Waiting in December
by Karen Simons
Scenes of Advent: A Review
1) Mary in her room, poor girl,
startled by that angel—
he a-blaze with light and flowing robes,
she a-flutter and afraid until
he speaks his calming words.
You will bear a child (he says), son of the Almighty.
He will save his people from their sins.
2) Sometime later, equanimity regained,
Mary goes to see her cousin,
Old Elizabeth. She also has
a miracle to share: the child
of her old age will become the Baptist, John,
the voice in the desert proclaiming,
“Make straight the way of the Lord.”
He’ll end with his head on a platter,
but now, now he leaps in recognition
of the Lord, though both are yet unborn.
Then Mary sings her song,
the one we call “Magnificat”:
My soul will magnify the Lord (she sings).
He’s turned things upside-down:
He’s chosen me;
He defends the weak and the poor;
He sends the hungry rich away.
3) People stumbling around in darkness.
It’s a terrible place to be born,
the world of Augustus Caesar.
He calls himself a prince, invents the Pax Romana
(concerning which, a later Roman looking back said this:
They created a desert and called it peace).
Augustus says, “All the peoples must be counted,”
so Mary and Joseph head for Bethlehem.
And it’s a terrible time to be born,
the time of Herod in Judea.
He’s got a little power to protect,
and he’ll kill babies if he has to.
4) Eucatastrophe, a sudden turn, good news:
a rose blooms in the desert,
a shoot springs forth from the branch of Jesse,
angels sing to lonely shepherds—
But not quite yet.
We’re back here in Advent,
back here waiting with the world and Mary,
waiting in the desert and the darkness,
waiting for the rose, the birth, the light.
For what does Christmas mean
without the waiting?
Or the coming of the child
without the world he was born into?
A Blessing for Advent
Strange how one word will so hollow you out. But this word
has been in the wilderness for months. Years.
This word is what remained after everything else was worn away by sand and stone. It is what withstood the glaring of sun by day, the weeping loneliness of the moon at night.
Now it comes to you racing out of the wild, eyes blazing and waving its arms, its voice ragged with desert but piercing and loud as it speaks itself again and again:
It may feel like the word is leveling you, emptying you as it asks you to give up what you have known.
It is impolite and hardly tame, but when it falls upon your lips you will wonder at the sweetness,
like honey that finds its way into the hunger you had not known was there.
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons