An Advent Paradox: He Who Was Rich Became Poor



No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything,
look down on others, those who have no need even of God
– for them there will be no Christmas.

Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.
~ Oscar Romero





We overflow with abundance when we acknowledge our poverty of spirit ~
only filled by One rich beyond measure, but who became poor for us.

He became poor so we recognize our true need for Him.
We who are rich in so many material ways still hunger and thirst –
floundering, not flourishing.

For love’s sake He chooses poverty, humility and suffering.
He chooses us and we’re poor no longer.









Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becomes poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee. 
~Frank Houghton



Preparing Through Parable: An Abundance



14 “ it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matthew 25: 14-29




When we are given much, much is expected — reasonably so.   We spill over with gratitude; we become more than we were before and have much to give.

We don’t hide, don’t bury, don’t secret away that which is meant to be shared, spread like pollen from a blossom.

Then others too may bloom and fruit in abundance.

May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.




Summer Will Grow Old




This upstart thistle
Is young and touchy; it is
All barb and bristle,

Threatening to wield
Its green, jagged armament
Against the whole field.

Butterflies will dare
Nonetheless to lay their eggs
In that angle where

The leaf meets the stem,
So that ants or browsing cows
Cannot trouble them.

Summer will grow old
As will the thistle, letting
A clenched bloom unfold

To which the small hum
Of bee wings and the flash of
Goldfinch wings will come,

Till its purple crown
Blanches, and the breezes strew
The whole field with down.
~Richard Wilbur “A Pasture Poem”




To Bear the Light


Rain-diamonds, this winter morning,
embellish the tangle of unpruned pear-tree twigs;
each solitaire, placed, it appears,
with considered judgement,
bears the light beneath the rifted clouds —
he indivisible shared out in endless abundance.
~Denise Levertov “Bearing the Light”

Indivisible inestimable abundance —
as belighted jewels
descend from heaven
to adorn the plain and meager
on earth.

Nothing warrants
such grace falling like rain,
to cling like sequins sparkling
on our veil of tears.


The Earth Bestows

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

In spite of all the farmer’s work and worry, he can’t reach down to where the seed is slowly transmuted into summer. The earth bestows.
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Indeed, we can only plant the seed.

The rest is up to soil, sun and rain.  Weeding and worrying may give us something to do while we wait, but summer and harvest depends on grace, not on us.

Next week, all three of our adult children will be together again for a short summer stay at home, along with an anticipated visit of two women very special in our sons’ lives.   The seeds we planted over two decades ago, nurtured by light and living water and the Word,  are slowly transmuting to summer, to be savored rich and sweet in a blessing of abundance.

The Creator bestows and we are so very grateful.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

It Would Be Cheaper

“Nature is, above all, profligate.  Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil.  Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place?
~Annie Dillard

It is a good thing I wasn’t assigned the role of Designer because all would have gone awry in my dedication to resource management, efficiency and creating less waste.    There would be imposed limitations on earth, wind and rain storms.  No wildfires or natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes.  To avoid having to blow around, rake, pick up and compost those fallen autumn leaves, all trees would be evergreens, needles long-lasting for decades.  There would be fewer insect species, in particular wasps, fleas, chiggers, bed bugs, mosquitoes and flies.   Fewer rodents, viruses, toxic bacteria and pesky parasites.  The list is endless: things would be different in my Thrifty Design Of All Things Natural.

But of course the balance of living and dying things would then be disturbed and off kilter.

Rather than worry about the wastefulness,  I should revel in the abundance as I watch death recreate itself to life again.  Nature has built-in redundancy, teems with remarkable inefficiency and overwhelms with extravagance.  As just another collection of cells with similar profligacy, I can’t say much and better not complain.  Thank goodness for the redundancy and extravagance found in my own body, from the over supply of nasal mucus during my upper respiratory infection helping me shed viral particles, to the pairing of many organs and parts allowing me a usable spare in case of system failure.

Sometimes cheaper costs more.  Sometimes extravagance is intentional and rational.

Clearly things are meant to be as they are.

If I am ever in doubt, I can simply look out at the leaf-carpeted front yard…or in the mirror.

Then I will remember and know.

“So let us go on, cheerfully enough, this and every crisping day,
though the sun be swinging east, and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.” 
~Mary Oliver from Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness