Prompts for the New Year

Looking for good new year's resolutions? In high school, I had these taped to my closet doors. Some kind of inspiration?



Today, Emily and I drove to Concord. (well, she drove. i sat in the back...) We were depositing our grandfather here, and have now somehow misplaced him. He's around about in his home... and we are wondering where. Dinner later, sleep and back again tomorrow. Tired, back sore, ready for Christmas vacation again.


Christmas Past

So Christmas comes and Christmas goes, and the world the holy child is born to rests, as ever, full of dark so deep that all the Norman bishops in the land with all their candles aren't enough to drive it back an inch.
- from Frederick Buechner's Godric


Christmas Day

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.'
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.'

Luke 2.25-35


fourth tuesday of advent

Come, if you will, on a Friday night,
whether or not I am paying attention.
Break me from my reverie,
rend earth from sea and sea from salt.
Separate the self and shame
showing them two not one,
then name me - the better half -
after yourself, the Son.
Come, if you will, in any form.
Preferably not that of a woman,
lest in my pride I pretend to understand you.
Lion or lamb you have been.
And as man I have loved you
both less and more than I ought -
for love is not an easy word.
Child and criminal the same,
your Spirit a dove and a flame,
water and light and the breath of life,
barefoot, berobed, bejeweled, begot.
Come if you will, appear as you ought -
only stop me in my tracks.
Still the cycle. Break the back of the beast.
Release the wolf from my mind.
Temper the time.
And whether or not it kill me,
show me your face -
swallow me like a seed into your breast
or your belly.
Bury and carry me, embryonic,
with or without rebirth -
only Come.

fourth monday of advent

you gave your body to the lonely


the third friday of advent

An Advent Monologue
by Walter Wangerin Jr.
(I think I posted a segment of this a year or so ago. Here's the whole. If Rev. Wangerin take issue with this posting, I will gladly recall it. If you would like the book it comes from, go here.)

I love a child.
But she is afraid of me.
I want to help this child, so terribly in need of help. For she is hungry; her cheeks are sunken to the bone; but she knows little of food, less of nutrition. I know both these things. She is cold, and she is dirty; she lives at the end of a tattered hallway, three flights up in a tenement whose landlord long forgot the human bodies huddled in that place. But I know how to build a fire; and I know how to wash a face.
She is retarded, if the truth be told, thick in her tongue, slow in her mind, yet aware of her infirmity and embarrassed by it. But here am I, well-traveled throughout the universe, and wise, and willing to share my wisdom.
She is lonely all the day long. She sits in a chair with her back to the door, her knees tucked tight against her breasts, her arms around these, her head down. And I can see how her hair hangs to her ankles; but I cannot see her face. She is hiding. If I could but see her face and kiss it, why I could draw the loneliness out of her.
She sings a sort of song to pass the time, a childish melody, though she is a woman in her body by its shape, a swelling at her belly. She sings, 'Puss, puss.' I know that truth, that she is singing of no cat at all, but of her face, sadly, calling it ugly. And I know the truth, that she is right. But I am mightily persuasive myself, and I could make it lovely by my love alone.
I love the child.
But she is afraid of me.
Then how can I come to her, to feed and to heal her by my love?
Knock on the door? Enter the common way?
No. She holds her breath at a gentle tap, pretending that she is not home; she feels unworthy of polite society. And loud, imperious bangings would only send her into shivering tears, for police and bill collectors have troubled her in the past.
And should I break down the door? Or should I show my face at the window? Oh, what terrors I'd cause then. These have happened before. She's suffered the rapings of kindless men, and therefore she hangs her head, and therefore she sings 'Puss.'
I am none of these, to be sure. But if I came the way that they have come, she would not know me different. She would not receive my love, but might likely die of a failed heart.
I've called from the hall. I've sung her name through cracks in the plaster. But I have a bright trumpet of a voice, and she covers her ears and weeps. She thinks each word an accusation.
I could, of course, ignore the doors and walls and windows, simply appearing before her as I am. I have that capability. But she hasn't the strength to see it and would die. She is, you see, her own deepest hiding place, and fear and death are the truest doors against me.
Then what is left? How can I come to my beloved? Where's the entrance that will not frighten nor kill her? By what door can love arrive after all, truly to nurture her, to take the loneliness away, to make her beautiful, as lovely as my moon at night, my sun come morning?
I know what I will do.
I'll make the woman herself my door - and by her body enter in her life.
Ah. I like that. However could she be afraid of her own flesh, of something lowly underneath her ribs?
I'll be the baby waking in her womb. Hush: she'll have the time, this way, to know my coming first before I come. Hush: time to get ready, to touch her tummy, touching the promise alone, as it were. When she hangs her head, she shall be looking at me, thinking of me, loving me while I gather in the deepest place of her being. It is an excellent plan! Hush.
And then, when I come, my voice shall be so dear to her. It shall call the tenderness out of her soul and loveliness into her face. And when I take milk at her breast, she'll sigh and sing another song, a sweet Magnificat, for she shall feel important then, and worthy, seeing that another life depends on hers. My need shall make her rich!
Then what of her loneliness? Gone. Gone in the bond between us, though I shall not have said a word yet. And for my sake she shall wash her face, for she shall have a reason then.
And the sins that she suffered, the hurts at the hands of men, shall be transfigured by my being: I make good come out of evil; I am the good come out of evil.
I am her Lord, who loves this woman.
And for a while I'll let her mother me. But then I'll grow. And I will take my trumpet voice again, which once would kill her. And I'll take her too, into my arms. And out of that little room, that filthy tenement, I'll bear my mother, my child, alive forever.
I love a child.
But she will not fear me for long, now.
Look! Look, it is almost happening. I am doing a new thing - and don't you perceive it? I am coming among you, a baby.
And my name shall be Emmanuel.



second tuesday of advent

F. B. Meyer, from The Way Into the Holiest

'He shakes all things, that the material, the sensuous, and the temporal may pass away; leaving the essential and eternal to stand out in more than former beauty. But not a grain of pure metal shall be lost in the fires; not a fragment of heaven's masonry shall crumble beneath the shock...'


second sunday of advent

I rode the devil's back - or perhaps he rode on mine.
The trees were hung with arms around
While I held on with vines.
The leaves they fell in fingers,
The grass grew up like teeth,
The shiver from my horror didn't stop the imp beneath.
And as we ran I felt his hand
Dig furrows in my motley skin -
Fishing for worms between the bones,
Fondling my organs till they were all exposed
And sprouting - toadstools, lichen and moss
Making much of my body a great, twisted fungus.
'The horror!' I cried, but it came like a croak -
Something was crawling up from my throat!
A black millipede with uncountable feet -
My eyes rolled like rocks - I choked, hacked,
Spewed, sneezed, puked it out. Please,
I whispered, wake me up from this dream.
I will learn how to live. I will do anything.
The devil turned to smile - he was wearing my lips -
He leaned to my face for a kiss, a caress.
Do you bargain with me? he seethed in my ear.
My market's of souls. I barter with shame
and fear. Do you dare?
You brought yourself here - see, it's me on your back.
Your legs a taxi, a hack for my pleasure
and speed.
Now we're alone here. If you have need of another,
go back (if you can). I will not assist.
I'm no man to play hero,
to lose my majority, to throw the game.
His hands on my innards, his teeth on my face,
At least he spoke true of the fear and the shame.
There was nowhere to go but further on in
Through this jungle of things that I should've been.
I could not cry out for another help home.
I knew no other name but my own -
Queen of Gomorrah, daughter of Sodom,
Babylon whore, Asherah slut, Gomer.

Gomer - Hosea
- Emmanuel -

Running through my own condemnation, he finds me -
Trapped in my half-aborted memory.

Turns my tattered face to his battered face
With the softest command: Look at me.
I am lost there, out of the vines,
Notice neither place or time
As he rebuilds my broken body
With pieces of his own.
Him, the Man Without a Name
Who blows back the devil like a wind.

How did you find me? Rushing as I was.

He laughs a little, his holy pleasure.
I descended once. Now even hell
is within the measure of my glance.

Please, I whisper. Don't wake me from this dream.
I will love only you. I will do anything.

Do you bargain with me
? he smiles in my ear
(now a true ear, no mossy cauliflower).
My market's of souls. I barter with my body -
Which is already, if you haven't noticed, your own.
You've won. I have loved always you.
I have given everything.

My silence surpasses the width of his smile.
It is the rightest thing I've done in a while -
Shut up and let him lift me
Onto his back, nestle my cheek
Between his shoulder blades
And watch the world rush by as he flies from this place -

Father forgive me, for i knew what i did, but i know not what i've done.


first friday of advent

in case you're still wondering what to get someone for Christmas, here's a catalog of gifts guaranteed to be worth your while.


first thursday of advent

my interest in Salvador Dali decreases in leaps and bounds as the years go on. there's only so much crazy i'll allow from an artist before it's just self-indulgence. but i cannot help still loving this painting. perhaps it displays itself like leonard cohen's praise: 'there's a blaze of light in every word / it doesn't matter which you heard / the holy or the broken halleljia.' so be it. here y'are:


the first wednesday of advent

'How Sweet the Name' - John Newton
i include this in my random advent postings, because the last stanza has been playing in my head for several days now. looking forward to the day when my own weak efforts will be blazoned by the sight of him, my unfaithfulness and inconsistency burnt to bits and only this remaining - the unsurpassable greatness of knowing Christ Jesus our Saviour.

how sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer's ear!
it soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fear.
it makes the wounded spirit whole
and calms the troubled breast;
'tis manna to the hungry soul, and to the weary, rest.

dear name, the Rock on which i build, my shield and hiding place;
my never failing treasure, filled with boundless stores of grace!
Jesus, my Shepherd, Savior, Friend, my Prophet, Priest and King,
my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End, accept the praise i bring.

weak is the effort of my heart, and cold my warmest thought.
but when i see you as you are, i'll praise you as i ought.
'til then i will your love proclaim with every fleeting breath,
and may the music of your name refresh my soul in death.
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