Advent 2012 (Third Monday)


I reserve Mondays for poetry, but, truthfully, I keep opening books and closing them again. The loss of so many children and their teachers is too heavy, and I have no poem for you today.

My head is bursting with words I want to share: words of anger, words of lament. But I think it better to follow the example of Job’s companions: “they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:13).

Instead of writing, I’ve been listening. Mostly to this song. It asks a question I can’t get out of my head: is love alive? Some part of my mind is sure of the answer, but most of me is anything but sure.

We are approaching the longest night of the year. We’ve known it was coming, but we didn’t know how dark it would be.

The pace of advent requires that we walk through the darkness. There can be no Christmas without this long, long night. For me, it means sitting with my questions and my tears, without reaching for answers too soon.

Advent 2012 (Second Thursday)

st. lucia


(This post was originally published last year.)


It is St. Lucia’s Day, the day the poet John Donne called “the year’s midnight.” It is a short, dark day even here in Florida, thanks to a windy, rainy nor’easter.

The firstborn and I are determined to mark the day as they would in Sweden. Whether this is because of our drop of shared Swedish blood, or because we are firstborn girls, I’m not sure. But, we do it.

We make a crown: soft wool felt for the evergreen leaves, battery-powered candles for the light. She lays out a white nightgown and red ribbon sash while I set her alarm clock. She’s never used an alarm clock, and I must show her three times how to turn it off. She practices her lines for me one more time: “St. Lucia invites you to breakfast!”

We forego the traditional saffron buns, but the gingerbread cookie replacements are prepped and waiting on a tray.

“Goodnight, Lucy/Lily,” I say, as I shut her bedroom door on the eve of Lucy’s day.

Tiptoeing through the dark hallway, straining my eyes to avoid the Lego casualties scattered across the tile, I remember how dark my days were before this girl. Those days of praying and waiting and living without.

I remember, too, how bright the full moon was that winter night when I first knew that she was on her way. Nine years ago it was a bright light of answered prayer, of hopes fulfilled.

It is winter again. I know now that when the days are short and the nights are long, the only right way to see ahead is to look back.

So, I look back and remember: “… weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” Psalm 30:5.


st. lucia


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Advent 2012 (Second Tuesday)

in lancaster county, pa


I drive around and keep hearing these words from Christina Rossetti’s Christmas poem: “in the bleak midwinter.” They seem to fit the landscape this time of year.

Bare trees. White barns. Grey silos. Black laundry flapping on the clothesline at every Amish farm.

I’m trying to figure out why I love it so much. Why does this place feel like home when the palm trees and turquoise water of a backyard-pool never did?

I love the melancholy, the shadowy, the bittersweet. Hot tea, dark chocolate, sad songs. Always have.

It may sound as if I love darkness, but I don’t actually think that’s the truth.

I love the light, but light always shows up best in a dark room. Candlelight. Starlight. The light of a full moon. It is as if we must have both light and darkness together, side by side, in order to glimpse the Story.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

That is a very good story (and I love a good story most of all).


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Advent 2012 (First Sunday)

reaching for light


A prayer for the first Sunday of Advent:


Father in heaven, you came to earth in the person of your Son, Jesus Christ. …

Fill, we pray you, our every moment with his threefold advent. As then he came and now he comes and will one day come again, awaken us to the then and now and one day of his presence in this present moment. As we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, may all our time be clothed by eternity until we find ourselves at last in the home you have prepared for seekers and searchers who, in our seeking and searching, were hopelessly lost. Give us, we pray, the grace to surrender to being found.

This we ask in the name above every name, the name of Jesus Christ.

Amen. Let it be.


–     from a prayer by Richard John Neuhaus, God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas


Read Advent 2011 (Day 1) here.


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