The Willow & War Blog

Advent Week 4: Light

“When the sun shall dawn upon us”

Crowning the horizon, chasing dark shapes from the valley, it comes. Slow. Defiant over the night.

We who sat hushed and holding hands, holding breath, holding embers, exhale.

Strips of light brush skin, spilling through dusty window panes. Refracted on the wall through the forested limbs, it dapples and drapes the world in newness.

We breathe again.

Shadows recede.

The light is come.

As if to say, did you think I would forget?

To which a few say through their tears, yes.

And still others, no, but the night was long.

and yet, “Because of mercy…”

…the light is come.

Mercy drags light into the valleys of death and the dark rooms where we shut our eyes and pray for morning.

Daylight breaks over the weary.

“To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

What other way is there? We learned in the dark the terror of power, of struggle, of unseen hushed words, whispers, stolen names, and we rise from the valley to walk.

Nobody rises for another grave.

Peace. The absence of chaos, or a shield despite it. Peace is a high calling but we’ve all seen the dark. Felt it. Hate it. But peace whispers of something different.

Peace whispers something about a cradle, a cross, and a crown. Peace whispers something about another king. Another way.

Nobody rises for another grave.

Mercy brings light.

Light brings peace.

Peace brings us home.

Advent Week 3: Presence

The journal was removed from its leather sleeve and casually tucked in a corner of the workshop, beneath flakes of dried pipe tobacco and sawdust.

The card stock cover provided no context so opening to an entry from Christmas a few years ago was a surprise. It wasn't much writing. A few lines. Words scrawled hastily across a cramped page. A confession.

Too many gifts.

Not enough presence.

A time for reflection becomes a mad dash of color and light; a feeding frenzy for consumers of trivial things. Consideration and celebration are exchanged for a cheap plastic cradle and we move the star from above the stable to dangle it over a sack of toys like a carrot.

But the gifts are good. Giving is good.

Only, not at the expense of the gift.

The hope and promise.

I don’t want to see shreds of wrapping paper like breadcrumbs tracing back to when we should have bathed ourselves in the hope of a newborn king. To miss the grace is too great a risk. To enter Advent as dusty sojourners and not come out the end as light-bringers is a tragedy.

This is our chance to reclaim the glitzy warp-speed world for the manger. This is our chance to remember how the darkness froze in terror at the sounds of birthing from a stable. Mary’s groaning. First cries of life.

While people inside the inn ate, or argued, slept, or worried, on the other side of the wall, the king came unto us.

The stable is where you find us, the ones who pine for mercy. In the quiet corner, on the silent night, when hope came unto us.

Here we are, Lord. No lights but the stars. No sounds but our feet shifting on the hay.

Nothing but the presence.

And that is the gift.

Advent Week 2: Promises

There is no cradle without the cross.

This is the tension in which we exist. what is and what could be. Life today and the promise of tomorrow. The true Christmas celebration cannot be whole without its fulfillment in the cross of Easter.

There is no light without shadow.

And I’ve wondered about this weariness I feel when we enter this season. With so many lights, how can something feel so wrong? Why is there such an ache?

Sink below the haze of the holiday frenzy to street level. Outside the proverbial inn are the dark corners of the holidays. Here we find the God we sing about. Here in the languid streets. Among the people.

We, the broken.

And this is the whole point, and why there is tension beneath the glowing lights: a season of hope is for the hopeless. A season of promise is for those who need to believe in something real. In a world gone mad with distrust, this is our gift. The deepest heart of Christmas is found in the hope of the cradle and the promise of the cross.

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

The irony of the hope we celebrate this season is that we keep it tucked within our homes and under our trees while our brothers and sisters around the world face harsh realities, a darkness the glow of our Christmas lights won’t reach; a cold the warmth of out fires can’t thaw.

For all the people.

And we remember. Hope does not thrive indoors. This news was never meant to be tucked and shuttered in our hearts. This is a season of good news. A season of promise.

Of cradles and crosses.

Of freedom.

For we, the broken.

For all.

Advent Week 1: Darkness

We begin Advent in the dark. The kind of dark you can touch. The kind of dark that has substance.

Before the first candle. Before we ignite in the heavy silence there is only darkness and it is here we must begin.

Before the light, is the dark.

In the terrible dark is the weight that sits heavy on our chests, ribs cracking under pressure, lungs gasping for air. Eyes open wide even in the blackness. Even though we know we will see nothing. In this dark is every fear.

It is loss. It is war. It is addiction. It is sickness. It is loneliness. Anxiety. Desperation.

The breaking point.

And the ache.

The wrenching of the heart. The jaw-grinding, body-shaking thirst for dawn.

And sometimes - listen to me - to ache is enough.

It’s okay to not be the strong one, for a while. It’s okay.

Just to know there’s more. To ache for it. To cry out for home. To know there are answers but to be unable to hold them for a while. Open hands.

To want something undefined, to want something defined, to want something because you don’t know what the hell else to do. Closed fists.

To ache for the world we know we can have but can’t seem to reach. To ache for the truth promised in all these holiday lights we cling to for a few short weeks. To ache for wholeness. To ache for touch. To ache for hope.

We can’t stay here, in the dark, but maybe you just need to know that, for now, to ache is enough.

Because to ache is to feel, to know, and to long for something beyond the dark. And sometimes, that is enough. For now, that is enough, because the light is coming.