In Between ~ Welcome 4

April 16, 2022

Thank you to those of you who have followed my prayer and spiritual reflections this Lenten Season.  I have tried—and continue to try—the three basic tenets of Zen Peacemaking:  the not knowing what will happen at any point in time; the bearing witness to all the different feelings (“parts”) of us without judgment but with compassion; and taking action in any situation as a thoughtful response instead of a reaction:  https://zenpeacemakers.org/the-three-tenets/.

Along with that practice, I have incorporated the Welcoming Prayer, as together we’ve looked at the spiritual concept of “relinquishment,” of being able to let go of those things/people we think we can control or fix and to instead open our hands to accept what IS while making room for the Divine Spirit to pray for and with us often wordlessly, “in sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).   None of these actions includes apathy or fatalism.  We aren’t called to be doormats and victims.  Instead, we are invited to listen to our deepest selves and to live in this ever-changing, often broken and dark world, from a place of serenity and calm that then influences the choices we make.

This Saturday before Easter is an in-between time, a waiting time, but not, no, a passive time.  God, by whatever name we choose, does God’s best work in the dark.  By being led in the ways of peacemaking and grounded in the prayer of acceptance, we find that resurrection in all its many forms does happen.

May new life flourish with you.  And speaking of new life, I will be taking some time away from this blog to discern and listen for what the Spirit is inviting me to do next:  to continue with this format, to concentrate more on my poetry, to produce a newsletter, or to do something entirely different.  I ask your prayers, and I will let you know where I am led.  Thank you so very much for walking with me. ~ Blessings, Rosemary

Listen
When the wind blows across your skin, listen
for the voice of an ancestor
guiding you toward your dream.

When you catch the glimpse of silver
dancing across the waves, listen
for the ancient secret that directs your path.

Listen to the way the breeze forms grooves
in the sand and learn about the symmetry
of your own life.

Listen to the way the pelican
rides on the currents or glides
across a cloudless sky, inviting you
to let go.

Listen to the hibiscus when it
unfurls its orange petals to receive
the Light, holding its breath at its own glory
and be amazed at each bright word
it utters.

Listen to your own heartbeat,
what it calls you to remember
and listen for the One
seeking that same heart.

Listen and become the sacred vessel
that treasures each sound it’s given
with reverent awe.

© Rosemary McMahan

Welcome, Welcome ~2

April 2, 2022

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

This poem, The Second Coming, was penned by the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats in response to Bloody Sunday, the aftermath of the Irish revolution of 1916, and the continuing quest for independence from England.  Yet how relevant it is for this day, this world, as the inhumane Russian invasion of Ukraine continues and so much radical division exists in our world.  How can the “centre” hold?

Much of my Lenten journey this season has been focused on how to stay grounded to the center, which, for me, is God.  For others, it might be something or someone else.  Today, I continue to look at the Welcoming Prayer, a contemplative prayer that invites a Greater Power (in my case, the Spirit of God) to work within us to let go those things that keep us imbalanced.  The first “relinquishment” is power and control.  The second is the relinquishment of “affection, affirmation, and approval.”  As I said previously, the Welcoming Prayer is not easy because it goes against all we’ve been taught to cling to and obtain.

From our birth, we long to have people love us, like us, admire us, reward us, and praise us.  Perhaps you are like me, raised on the mantra, “What will the neighbors think?” and so have spent too much energy doing everything you can to make sure the neighbors (parents, spouses, partners, bosses, co-workers, friends) can only approve and admire.  Maybe you, too, have been shamed for being judged as “less than” and have felt the keen edge of another’s disappointment in you or disapproval of you.  Many of us choose professions where we can work hard to earn others’ love and esteem by what we do, and so meeting those expectations becomes our first, and impossible, goal.  Being first, being best, being loved, being admired, being on top of that rickety pedestal is what drives us.  It is exhausting. It is an illusion.

Consider this wisdom written by Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ

A person who cares nothing for praise or blame knows great inward peace….Praise does not make you holier than you are, nor blame more wicked. You are exactly what you are, and cannot ever be any better or worse than that, in the eyes of God. Attend to what is really within you, then, and you will not care what others say of you. People look at externals, but God looks at the heart. They weigh actions; God knows your intent….To feel no need of human support and assurance is a mark of inward confidence – of those who truly walk with God in their hearts.

“Attend to what is really within you, then, and you will not care what others say about you.”  I am attending to writing this blog and composing poetry that brings some degree of solace and beauty into this world. I have little idea of who reads it or whether it has any impact. I know others who think I “should” (always watch out for the “shoulds”; they are another person’s agenda for you) be doing something more “productive.” So the truth and challenge of a Kempis’ words relies on our awareness and trust that what is within us is our unique belovedness.  We are loved and valued by the One who created us, and nothing we do, or others think, can separate us from that love.  We may walk away from Love, but Love does not walk away from us.  So we can let go of our need and striving for transitory affection, affirmation, and approval as we pray, “I relinquish my desire for affirmation, affection, and approval.  Welcome, welcome, welcome,” and sit quietly, making room for the transformative power of that which is greater than us.

Look to the spiritual leaders and see how they let go of what others thought.  Look to the Christ, who kept his eyes on his purpose, not on what others thought of him.  Letting go is not an easy prayer to make, but it is a way to greater freedom and a path toward holding to the center.

Walking with you ~ Rosemary

Journey Blessing

Wherever you are
on your particular ancient path
may you give up expectations,
your own and others,
of what you “should be,”
when you “should have” arrived,
what you “should have” accomplished
by now
along with worry over whether
you have truly achieved
enoughness.

May you leave behind those expectations,
your own and others,
stuffed in the carry-always luggage
you dread hoisting
once more above your head
into the compartment
already filled
with bundles and backpacks
of those who could not
unpack.

May you honestly assess
what you have chosen to carry:
old records coated in dust,
ingrained “shoulds” that did not
arise from your own innocent soul,
snapshots yellowing with age
of what people think of you,
manipulations and mind-traps
of every weight and shape
to make you into another’s image.

May you rummage through your luggage
with courage and keep only
what is you,
by you, of you, and then
may you love yourself enough
to set your suitcase aside,
trusting the lightness
of what is precious
to lead you freely onward.

© Rosemary McMahan

Photo credit: Pixabay

Welcome, Welcome

March 28, 2022

If you have never wanted to control a person or fix a situation, if you have never wanted to step in and take over because you knew your way was best, if you have never tossed and turned in the night because of worry, then raise your hand.  That’s what I thought.  As humans, we all want some degree of power and we all want to be in control of our lives.  Our many cultures teach us that power and control are the ultimate achievements.  But are they?  Or are they simply illusions that control us?

Today, O Lord, I yield myself to You.
May Your will be my delight today.
May You have perfect sway in me.
May your love be the pattern of my living.

In these forty days before Easter, this Lenten season, I have been sharing my journey about practicing (practicing being the operative word) surrender and acceptance.  Today’s blog explores a Christian form of contemplative prayer called The Welcoming Prayer.  Contemplative prayer is often wordless prayer where, instead of dictating our desires to God (power and control?), we surrender our own voices and open ourselves to the work of the Spirit in our hearts: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).   

The Welcoming Prayer is a prayer of surrender and acceptance, two behaviors quite countercultural in today’s world.  Surrender is the act of moving ourselves aside; acceptance is being receptive to what is.  This prayer is a prayer of relinquishment, of letting go of what we so often hold tightly.  It is not an easy prayer.

I surrender to You my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions.
Do with them what You will, when You will, as You will.

The first step in The Welcoming Prayer is to settle ourselves quietly and “welcome” the Spirit, or the Christ, or God, or Allah, or the Buddha, or Nature, or whatever is we believe is the source of Divine Love. Our first surrender is this:  I relinquish my desire for power and control.  Welcome, welcome, welcome.  Then we sit in the silence for a few minutes, surrendering everything or everyone we are trying to control and releasing where we are fighting for power over others.  We let it all go, and welcome in its place Love.  This is not an easy prayer.

I place into Your loving care my family, my friends, my future.
Care for them with a care that I can never give.

For the last four years, my adult daughter has walked through fire.  Her journey has included a toxic work environment where she was emotionally and verbally harassed, a divorce, a job change that took her across the country during the worst days of the pandemic, working remotely over a year in a city where she knew no one, and now dealing with an immature and jealous co-worker who is undermining her work.  I cannot count the number of times I have wanted to tell her “what do to” or how she “should” respond or what other courses of action she could take.  I have tossed and turned with worry over her.  I have wanted to fly to be with her and fix her problems.  But . . . I  . . . cannot.  Her journey is her journey, and I, while I will always be present to her, have to relinquish (surrender) my desire for power and control (as if those will make everything all right, anyway), and accept that this is where she is right now.  I have to take myself out of the equation in order to give space to Divine Love to show me how to respond with love, wisdom, and care.  This relationship is simply one example of the many situations in which I crave control and power, yet I know that that craving is not leading me where I want to be spiritually.  Control and power do not make me a gift to this world.

I release into Your hands my need to control, my craving for status, my fear of obscurity.

Seeking to relinquish power and control and “fixing” is not the same as being apathetic, uncaring, or giving up.  It is, instead, an acquiescence that God is God and I am not, that in reality, I am powerless over everything except how I choose to respond in this life.

Eradicate the evil, purify the good, and establish Your Kingdom on earth.
For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

The prayer which I have quoted here is the Prayer of Relinquishment composed by the Quaker theologian and spiritual author and teacher, Richard Foster.  It is not an easy prayer, yet it is a prayer for a more loving and peaceful world.  Welcome, welcome, welcome.

Walking with you ~ Rosemary

A Way to Be: Taking Action

March 18, 2022

“Fate of Hundreds Unknown: Missiles Hit City in Ukraine’s West”

“13 Year Old Boy Drives Truck into Van, Killing Nine People in Texas”

“Powerful Storms Could Bring Tornadoes To the Southeast (USA)”

“An International Agency Warns About a Global Energy Crisis”

“If you know how to make good use of the mud, you can grow beautiful lotuses. If you know how to make good use of suffering, you can produce happiness.” Thich Nhat Hanh

These headlines are just a sample of what I, and you, awoke to this morning. They are enough to make us head for the nearest cliff, or weep, or drink. Nothing seems fair, especially since we were just beginning to breathe again as Covid seems to take a step back. How, then, do we live?

This Lent, I have been trying to practice the three tenets of Zen Peacemaking as a way to grow in my own spirituality and do something meaningful for myself and for the world, since my actions- and yours- impact others. The first two tenets are Not Knowing and Bearing Witness, which I discussed in the previous two blogs. The third is Taking Action, the kind of action that arises from practicing not knowing and bearing witness.

So often we do not know what will happen next. If the last two years have taught us anything, surely the pandemic and war have proven how little we know about what is around the next corner. It is anyone’s guess. Christ knew that. It is why he so often spoke about the need to “stay awake” and pay attention to this moment, this day. Most spiritual leaders make that same demand because all we can be sure of is what is happening here, now. The challenge is how we will choose to respond to each moment.

So when the next thing does happen- a pandemic, war, terminal illness, lost job, death of a loved one, broken dream-how will we respond? As the second tenet invites, we bear witness to all our feelings and consciously choose which ones we will “feed.” Hopefully, the feelings we choose will lead to the third tenet: taking action in a compassionate way.

In an anxious and tired world, these three Zen tenets can lead to meaningful responses instead of violent reactions in any situation. If we want to change in any spiritual way, choosing to act from our hearts, from the seat of the Loving Divine, in a way that heals and comforts, is surely essential. Judgment, rigidity, self-righteousness, and violence are all contrary actions to caring from the heart, with compassion.

Sometimes the action we take is simply to continue to practice not knowing and bearing witness. Or perhaps the action we take is doing the daily things life calls us to from a place of peace, calm, and gratitude, avoiding all the noise of those who know no other way. Or maybe we speak out in the face of injustices. Our actions reflect who we are; they impact the world, a world that desperately needs care.

Walking with you~ Rosemary

Women Folding

Across the world, she pulls
crisp white dresses from a rope
suspended above baked mud,
her saffron turban wrapping her hair
on a windless hot day
while she folds each dress
with strong dark hands, her fingers
smoothing each crease in a longing
for Sabbath and hope.

Somewhere north, she picks up shirts
scattered like toys across a bedroom floor,
buttons them carefully, then folds them,
placing them in a drawer, her soft hand lingering
a moment on the collar while she remembers
her son as a child, wishing him love.

And to her east, she dries the last teacup
and folds the frayed dish towel
hanging it evenly over the empty bowl
before turning off the light, her long day
complete, her action a trust.

West of her, where bombs and missiles shatter peace,
she sits in a subway tunnel, sewing a button
on the jacket her brother is not there to wear
before folding each sleeve, along with her fear,
into place as she settles to wait.

Folding, folding, eons of folding,
creases smoothed,
squares, rectangles, triangles a way
of life, a way to life, a folding
that encompasses some sense
of order, a resistance to chaos,
an answer to not knowing,
an action, a prayer,
this ritual of a woman’s care.

© Rosemary McMahan

Image credit: Pixabay

A Way to Be

March 2, 2022

In the Christian tradition, today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the six-week period called Lent and is a day to ponder our own mortality.  Considering the last two years of perpetual Lent co-existing with the pandemic, it seems sometimes that pondering our own mortality is all we have been doing. And now, with the war in Ukraine and the possibility of that war extending throughout Europe and even beyond, Ash Wednesday feels redundant.  We get it.  We are all going to die.  Besides that, what can we really do about any of these trials and tribulations?

I have been pondering that question, and the answer I have received is twofold:  I can continue to create, and I can continue to pray.  I have read several bloggers recently who lament that they cannot write their stories, poems, essays because of the weight of this current darkness.  Yes, it is difficult because there are no words that can make any sense out of war.   Further, does what we write even matter?  But what I hear is, “Keep writing anyway.”  Keep creating because creating is an act of life.  Keep offering whatever it is you have to offer because the rest of us need to witness that faithful resilience. 

And I also hear “Keep praying.”  I admit that prayer is tricky and that I sometimes wonder if prayer “works,” but “works” is a human term, not a spiritual one.  Prayer is an admission, or humble realization, that there is indeed something/someone larger, more infinite, more caring than any of us can ever be.  However we choose to pray, prayer grounds us, roots us, in each other and in God (by whatever name we each call God) and in this crazed, white-water world, I need grounding.  I need to know I am not alone.

So, on this first day of Lent, when so many of us are tired, frightened, or at a loss for words, I offer a prayer.  God breathed God’s name with the two-syllable word “Yahweh.”  The country we currently hold in our hearts has a two-syllable name, Ukraine.  I breathe in “Yah” and breathe out “weh.”  I breathe in  “U” and breathe out “Kraine.”  I trust that the One Who is Bigger than Us will fill in the blanks.

I honestly do not know what else to do except to be, and “being” includes, for me, creating and praying.  I remind myself that the word Lent comes for an old Germanic word meaning “spring,” and with spring come new life and hope.  Winter cannot last forever.

“Being” with you this Lent ~ Rosemary

Morning Prayer

And this is prayer:
The black cat perched
on my lap this new morning
silky fur against one hand
the weight and aroma of the coffee mug
in the other
as we two creatures gaze
at Spring’s emerald leaves
clapping together
in the early breeze.
Only yesterday, it seems,
bare branches alone reached heavenward
but today hickory and elm wear veils of green
in praise before the Creator.
The cat purrs,
I lift my palms,
both offering our amen.

(c) Rosemary McMahan

When You Choose War

When You Choose War

. . . you cannot stop
the Lenten rose’s pale white blossoms
from unfurling
nor can you command
the pink-tinged buds of tulip trees
to fold inward.
When you choose war, know that
the grass still greens in spring,
the titmouse seeks its “peter-peter,”
the black and white cat curls herself
in the dust-moted spill of sun.
When war is your choice, prepare yourself
for deep-souled words that fall from pens
in rivers of black, for multi-colored
hues to unveil themselves like dreams
across acres of blank canvas
for fresh music to lift and scatter
like so many blackbirds
across a sky so bright you will
shield your eyes.
When you choose war, no matter
your imagined power, you cannot
shroud the human spirit
you cannot even destroy love
and loyalty
and while you may—indeed—conceive
tears, never can you thwart
whispered prayers
from ascending in legions
toward all that is more eternal
than you.

© Rosemary McMahan

The Return Trip

February 2, 2022

Counting Coats

If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn’t have any.””  Luke 3:11

I consider the number of coats
I own. More than two.
Seven? Eight? Ten?
Not all coats, of course.
Some are jackets
a pink fleece
a purple raincoat.
In the checkout lane
the woman in a wind-thin
blue sweater
fumbles with food stamps
to pay for three packages
of cheap hot dogs,
a dollar short.
I turn to search
for a faster aisle
then stop and notice
the loaf of fresh bread
a bottle of good wine
that I am holding.
I pay for her hot dogs.
She turns her plain face
to me and blesses me–
not just me
but also my family
those I love.
When she leaves,
the clerk says
I’ve done something
wonderful.
I am grateful
no one is behind
me to hear her.
I blush, hurry,
leave
with a loaf of fresh bread
a bottle of good wine
and a blessing
held in the hollows
of my heart.

© Rosemary McMahan

Ever forgotten something at the grocery store, something that couldn’t wait, and so you had to circle back and make a second trip?  I found myself in that annoying situation a couple of weeks ago, grumbling to myself about the inconvenience and waste of time as I headed back.  As it turns out, though, I was meant to make this second trip.

I quickly nabbed the forgotten item, along with a bottle of wine (my condolence prize) and got in the checkout aisle.  In front of me, a woman was fumbling in her purse, trying to come up with another dollar to pay for three packages of no-brand hot dogs.  The charge was $6, and she was short the amount.  I noticed the aisle next to me was empty, and I almost moved there, when I looked at my own purchase—a loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread and a good bottle of Chardonnay.  The woman in front of me was now explaining that since it was near the end of the month, she was short on food stamps and was trying to make them stretch over the next couple of days, counting on cheap hot dogs to feed her and perhaps others.  She was about to settle on two packs when I offered to pay for all three.  She gratefully accepted.

I don’t tell this story to brag.  Six dollars is not much to me.  I am no hero.  I tell this story because this woman then turned and blessed me.  She offered a blessing for me and for those I love, for health and well-being, when she obviously needed that blessing, herself.  After she left, as I paid for my own items, the clerk told me I had done a wonderful thing.  No, I hadn’t.  I had done a human thing.

Whether you believe in God, Destiny, Fate, Karma, whatever, I believe I was sent back to that store to receive this woman’s blessing—not a blessing, be clear, that I deserved—but a gift of grace.  I think of her from time to time for she has become a kind of role model of humility and graciousness for me, and I whisper the blessing back to her.

Blessings to each of you, wherever you find yourselves.  ~ Rosemary

Photo credit: Pixabay

Don’t Let the Light Go Out

January 6, 2022

“Pointing to another world will never stop vice among us; shedding light over this world can alone help us.” Walt Whitman

In the Christian tradition, January 6 marks the Feast of the Epiphany, the moment that the Christ-Child was recognized by those beyond his small world and so made universal. Astrologers, we are told, followed a star that led them to the home where the Light was alive. Their gifts not only identified him (gold for a king) and frankincense (incense for a priest) but also prophesied the shadows in his future: myrrh, an embalming ointment, symbolizing his death.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu

In tragic irony, January 6, 2021, was the date chosen by those who planned and carried out the assault on the Capitol Building of the United States of America. It was the bleakest day of my life, and the images are seared in my mind as much as those of the crumbling twin towers. This assault came from within, from hatred and anger. This assault shattered my naive belief in the “united” states and threatened the gift and privilege of democracy while also marring a feast day that I have celebrated since a child, a feast day of Light.

“An age is called ‘dark’ not because the light fails to shine but because people refuse to see it.” James Michener

On social media, a woman commented recently that we should forget the assault, ignore its anniversary, because it overshadows both Epiphany and her husband’s birthday. “Overshadowing” is exactly why we need to remember January 6, 2021 because we continue to be overshadowed by lies, deceit, conspiracies, hate, and violence. We need the Light, however and whoever we perceive it to be, in the darkness of this present time where the King Herods of the world are intent on destroying anything or anyone that threatens their power. We need to be the light.

“Light. Light. The visible reminder of Invisible Light.” T.S. Elliot

The only action I know to take this day of solemn, sorrowful, and painful remembrance and this day of recognizing joy, light, and love in our world is to light candles, everywhere I can, to pay homage to the Light, to recommit myself to it, to light whatever candle of truth, peace, justice that may dwell within me.

“Light your candles quietly, such candles as you possess, wherever you are.” Alfred Delp

I had researched several more quotations about light to include in this blog, but instead will leave with this link to an old, and so relevant, song by Peter, Paul, and Mary: Light One Candle. Their words speak much more eloquently than mine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTRfVnygo1U

Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts

May it be so. Blessings ~ Rosemary

Photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash

2022:  Yes!

January 1, 2022

“For all that has been, thank you.  For all that is to come, yes!” ~ Dag Hammarskjöld

This morning, on the dawn of another new year, it is challenging to say “thank you” for all that has been, especially over these last two years.  How do we say “thank you” for an ongoing global pandemic, riotous politics and social upheavals, dissension and violence, lost jobs and opportunities, catastrophic natural disasters, a wounded and dying planet?  To say those two words requires a certain boldness; to find some kind of meaning in the midst of all of the turbulence requires a theology in something—or someone—larger than us.  For me, I am thankful to be alive.  I am thankful that my loved ones have thus far survived.  I am thankful that I realize that these blessings have nothing to do with me but with gift, gratis, grace from whatever name we choose for Universe/God/Other.

While saying “thank you” may be difficult, saying “Yes!” to 2022 may even be more demanding, may even require a bit of ledge-stepping.  Someone recently posted on Facebook that 2022 is pronounced “2020, too.”  What a dismal thought!  Yet, not impossible.  To get to the yes takes some courage, along with, again, boldness.  An artist friend of mine defined being “bold” as: “Bold to ask for what you truly want. Bold to share your humble art. It’s not linear but exponential blessings- pressed down, shaken together and running over!”  Yes!

We’ve all been at a place in our lives where what we had thought would be wasn’t.  Disappointment is one of the first realities we experience.  It is so often easier to grieve over what didn’t happen, to take our toys and go home, or to envy the lives of others, rather than to accept our own lives, our own situations and choices, as they are, where we are, where God is.  Now.  This acceptance is not passive or a type of giving up; it is a challenge to accept those things that cannot be changed, while also an invitation to embrace the life that is ours and make something of it. “Yes” is an action word.

So, I am looking 2022 in the eye and declaring a resounding YES!  My “humble art” includes this blog and my poetry.  Others may be/are better, more successful, more published.  My handful of followers may be few, but I say “yes” to each precious one of them:  yes to showing up, yes to creating, yes to sharing, yes to being thankful for them, yes to this unique life that is mine.  Imagine a world full of YES. I hope that you will add the power of your “yes” to mine.

Blessings for health, peace, and joy in 2022!  ~ Rosemary

New Year 2022

Birds gather at the feeder
on this heavy dismal New Year’s
Day, the sky a swath of leaden
gray: black-capped chickadee,
peach-breasted titmouse, sleek-headed
nuthatch, fat red finch, ladder-backed
woodpecker, even a curious
mourning dove hopeful for
spilled seed. The cardinal,
a scarlet flame against the sullen
sky, nudges each one aside
as he claims his kingdom.
From time to time, a red-tailed
hawk with eager eye glides
over the leafless trees
taking stock
and the flock scatters
in a flash of wings,
only to return, one at a time,
to perch on a slick branch
each awaiting its turn
for the black-polished seed,
its resolute “yes” to life,
my “yes” as well.

© Rosemary McMahan

Photo credit: Pixabay

O Antiphons ~ Emmanuel

December 23, 2021

O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the one whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.

Two days before Christmas, in this Advent season of waiting and longing, the seventh, and final, name for the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) proclaimed in the ancient prayer-song of the O Antiphons is found in Isaiah 7:14:   Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

Emmanuel:  “God with us.”  Of the four stories of the Christ, the good news of the gospels, Matthew and Luke are the two evangelists that include the birth story, and their telling is quite different from each other.  In Matthew’s narrative, “God with us” comes in the midst of a Roman occupation with an unwanted male infant that King Herod tries to kill and so must be hidden.  “God with us” occurs in dreams that lead Joseph to take his family to Egypt and wisemen to disobey Herod’s orders and “go another way.”  Jesus, the Christ, becomes “God with us” as the new Moses who will lead God’s people not out of Egypt but out of themselves and into the Light.

For Luke, “God with us” appears to the least likely—to an old woman and a teenaged girl, second class citizens, and to shepherds, third class citizens, made unclean by Jewish standards because of their care of dirty animals.  “God with us” is the one who walks among the least of us, the poor and powerless, and surprises the faithful and long-waiting, Simeon and Anna.  “God with us” meets us exactly where we are, as we are, with love and compassion, mercy and longing.  “God with us” means we are never again alone.

Prayer:  O Emmanuel, as the day of your birth draws close, help us to be still enough to receive you.  Whenever we see a candle burn, a light on a tree sparkle, outside decorations glow, let us take those sights as reminders of your Light and Love upon us and upon everyone.  Guide us out of ourselves and toward you, and help us to be Light-bearers to those who live in darkness, those who need to know both peace and joy. You are with us and within us, and so we can rejoice, even now.  May it be so.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

If you would like to listen to this prayer-song, here is a link to the artist Lauren Daigle’s version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGw0QK6ICZA.

Blessings of joy and peace to you.  ~  Rosemary

Photo credit Pixabay