Days of Advent, Seasons

Advent Day 25: The Longest Night …

The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!
— Apollon Maykov

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.
— Jan Richardson (author of Circle of Grace)

Keep Awake

Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.
— Mark 13:33–37

Jesus tells us again to stay awake. “Keep alert”! That’s how we’re supposed to wait. He’s saying: As you wait for me, be about the things I’ve told you to be about. Love, care for one another. Be alert to one another’s needs. Be peacemakers and reconcilers and healers. Be ready to pray and rest in my presence. Savor life and don’t put it off—because I am with you here and now.

We sometimes use the term “wake-up call.” We usually mean some kind of close call or crisis. But it doesn’t have to be a crisis or near-death experience. Anything can be a wake-up call. Anything can call us to be present in a new way, to savor, to find God.

Anything can call us to prayer: a family gathering around a dinner table, or a sunset, or a good conversation with a friend, or a call or an e-mail from someone with whom we had lost contact—or even eating an orange. They are all like the church bells that once called people in a village to pray.

Advent is one of those wake-up calls, one of those bells ringing. We need to let Advent call us to prayer, to the present.
— Mark A. Villano from Time to Get Ready

Winter Solstice

Today marks the winter solstice. The longest night of the year. It’s a time of transition—of darkness versus light, of the depths of winter against the promise of the coming spring.

For you, this is the darkest of days. It is the longest of nights. And on this day, the coming spring seems too far away.

In the words of Robert Frost, you have been one acquainted with the night.

You have walked out in rain, and back in rain.

You have out-walked the furthest city light.

You have looked down the saddest city lane.

You may have felt compelled to remain in the darkness. And that would have been easy to understand.

Yet you have chosen to move forward, when it would have been easier to turn from this tragedy, to seek peace in a more private way.

Instead, you have chosen to not let evil hold the field… 

We must always seek truth and justice, no matter how long it takes, and no matter where that search might take us.

We must work together, here at home and around the world, to ensure that our citizens, our communities, and our families are safe and sound.

And we must live without fear, as we work toward a future that is free from hatred and violence.

There is no doubt that you have been one acquainted with the darkest of nights. But the darkest night brings the brightest stars.

A single star can both defy and define the darkness. And a sky full of stars can cast the most breathtaking glow, rendering the once- terrifying darkness but a backdrop for truth and beauty, lighting the way to everything that is real and lasting.

You have chosen that light.

You have insisted on being that light in our darkness.

— James B. Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation from Commemoration of the Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, Arlington National Cemetery (December 21, 2015)


I Will Light Candles this Christmas

I will light Candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,

Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
— Howard Thurman from The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations

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(photo credit)