I know this day well, have often lived here,
yet rarely for good reason, only
the wounded pride of disappointment,
the failure of God to sate expectations.
Licking my wounds, embalming my life goals,
I sit beneath a Jonah tree and await the explosion.
Nothing comes, only Sabbath:
the time for waiting, for preparing spice and oil,
ready to have all expectation
destroyed and rearranged.
I missed a day. Too busy with carols and attempts
to put my son to sleep, I slept
that second Advent Sabbath night
forgetting to rest, forgetting to write.
Rest slips past us now. Today I forgot also
to drink water, to eat. Now waiting
in queues I regret this forgetting.
The time we save now we pay later in kind;
rushing heart never won, only pounded.
What now? I sit thirsty, side-by-side in this waiting,
social security numbers like Augustus’s census,
no room anywhere. Wait,
weak heart, wait.
I go to prepare a place for you.
We do too;
with unsure anticipation, we make a space
atop the stairs, with bunting and books
and animals on the walls,
a cot, tiny clothes,
a place for your toys.
We also prepare
our days, our thoughts.
They too make space
for the big rearrange,
this reordering of selves,
this exchanging of grace.
We sweep out old cobwebs, air out stale pride.
Not only our home
but our hearts must be fit.
We prepare a space for you.
While eternity yawns its welcoming wait,
our big brother making a place for us too,
checking the time, vacuuming floors,
eagerly listening to knocks at the door…
Does my heart have room too
for eternity’s home?
We wait. We are waited for.
Time to make room.
The taste of hospitals and airports says:
You are here
under whatever circumstances,
no doubt stressed.
Have a coffee.
No-one will care if you cry;
everyone is going somewhere different
Everyone is crying or dazed,
on edge yet kept
in secure wards
or waiting gates,
in comfy chairs.
Anything could happen, and
everything is happening. This
is the taste, the smell
of hospitals and airports, just
like churches should all be.
Some will sit as though nothing’s new,
staring at the constant sky.
I confess that I’ve done so too
and held the lie.
Some will wait for what does not come
and think that waiting is divine.
Some will fall and some will run
until the time.
Yet in the terminal of souls
a voice cries out. What does it cry?
“Don’t you know?” it calls and calls.
Some will reply.
…as if He were a seed in our garden,
or a small flash of light for our pupil,
He shone forth and diffused and filled the earth.
(Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns for the Nativity)
Days crack like soil.
In the parts of the world where summer parches
we wait like potholes for the rain.
December’s slow refrain is singing
songs that speak of joy. Repeat
the sound of joy, though it may cloy
against the tune of years. We see
the line of kings; the throne, the rings
disappoint. The crown is twisted;
what can grow between these thorns?
A king, smaller than a seed
and vaster than the spheres.
One candle grows short, a second descends,
And three others wait for the rising of light.
Wicks burn down and dwindle, yet hope still appends
The longing of prayers in the slow Advent night.
In the day, though the shouting of sun may shut out
The lamenting of captives, yet watch in the night,
For Advent is slowing: our rushing, our doubt,
Yes, Advent is dwindling – right down to the quick –
And Advent is hoping, and looking, though sight
Is obscured, and deferred hope makes the heart sick.
Advent is finding new candles to light:
When the length of the waiting diminishes cheer,
The light still will flicker, to shut out all fear.