The Waiting is a collection of poems that can be used as meditations during Advent. There is one for each day so take your time. I hope they inspire and challenge you.
The Waiting 01: The Dawn of Advent
I stand before the Dawn of Advent.
Another year, another time,
to look at the inner self,
to revisit the cobwebbed soul,
to tickle the dust with outstretched finger,
and to wince a little at how messy I left the place after the intensity of the resurrection and the fire of Pentecost.
A long summer of well-meaning neglect has passed,
Sitting in the sun (or, more often, the rain) and giving a passing nod at what God was doing.
It was not malicious and not even lazy; just sometimes things go well and life is busy with living.
But now, as the nights draw in and candles are lit,
I focus once more,
Once more on the Light.
The Waiting 02: This Old Town
I am so bored.
Nothing ever happens here, same old thing every day.
I see the same faces and hear the same words day in and day out.
The same dusty streets and the same dry winds.
The same squat little houses, the same craftsmen making the same things, the same shepherds on the hills and the same stars in the sky.
Why can’t something interesting happen? Something exciting.
But it never will, not in this little town of Bethlehem.
The Waiting 03: Follow Me
Follow me, if you dare, beyond that dark horizon,
Beyond the slate and satellite dishes,
Beyond your dreams and your imaginings,
Beyond time itself,
And I will show you a miracle.
Follow me, one, two, three,
From darkness into light,
And I will show you the elephant in the room,
And though I am fleeting and burn for a brief time,
And though you are more so,
We will see the eternal expressed in human form.
The Waiting 04: The Journey Begins
The journey begins,
On this spot,
At this point,
The next step a freewill choice.
You can go where you want to,
You can do what you want to.
Set the dominoes tumbling.
The journey started long ago,
Before light and time,
Before anything but He.
Billions of dominoes,
More than we can count,
Crashing and tumbling,
Countless decisions and mistakes and well-meaning actions,
Leading to you.
Even so you are known,
Even so you are loved,
For nothing is an accident to Him who sees all things,
To Him who knows all things.
So step forward,
The Waiting 05: Woman
Only yesterday, it seems, she was giggling with the other girls while they did their chores; blushing as they teased her about boys. The world was a much smaller place then – a handful of people, a handful of life and everything knowable.
She stands in the afterglow of an encounter with the one she has known about all her life but has never met – until now. Everything is different, everything is so big that it threatens to overwhelm her but it doesn’t. It doesn’t because He is bigger than all this, He is mightier, He is greater and He won’t let her be overwhelmed.
And so this woman, of lowly status but braver than any warrior, does the only thing that makes sense.
The Waiting 06: Upon the Bough
Upon the green bough we hang our baubles, our trinkets, our twinkling things,
Each one carefully selected, each a memory of person or place,
Each a shared moment, of bright laughter, of warm companionship,
Each a symbol of joy and love and wholeness.
And on the top we put our star,
For He who shines in our heart.
The Waiting 07: Hidden
She prepares a meal, carries water, talks to a friend and all the time, hidden inside her is the spark of God. Her heart tries to punch out of her chest; sometimes fear, sometimes joy.
She carries this baby inside knowing it is part of her and yet not. It is hers and yet she belongs to him. She is the created and he is the Creator. And yet.
She smiles a secret smile. She knows that she is experiencing her God as no other ever will and as she walks past the gossips she knows that she has been chosen for something good, something very good.
The Waiting 08: Our Father
It’s a good job Father God isn’t like Father Christmas, making a list of who is naughty and nice, or none of us would be gifted.
He’d only be around once a year instead of closer than breath and the only way you could get in touch would be by post instead of right here and right now.
He’d only visit when you were asleep, with the memory of a distant jingle to keep the hope alive until next year, instead of holding you tight when your heart is breaking and smiling that smile as he shares your joy.
No, it’s a good job Father God isn’t like Father Christmas
The Waiting 09: Preparation
What to take?
How long will we be gone?
What will we need on the journey?
How much can we carry?
What can be left behind?
It focusses the mind when we have to take only what we can carry.
Things that have seemed so important slowly fall down the list,
Until they are bumped entirely by the necessary, the vital, the essential.
Even the essentials must be weighed,
Literally and figuratively,
Lest they become an encumbrance.
Everything must be wrapped and packed and stowed.
So we store away the things we will come back to.
We bear our burdens.
We step forward.
The Waiting 10: Burden
She carries her share, her burden, along the dusty road. A few pots, a few useful items, a very few luxuries. Her head is down. She is tired.
All she wants to do is stop, to rest and prepare, to nest.
Why does she have to move? Why is this so hard? Why is God not listening? Wasn’t she doing what he wanted?
No. She carries more than her share, her burden, along this dusty road. She carries the promise, she carries hope, she carries love.
So why can’t it be easier.
The Waiting 11: Mother
Deep inside the spark of life is growing with a frightening intensity and she wonders whether she can do this, whether she has the strength.
Immortality dwells within her mortal form, a mystery she cannot begin to comprehend and so she trusts.
And as the months go by and her body swells she knows that this is something she will do alone – this is her burden and her joy.
Each kick, each turn of her God causes her to think of her unworthiness, to ask,
But the answer is always the same,
“I love you.”
The Waiting 12: Did you Listen to His Heart Beat?
Did you wake in the night?
Did you listen to the wind blow around the house as you drew the covers closer?
Did your head fill with endless thoughts of possibilities?
Did you try to work out how you could do this thing, this huge thing?
Did you make lists?
Did you think through the people in your life and play out conversations in your mind?
Did you taste the disapproval?
Did you treasure true friends?
Did you pray?
Did you forget to pray?
Did you go through twists and turns and dead ends before turning to God?
Did you whisper bargains in the darkness?
Did you cry?
Did silent tears fall into your pillow at the enormity of it all?
Did you curl up around your baby and try to keep the world away?
Did you listen to his heart beat?
The Waiting 13: No Room
No room at the inn. No room?
Miles of dusty travel carrying this precious burden and you haven’t thought to book me a room?
I’m so angry and so scared and so lonely.
Is carrying the Hope of the Nations not enough?
Is being the talk of the Town not enough?
Is this all not enough?
I just want to rest a while and find a safe place to do this thing you have asked of me.
Where are you when I need you most?
Where are you?
The Waiting 14: Within
Within the tinkle of jingle bells,
Within the sounds of joy,
A new born cry can be heard,
As ancient as time,
A cry of want and need,
A cry for lost humanity.
The Waiting 15: Light
In all the twinkling lights,
In all the glitter edges,
In all the crystal baubles and fireside trinkets.
In every lit candle,
In every burning log,
In every frosted window and welcome lantern.
We seek to capture the light.
In every wistful sigh,
In every prayer given,
In every hymn sung and cry for peace.
In every kind word,
In every comforting gesture,
In every reassuring touch and moment of care.
We are captured by the Light.
The Waiting 16: The Word Became
The Word became skin and sinew, muscle and mass,
He became finger nails and eye lashes,
He became baby and child and adult,
He became tangible and real.
The Word became sadness and laughter, love and loss,
He became learner and teacher,
He became friend and enemy and master,
He became truth and hope.
The Word became words and actions, miracles and stories,
He became loved and feared,
He became wisdom and justice and light,
He became radical and dangerous.
The Word became bound and tied, abandoned and tried,
He became scapegoat and lamb,
He became wounded and mocked and beaten,
He became sacrifice and redemption.
The Word became breathless and buried, dark and alone,
He became mourned and missed,
He became cautionary tale and I told you so,
He became guarded and feared still.
The Word became breath again,
He became life anew,
He became wonder and awe,
He became the ultimate plot twist,
He became unchained, unstoppable, unbeatable,
He became all.
The Word became like us, so that we could become like him
The Waiting 17: Incarnation (Expectations)
Scrap of flesh
Half practised smile,
Tiny hand grasps the finger of his cherished manufacture,
Spark of life from life itself,
Placed gently into the river of time,
Packaged in skin and bone, muscle and sinew, into our reality.
Wide eyes that see as for the first time,
Everything that he had created,
Unfamiliar colour and form,
Sound and smell,
Conceived by him before there was time or space.
All meaning, all truth, all love,
Here now lying in this place at this time.
Other, by nature, but now one of us.
Eternity and limitless glory now a mote of vulnerability in a universe that could never contain him.
Hope lies here,
Peace lies her,
Joy lies here.
The Waiting 18: Incarnations (Limitations)
He empties himself,
The limitless, limits himself,
Sheds forever and takes on …
God with fingerprints.
If only CSI had been there in their beetle black SUVs shining blue light on wine jars in Cana,
Dusting the faces of the untouchable,
Touched by the one who loved them.
Peering through microscopes at crumbs of bread; analysing fish oil,
Extracting DNA from a flake of skin found in a pool of expensive perfume,
Cordoning off the crime scene with tape,
Taking blood samples, slivers of wood,
Checking iron nails on the spectrometer,
And later looking on in confusion as a living, breathing victim shakes their hand and says that an autopsy is unnecessary.
The Waiting 19: Word
In the beginning was the Word.
And I wonder what the first word ever spoken was and which hunter-gatherer uttered it?
Was he trying to guide a friend or threaten an enemy?
Was she calling her child or warning of danger?
And was this our first step to understanding the Eternal Word;
The One who expresses one word above all other others so perfectly;
The One who became wordless to be with us, who learned language afresh so that he could explain the meaning of that word in person;
The One whose actions spoke that word louder than sound;
The One who was and is and always will be … love.
The Waiting 20: Father
Look at you my boy, my sweet lovely boy, newly born into this world and not an hour old. Nestling on my forearm all golden skinned and wriggling; tasting and smelling and touching and hearing and seeing, however blurry, for the first time.
I wasn’t sure about all this you know. I’m ashamed to say I was going to leave but I hadn’t met you then; you hadn’t grabbed my finger and scrunched your face at me.
I keep looking into your blinking brown eyes to see if he is looking out but all I see is my son.
So know this. As long as I draw breath I will be here for you; I will teach you all I know and try to raise you well; I will provide for you, defend you and guide you – my son and my God.
The Waiting 21: Christmas is for the Children
“Christmas is for the children”, they say and yes that’s true but it’s only half the story.
The man who finds himself without work and wonders how he can possibly keep a roof over his family’s head.
The young girl who finds herself with a gift of life, unasked for, growing inside her and sadly sees her freedom ebbing away.
The woman who is a prisoner in her own home, who slumps amidst looming walls and loneliness, who gently cries whilst hope seems distant.
The young man who lives with the consequences of his bad choices, who hurts those who would draw near to him and finds solace in a habitual demon.
The woman who braces herself for another family get together where she is politely belittled and yet more of herself is stripped away.
The old man who sits in a world worn armchair and knows there is no-one coming.
The widow who stares at an image of captured light and wonders when the gnawing ache will stop.
The awkward child, cast aside, who waits to see if anyone will ever want him whilst babies are loaded into waiting arms.
Christmas is for them.
The scrap of humanity, the visiting deity, the cry in the night is for them.
The expression of purest love, the sacrifice, the empathy, the hope, the joy, the restoration, the healing touch, the acceptance and the forgiveness.
All for them.
The Waiting 22: Shepherds
They sit, as they always have, backs to the darkness, stretching fingers to coax the warmth from the dancing fire. They talk little, words are not currency here, and are satisfied to savour the taste of a recent supper and rest weary limbs.
Not too far away the sheep tentatively call to the night, as they always do, and crop some more grass.
The light is not bright, it is blinding and fills the horizon, and in that light are figures and song and glory and a message.
They stagger down the slopes, minds and hearts too full to deal with, and arrive at the place they were told of. There they are greeted by the mundanity of a couple with a baby but the song and the glory staggers them and they know that here lies truth and wonder.
Much later they sit as they always have, backs to the darkness, stretching to coax warmth from the dancing fire. They talk little but when they do it is of that night. They wonder how the boy is doing, wonder when he will become a man, wonder when he will become a Messiah and sometimes they just remember the wonder.
Not too far away the sheep tentatively call to the night, as they always do, and crop some more grass.
The Waiting 23: A Father’s Work
Did you teach him what you could?
Did you teach him what you knew?
Did you catch him in your arms as he took his first step?
Did you feed him with a spoon that you had made yourself?
Did you teach him how to pray?
Did you raise your hands to Heaven and teach him to do the same?
Did you teach him to respect others as you respect your God above?
Did you hesitate before you disciplined your Lord?
Did you carry him on your shoulders when you went to buy new stock?
Did you watch as he botched the wood you gave to him?
Did you beam with joy when he mastered basic joints?
Did you mind sharing him with a Father you could never compete with?
Did you know who he was?
Who he truly was?
Did you shake your head and decide it did not matter?
Did you sing into his ear a song of love?
The Waiting 24: Where did you go?
Joseph, where did you go?
When was it your time to leave?
Did you fade from the family photo?
Or were you suddenly gone like a shower in spring?
Did you know you would not see him become himself?
Did you mourn that you would not be there for his most testing hour?
Did you grieve that you could not put your hand on his shoulder and whisper, “It’ll be all right son?”
The Waiting 25: God With Us
Rushing, breakneck, through time and space,
Though neither can hold you.
Light and Spirit, Eternity complete,
Essence of love.
Eye widening, jaw dropping, beauty,
Joy that pierces the heart,
Power that frees the soul,
Laughter that shatters the darkness,
Gentleness that shrivels evil.
A sapphire orb reflected in your eye,
A meagre town, a young woman,
An open heart, an offered life.
A spark of genesis, a body formed,
And here you are,
One of us.