December 2016 Advent

Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.  We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.  We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.  We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.  We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.  We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.  To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus.” Amen. -Henri Nouwen

Sometimes in life we need some roadside assistance.

The lives of multi-tasking, high-functioning folks are sometimes ripe for some gentle roadside assistance.  Take a moment to truly hear the message of the prophets during this season of Advent; it is God’s promise for some roadside assistance to his children who are always “dead set” – no pun intended – upon having things go their own way.  Who have set their minds and their hearts on things earthly rather than heavenward.

There is hardly a recipe more suited for hurt feelings and failed expectations than the holidays.  We are haunted by the easy magic of childhood, haunted by thoughts of those who have loved us into being, haunted by prayers offered at the height of what we have known as spiritual mountaintops; anticipation, expectation, and the warm, golden dust of nostalgia and longing, all mixed to fill our hearts with a yearning that might be a bit much for mortal life to bear.

And so we become fraught, fragile, and delicate in our holiday dispositions.  Many of us will find our hearts breaking just a bit when the retail organ grinder plays the songs we know so well.  Most of us will find that we need some divine roadside assistance.

During Advent the Church plays the soundtrack that no one else is playing.  She does not do the smart and savvy thing of becoming hip to the culture, and a garnish for those who are unsure about “the reason for the season.”  Rather, she bravely retains that high, long, pure note of truth; a truth spoken in love.  Over and over the voice from our holy place speaks of waiting, praying, and bowing in humility because the great and important thing has not yet happened.

The easy thing is to have our dessert first.  The easy thing is to agree with Old Blue Eyes and “Have Ourselves A Merry Little Christmas”; or sail away with my personal favorite, Andy Williams, into “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” without hearing the word of God before the old has truly ended, and the new truly begun.

During the season of Advent, the Church in her wisdom gives us permission to safely fall apart, and fall away, from unrealistic expectations that we place upon ourselves and others as we wait for The Nativity.  We are allowed some roadside assistance to help us find what is important during this season.

“Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
"Be strong, do not fear!” – Isaiah 35.3-4


The lessons from the prophets during Advent stare through me, and all of the cul de sacs where I would rather spend my precious holiday coins; they are like the pine straw persistently and gently looking at me from the yard that must be cleared, regardless of all of the “better things” needing to be done in the midst of my fabulous and high-functioning merry-making.

Some days walking into the holy space to hear the prophet’s message is like putting down the ping-pong paddle, putting down the banjo and guitar, turning off “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and trudging toward the wall where the rakes are stored, and hearing myself say – “Jesus . . .”

And sometimes, sometimes, because God is good even in the midst of our momentary emptiness and poverty, I find myself resigned but smiling inside.  As the straw is piled and carried away, I may say to myself, and to another who seems nearby, “Come Lord Jesus, Come . . .”

“Into this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.”
Thomas Merton