The Risk of Christmas

The Risk of Birth

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn-
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth

—Madeleine L’Engle

The idea of risking all for love has captured my attention for a while. And so this poem speaks to me. The idea that there is no perfect time and place, that we only have now also rings true for me. I want to be this person…the one who risks all for love. I want to be the one who recognizes love winning despite all evidence to the contrary. I want to be an agent of this Love. And yet I am conflicted and frustrated.

I am conflicted because a part of me seeks drama and a role that is larger than life. And yet, I also sense that Love doesn’t need such grandiosity to be born. In fact, Love often seeps through the cracks, doesn’t it? Love finds its way into places that seem most inhospitable and insignificant. And at the same time I am frustrated because it often looks like nothing great is happening at all.

I know that Love can be born in the course of a regular day, into mundane routine and repetition. And it is also born in chance encounters. Love is born between the same two people hundreds of times a day for decades and it’s born between two strangers who might never see each other again. Love is born in a touch, a smile, even the silence. Love is born both in hard work and incredible ease.

“Be faithful in these little things,” Jesus said. He knew that what Love really needs is this kind of agency, these teeny portals to make its way into the world. One of the risks of Christmas for me, however, is believing that this Love is enough. I risk being unremarkable and going unnoticed by the world. I risk being misunderstood and taken for a fool. I risk the shame of all those who expected me to do something with my life and be somebody.

And yet, in my heart of hearts, I agree with the poetess and share her gratitude and awe. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of this fullness, this eternity Jesus promised. And while the conditions may not be perfect, the story isn’t unfolding the way I would have it and the risks of believing in this enterprise are great, the promise of Love is so much greater.

When is the time for love to be born?
No better time than now…be it done unto me too.


No more shall people call you “Forsaken”

No more shall people call you “Forsaken,” or your land “Desolate,” but you shall be called “My Delight,” and your land “Espoused.” For the LORD delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.
Isaiah 62

As much as I try to beat myself up and shame myself for my faults and weaknesses, God just won’t allow it. God’s message continues to be some version of “you are my beloved.” The scripture above is very much an example of this Advent’s message for me and you!

No longer are we “forsaken” or “desolate”. Rather God looks at us and calls us “my delight.” Sitting with that awareness for a while touches a deep wound inside me and of course, I cry.

How can you do that…be delighted by me when I fail over and over to show my love? When I refuse to believe in your love?

And yet, your in your infinite grace and mercy you do. You see the desire and potential in me. You see me as you would have me be if I would only accept…if I would only allow.

This day I am pure delight. I am beloved and espoused and I am filled with gratitude…and excitement to see what enfolds for us this day!


Advent Promises

Advent was quickly passing me by and I still hadn’t retreated. When I lived in San Francisco I had the privilege of attending an Advent retreat each year that was led by two wonderful women and I missed that this year. I looked around but couldn’t find anything nearby that worked for my schedule so I turned to the internet. The Jesuits from Sacred Space came to my rescue and so I have begun.

The theme of the retreat is Advent Promises and they don’t start slow, let me assure you.

In fact they begin with a real doozy!


To all who received him, believed in his name, he gave the power to become the children of God.

1 John 1:12


And so I settled into the guided reflection…imagine you are preparing for the arrival of Jesus, what are you doing?

I am running around making preparations. I sweep the apartment for things out of place, dirty cups, discarded tissues, and old mail. I scan for things I don’t want Jesus to see, fashion magazines, credit card bills, paperwork and incomplete projects. I vacuum and dust and wipe every surface. I set out flowers and candles and piles of books and oh, yes, my alumni magazines! I make food, lots of food and set a very pretty table and then I wait and wait and wait. I adjust and rethink my outfit and I wait and wait and wait.

Suddenly I hear a sound at the door. Something inside me does a full on flip. I run to answer it. All at once I fling open the door and I melt into a puddle at his feet, sobbing. In between sobs and while gasping for air, I manage to say: I have been waiting so, so long.


At this point in my reflection I am floored by my response. I am overwhelmed by emotion and tears are streaming down my face, but why? For a few moments I am puzzled. I let myself feel the emotion…and then I identify it. It is longing. It is pure desire. Of course, it is who I am at the very core of my being. I am pure desire and longing to be filled by the Divine.


So I continue…what happens next, what does Jesus say to you, what do you say to him?

He lets me stay on a puddle at his feet for a while so I can fully experience the longing and desire and then he gently lifts me up and leads me to a spot where we can sit together. I rest my head into his chest and we remain in silence for a while. And then he asks me the million dollar question: Can you let this promise be the most important thing about you? Can you believe in my name, Emmanuel—God is with us? Can you believe that I gave you the power to become God’s beloved child?


All you have to do is open your heart and receive.


Praying with Mary

At Prayer with Mary







Come, Spirit, make me docile to your voice.

Help me debate angels.

Let your will be done in me even if it means misunderstanding, rejection, scandal.

Give me wisdom to find you in the irrational: heavens gone awry, astrologers’ predictions, songs in the night.

Give me such hospitality of heart that family, foreign seers, poor shepherds and animals find a home in my presence.

Let me protect innocent children from oppressive power.

Make me fearless of foreign lands and unknown journeys.

When I cannot find you do not let me rest until I search home, highway, and temple.

Let me always insist on miracles to celebrate love.

And when all I love on earth lies lifeless in my arms let me offer it to you with such freedom of heart that I am swept up into the heavens.


— Mary Lou Kownacki

It has been far too long.  But I have been visited by angels and so I bring you this today.  I join Mary in this prayer to be used, to be a home, a resting place for weary travelers, to be a vessel of Love.  Amen