Wednesday, Advent Week 2: A Poem

The Psalms of Advent, December 7, 2022

Since yesterday’s post on Psalm 21 and my thoughts on the word “presence” (, I’ve had a desire to write a poem about the presence of the Divine as my meditation on this psalm.  I thought of that Presence who revealed Itself in evening walks in gardens, in burning bushes, on the tops of mountains and in mountain caves, in crossing over to new lands, in the middle of a bustling, dirty city at census time, in the temple teaching, in the towns along the lake, in a boat on a stormy night with frightened friends.  But I couldn’t get that particular poem to take shape, so I followed where the words chose to take me, to this Poem of Advent:


“The light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it” (John 1:5).

In the early hour
of a sullen December morning,
leaden sky pressed against
the windows, rain drizzling down
glazed panes,
I light a candle.
Outside, the barren trees
seem wearied
as if they would like
to tuck themselves down
to rest upon the dampened
I light a candle.
Even the birds
have gone silent,
the clamor of a world
in turmoil too much
weight for their song.
I light a candle.
Has December always been
thus? Wars and rumors of war
traveling on the winter wind?
Justice and mercy crumbling
like mountains sinking
to the frigid sea?
Sly shadows desiring only to smother
the light?
Since the beginning,
has it always been like this–
darkness snaking its way,
measuring its forward motion,
to extinguish whatever shines?

The flame of the candle
burns on
steady and still
casting a single beam
against the spattered
window. I light another
and another
candle, shadows resist
and dissolve. The rain still falls,
the gray face of the sky
still peers through
the windows
yet the light shines on
and the darkness cannot understand,
cannot overcome it.
I open my lips
to whisper a prayer:
May I be the light,
may you be the light,
stemming from the Source
that continues to flame upwards
to sing.

My Advent prayer is that we be the Light-Bearers who carry the presence of the Divine Light into this much troubled and fractured world.  Blessings ~ Rosemary

© Poem and photo credit: Rosemary McMahan

Tuesday, Advent Week 2: Presence

The Psalms of Advent, December 6, 2022

Psalm 21 is abundant with words seeking to be heard and treasured in the heart:  rejoice, joy, desire, request, and love, as just a sampling:

The king rejoices in your strength, LORD.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!
You have granted him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips.
You came to greet him with rich blessings
and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave it to him—
length of days, for ever and ever.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.
Surely you have granted him unending blessings
and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the LORD;
through the unfailing love of the Most High
he will not be shaken. . . .
Be exalted in your strength, LORD;
we will sing and praise your might.
(Verses 1-7; 13. New International Version)

The word that beckons most to me, though, as I spend a second day in this Advent psalm’s company, is presence:  “Surely you have granted him (the king) unending blessings/ and made him glad with the joy of your presence.” 

Presence is such a rich word.  In a world where loneliness, isolation, and cut-off abound, presence beckons like a candle flame.  It is a sacred gift we give another, the gift of our attention, our time, our love, our company, our selves.  Sometimes words are not even necessary.  Presence itself says, “You matter to me.”

When I think of the nativity story, I realize the importance and demonstration of presence.  We find Joseph present to Mary, when he could have taken an easier way out.  We find Mary and Elizabeth, amazed pregnant cousins of different generations, present to one another.  We find angels (the highest of the high) present to shepherds (the lowest of the low).  The old prophets, Anna and Simeon, share their presence in humble and faithful anticipation of a promise.  And the child?  He is named Emmanuel, which means presence:  “God WITH us.”  If Jesus offered anything in his ministry, he offered the gift of his presence, particularly to those who mattered to no one else. The season of Advent reminds us that he still does.

So, I reflected on who has been present in my own life when I have been lonely, confused, or bereft.  Who are the people who have simply been with me?  Then I thought about who I have been present to when she or he needed someone, and who, right now in this “happiest time of the year,” would appreciate my presence.   When we are present, we bear the gift of God-Light, the same light God promises and shines on us.

Thank you for offering your gift of presence to me in this blog.  I am so grateful. Blessings ~ Rosemary

Photo credit ~ Rosemary McMahan