Preparing the Heart: Every Stone Shall Cry

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“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
~Luke 19:40

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1. A stable lamp is lighted
whose glow shall wake the sky;
the stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
and straw like gold shall shine;
a barn shall harbour heaven,
a stall become a shrine.

2. This child through David’s city
shall ride in triumph by;
the palm shall strew its branches,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
though heavy, dull and dumb,
and lie within the roadway
to pave his kingdom come.

3. Yet he shall be forsaken,
and yielded up to die;
the sky shall groan and darken,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
for gifts of love abused;
God’s blood upon the spearhead,
God’s blood again refused.

4. But now, as at the ending,
the low is lifted high;
the stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
in praises of the child
by whose descent among us
the worlds are reconciled.
~Richard Wilbur

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Feeling heavy, dull and dumb,
I could be convinced
I’m no more than a simple rock
among a multitude of rocks~
inconsequential and immobile,
trod upon and paved over,
forgettable and forgotten.

I could believe
there exists no pulse
in my stony heart.

I could believe
I am incapable of love
if I turn away
from a God descending to walk
on the same humble ground where I lie.

Yet even the low are lifted high by His descent–
every stone,
even the dumb and lifeless,
shall cry out in community with Him,
even the silent will find a voice to praise.

Even my own voice,
meager and anemic,
shall be heard.

Even a barn can harbor heaven,
straw a bed of spun gold,
a stall becomes a shrine.

I am no longer forgotten.
In fact, never forgotten.
So hard to reconcile,
if the stones and barn and stalls
have known all along,
so should I.

Preparing the Heart: The Day-Star Waking

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I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.
~Revelation 22:16

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
Matthew 2: 10

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Luke 2: 8-9

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photo by Nate Gibson

There are a few moments between the blackness of a long dark night–something we have plenty of this time of year–and the renewal of the sunrise splash of color that spreads across the sky like spilled paint jars of pink and orange. Illuminated in those few moments is a transitional dawn-light or daybreak equivalent to the evening transition of twilight.

That is when the morning “stars” of Mercury and Venus become most visible. They don’t “twinkle” or appear effervescent like the night stars. They are solid radiant globes heralding the Sun to come.

The “star” guides and leads, breaking apart the darkest night.  It points to home, illuminates the birth of God come to earth as man, and presages the New Day to come. We are witnesses only if we arise early enough, peering through the clouds of everyday troubles, and prepare, ready for the dawning to come.

We must run, not walk, to meet the Redeemer.  This is what it was like for the shepherds and the magi.  This is what it is still like for us.  Our Day-Star awakens and we, our senses stolen by glory,  are overjoyed.

1. Whence is the goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away,
never the like did come a-blowing,
Shepherds, in flow’ry fields of May,
Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away.

2. What is that light so brilliant,
breaking Here in the night across our eyes.
Never so bright, the day-star waking,
Started to climb the morning skies!
What is that light so brilliant, breaking,
Here in the night across our eyes.

3. Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away,
Run ye with eager footsteps vieing!
Worship the Saviour born today.
Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away.
~ Traditional French Carol

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Preparing the Heart: Came Down from Heaven

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The Nativity by Le Nain, Antoine and Louis (d.1648) & Mathieu (1607-77)

The Word became flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space, time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God… who for us and for our salvation,” as the Nicene Creed puts it, “came down from heaven.”
Came down. Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see. It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms. It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast.
~Frederick Buechner from Whistling in the Dark

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Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
 
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2: 6-8

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[The Incarnation is like] a wave of the sea which,
rushing up on the flat beach,
runs out, even thinner and more transparent,
and does not return to its source but sinks into the sand and disappears.
~Hans Urs von Balthasar from Origen: Spirit and Fire

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo,
cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.
Alleluia!

O great mystery and wondrous sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord lying in their Manger!
Blessed is the Virgin
whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ.
Alleluia!

Preparing the Heart: Open the Door

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My soul waits for the LORD more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
Psalm 130:6

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Strange how one word
will so hollow you out.
But this word
has been in the wilderness
for months.
Years.

Prepare, prepare.

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.
~ Jan L. Richardson from Circle of Grace

 

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As a child, it seemed to me the wait for Christmas Day took forever.  December 25 became the focal point for everything.

Now, old as I am, I’ve found the wait, the preparation itself, becomes the point.  We watch Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Anna, Simeon, and even Herod wait.

In a community of believers, we prepare and wait together, encouraging each other through the hard times.  And there are plenty of hard times.

More significantly, Someone Else waits for us.

“I stand at the door and knock.”  Revelation 3:20

When will we be ready to end His wait and open the door to our hearts?

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
~Christina Rossetti from “In the Bleak Midwinter”

Preparing the Heart: Swollen with the Breath of God

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Pierced by the light of God
Mary Virgin,
drenched in the speech of God,
your body bloomed,

swelling with the breath of God.

But in wonder within you
you hid an untainted
child of God’s mind
and God’s Son blossomed in your body.

~Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) from “Antiphon for the Virgin”
translation by Barbara Newman

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It must have been extraordinary for a young woman to be told by an angel she was to bear the Son of God.  She is troubled despite his reassurance, completely perplexed about what it all meant.  She asks because she needs to know: how will this happen?

We too are puzzled when God intervenes in our lives in ways that are completely unexpected and sometimes downright inconvenient. We are touched in ways we have never been touched before, as His power “overshadows” us so deeply that we can never possibly be the same. A transformation takes place, we are swollen with the breath of God and new life begins to grow in us.

We are all virgins before God touches our lives, filling us with the light and the Words of His spirit, despite our being sullied by the mire of the world.   What makes Mary unique is her complete and total surrender to His will for her life:  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”

Let it be for us as well.  May our hearts be made ready to bloom.

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Preparing the Heart: Anticipating Advent

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The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised his baton.

In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen.

You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for.

You are aware of the beating of your heart…The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens.

Advent is the name of that moment.
~Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

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We are on the brink, waiting, wondering what is to come next.

The moment of silent expectation suspended between what we anticipate will happen and what actually does happen is a moment of sweet tension and longing.  Many find Christmas to be an anticlimax to the build up beforehand.  In the true spirit of Advent, that can never be the case.  The preparation for His coming merely foreshadows the joy we feel when holding Him close, seeing His face and knowing He is God in flesh.

He is with us, He is in us and our hearts, jubilant,  beat like His.  And sadness flee away.

o come desired of nations,
whom priest and prophet long foretold,
will break the captive fetters,
redeem the long-lost fold.

o come in peace and meekness,
for lowly will your cradle be:
though clothed in human weakness
we shall your god-head see.

o come, divine messiah,
the world in silence waits the day
when hope shall sing its triumph,
and sadness flee away.
(Author M. Pellegrin)

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Inviting a Song

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Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come–
~Chinese Proverb

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photo by Harry Rodenberger

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I regularly need reminding that what I offer up from my heart predicts what I will receive there.

If I’m grumbling and breaking like a dying vine instead of a vibrant green tree~~~
coming up empty and hollow with discouragement,
entangled in the cobwebs and mildew of worry,
only gobbling and grousing~~~
then no singing bird will come.

It is so much better to nurture the singers of joy and gladness with a heart budding green with grace and gratitude, anticipating and expectant.

My welcome mat is out and waiting.

The symphony can begin any time now…

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