I hear the sound of breaking hearts.
Tender, young hearts, open and hopeful,
Facing betrayal from the church which formed them.
Scarred, resilient, older hearts,
Once-healed wounds torn open by hatred and prejudice.
I know the pain of a breaking heart.
The shock, the sadness,
The emptiness that has no end.
You are held,
You are loved.
Your wounds are tended
By the One who knew you before you were imagined,
The One who whispers,
“I created you,
And I love you
Just the way you are.”
Henri Nouwen said it this way:
Long before your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your school, your church touched you, loved you, and wounded you — long before that you were held safe in an eternal embrace.
—Henri J. M. Nouwen
Our First Love
Guard our hearts.
Pray this prayer for those whose hearts are open, innocent, hopeful, vulnerable.
As you inhale, pray “Loving God.” As you exhale, pray “Guard our hearts.”
By the rivers of Babylon —
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
-Psalm 137:1-4, NRSV
I am in exile
In my own land
I am silent
Unable to sing
The songs of the Holy One
The songs of my heart
I feel like a stranger
In this foreign land
I thought I knew
How can I sing
Vote on the worth of God’s beloved
Have taken up residence
In the seats of power
Walks proudly down the street
In the light of day
How can I sing
The Lord’s song
In this foreign land?
It was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
– Psalm 139:13-14, NRSV
I’ve loved Advent as long as I can remember. And running across this photo of me, face to face with the Nativity set let me see the gift my parents gave me as a young child.
My memories are of our family lighting the Advent wreath together every Sunday. Each child yearned to be old enough to light the candle. Once you could read, there was the Bible passage or that week’s meditation from the Advent booklet. I didn’t love accompanying the family’s Advent hymn on the piano. 😉
When The Upper Room invited me to write a book for the Advent season, I was thrilled. It called back all those memories of the Advent wreath, the candles, the little book, the awkward hymn playing and the singing.
And I am grateful for this gift.
God, open our hearts and the hearts of the world to your hope. Peel back the layers of our stubborn opinions, our fearful assumptions, and let the light of your life-giving spirit enter in. Amen.
The Uncluttered Heart
I’m sitting here reading about the world’s latest craziness. (What is going to happen next?!?) And I’m wondering where those the nice Advent feelings are that I used to be able locate inside myself. “Maybe, this year, there will be peace.” “Oh, look, there are the signs of hope (or joy, or love).” Right now, I’m not feeling very hopeful.
I remembered something I’d written about hope in The Uncluttered Heart and share it here:
Hope isn’t a simple, sweet sentiment or an unreachable goal. Hope’s a bit risky — it’s not based on and doesn’t rely on some kind of secret-handshake promise from God. Our hoping does not mean that everything will turn out the way we want it to.
Hope is, instead, a spiritual practice, appropriate any time but especially during the season of Advent. We wait and hope for the coming of Christ into the world. We hope even when it doesn’t feel like it’s going to make a difference. We hope because we are children of God, children of hope. …
When we hope, we align ourselves more closely with the God of the Universe — the eternal force of good, of hope and love and peace.
Carry these words in your heart today: I am God’s partner in hope.
From The Uncluttered Heart by Beth A. Richardson. Copyright © 2009 by The Upper Room. Used with Permission.
One by one.
Each day holds
This Advent piece was made by Nashville poet and artist, Kelly Cass Falzone.