anthology of poetry for each day from Advent through to Epiphany, with the northern hemisphere flavour – so we are at the same time seeking southern hemisphere poetry to resonate with the growing light and warmth of our environments here.

Here is an impulsive poem I wrote at the start of Advent – I can’t wait to see how I might become more attuned to the actual landscape and weather Down under.

I come cloaked and hooded to Advent
Against dark and cold
Half-hidden by Gandalf’s grey flowing
Booted and gloved with a watchman’s lantern
Fearful of treacherous ice
Straining to hear against thick folds of worsted
The “Coming!” cry of angels
“Ready or Not!”

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