Monday, December 1, 2014

The ache of Advent: giving up

I chased the moon on my walk home the other night, as she played peekaboo. Above rooftops and tight spaces between buildings, cracks in the arms of trees linked against the sky, power lines like black epicenters running through her heart, street lamps littering the night with excess light. She perched on the ledge of skyline, a lover's veiled face, with one traceable curve of translucent skin revealed. 

And I ached to touch the untouchable beauty.

* * * * * 

This whiff of mystery and beauty and longing in the night air is how I feel about the season of Advent this year. 

That veiled moon with her skin exposed, so ancient and familiar, both known and vastly unknown to me. 

A distant promise seemingly untouchable, ever coming closer, looming larger on the horizon, gradually revealed. 

The mounting anticipation. 

The darkness of night, so heavy at times, and yet standing here in the midst of it with all senses open, wildly vibrant. 

The unveiling of hope in not so much a blaze of glory as a whispered secret meant to be spread far and wide, to the darkest ends of the earth, easily drowned out in the throng.

I want to follow this whispered secret home as I much as I want to chase the moon.

* * * * *  
Arriving home, I stand on the balcony and crane my neck to see her, the moon, but she's slipped beyond my sight. The music flooding my ears through my headphones does not drown out the surge of wind, gently bowing bushes and tree branches, opaque clouds drifting as living paintings across the  backdrop of inky sky.

I can't do this, I murmur to God on the wind, at my side. Not this year.

I can't try to resurrect festive holiday feelings in activities and traditions, hoping to silence the grief. 

I can't read Christ in the same pages of story, told with the same words, sitting in the same places I once sat. 

If I must close my eyes and listen to the wind and the trees tell the Story of a coming Savior; if I must open my eyes and see him in the crescent moon, ever growing; I will.

Maybe the Story will be told to me this year in the vein of an old carol - and my storytellers, all of creation, singing -  

Do you see what I see? 

A star, a star, dancing in the night
with a tail as big as a kite...

Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song, high above the trees
with a voice as big as the seas...

 Do you know what I know?

The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night
he will bring us goodness and light.

* * * * *

The piano song still surging in my ears through headphones, I look down and see the title of it on my Pandora screen - 

"I give up." (Please, go here to listen. And maybe just sit a moment. The piano sings like the wind).

Yes, yes I do. 

Not on the Story, but on searching this year for new glimpses of its mystery and glory told in the same, worn voices. I give up on trying to squeeze what is new in my faith back into old places my faith has outgrown.

I give up this year on expecting to one day resurrect the holidays as they used to be and myself as I used to be in them. 

I give up on looking for Christ in all of the same places I used to expect to find him. Before there were churches and sermons and blog posts, and even a story printed in the pages of a bible, all the way back then, there was a Story unfolding and waiting to be born in the flesh of a God-child. Before the Story was ever born on a page, it was seeded and scattered throughout creation, in the wildest, commonest, humblest of places.

I want to find him there.

This heart of mine, doubting, disturbed and still yawning open, longs to see the birth of Christ outside the walls of church, right where I am, in the fields and down by the lake and walking the web of city streets between home and elsewhere.

* * * * * 

I kneel down on the cold concrete and let the promise of Advent season wash over me, dancing through me like the wind in all its joyful energy this night. My face tilts upward, toward the wind, and I close my eyes and listen.

He will bring us goodness and light.

Linking up with the lovely community of writers at Unforced Rhythms.

* This post was written, not only for myself, but especially for all who find themselves at the start of another holiday season, another Advent, with conflicted feelings and a changing landscape of faith, maybe even where loss and grief have touched and altered how they experience this season. Who perhaps, like me, are caught in transition from old to new and hunger, more than anything, for a place in the midst of it all to see what is with fresh eyes and to long for what is not yet with others who are on a similar journey. I plan on writing more Advent reflections throughout this month, about once a week, and invite you to make yourself at home here if this place resonates with you. 


  1. Thank you Amber. The advent season is about our Beautiful Jesus, Immanuel, God with us and in us.

  2. "Before the Story was ever born on a page, it was seeded and scattered throughout creation, in the wildest, commonest, humblest of places." ... And your story is the same, sweet friend. Unfolding everywhere around you, everywhere within you. He is writing the script as you live it, and you are right to desire new paths for a new faith rather than forcing yourself back into the too-small shoes that worked for you before. That He is both the same from age to age and new every morning is a wonderful mystery for you (and me) to unwrap this Advent. May this be a season for you unlike any other, His goodness and light closer than ever before. Love has come. It has come for you.

    1. Thank you for saying this, Beth - about my story, the script he is writing in me, and not forcing myself back into too-small places. I love and appreciate you, sweet friend, and all these ways you love through your words.

      And I love this - "That he is both the same from age to age and new every morning is a wonderful mystery for you (and me) to unwrap this Advent."


  3. I love you, friend. And yes, it resonates. I'm here, listening.

    1. Your listening presence and love, resonance or not, are the greatest of gifts. Thank you - and I love you, too.

  4. This is so lovely and beautiful. The imagry, the thoughts, the story. Christ was born into a world aching and worn. He was born for those who ache and who hurt. The angels came to the shepherds sitting in the dark. They told them to go and find Him, not in the shiny, bright, and clean, but in the dusty, the dark, the place of earth and hay. To find Him one must be willing to look in the hard places, yes?

    1. "To find him one must be willing to look in the hard places" - yes. A hundred times, yes. I love how you point out the shepherds sent to find him in the earthy dark. Thank you for being here, friend.

  5. my heart hears your heart in the grief that is present, so front and center for you during this season.

    and once again your words speak to my heart and the questions I have been pondering, the commitment to wait in the unknowing. I am hearing once again, my counselor saying to me a number of years ago: "God is saying to you, 'Carol, you don't know me on this level and I want you to.'"

    I sort of understood then, but I have known there is yet another level and probably another and another He wants me to know him.

    And it is in the waiting. A quote from an Advent reading for first sunday of Advent: "Clarity comes in the patient waiting of the now." (Adele Calhoun)

    To this end I am waiting in the unknown, releasing myself from having to figure it out and make it feel better. There is still a lot of work around this, but I am not doing it alone.

    Love to you Amber.

    1. Oh yes... the invitation to know him on different levels, Carol. This is something I am recognizing, too, though it flits in and out. I really love this quote - "Clarity comes in the patient waiting of the now." How true that is, both the waiting and the discipline of being present right where you are, in the now. I continue to be encouraged by your journey of waiting in the unknown, of working through your griefs as well. There is such beauty and richness there, no? I see it in you.

      Love to you, too...

  6. This is holy. True. Brave. And it resonates, sister. I love you so and thank you.

    1. Such grace and generosity in those words, Ashley. Thank you for believing in me.

  7. I'm walking these fields with you, Amber, and down by the lake and city streets.
    "I give up on looking for Christ in all of the same places I used to expect to find him." Yes, yes, yes. "He will bring us goodness and light." This I know too. A beautiful post!

    1. I'm grateful for the companionship, Lisa :-) May we see evidence of him in these unexpected places daily...

  8. Amber, such beautiful words. Yes, I'm with you - desiring to know Jesus in new ways. Ways that are unfamiliar, perhaps, because I want real encounters with His Person, not just His words.

    I remember last year how astounded I was (after being a believer for 56 years!) to have the whole idea of Jesus Incarnate wash over me in new and startling ways. God WITH us! It captured my soul and imagination like never before. This year, that thought still resonates. I can hardly wait to see what else He's going to bring to me this month.

    Goodness and light, for sure. A greater understanding of the heart that captured the whole world when it was nailed to the cross, oh how I long for that.


    1. I love how you say this - "it captured my soul and imagination like never before." Isn't that what we need? To be so familiar and comfortable with how we see him that are imaginations, our souls, are not longer captured by how much we don't know, how much we don't see?

      I always appreciate your insights and the way you connect with me here. May we have those real encounters you speak of.

  9. Your heart is shining like that moon, friend. Giving up one thing, we are always welcoming another, even if we don't yet know precisely what it is. Maybe you'll find comfort in the words of the prophets this year, those who stand at a distance from the sweet and simple creche, who wrestle with the darkness and light and the way in which heaven comes down.

    1. I hardly know what to say to this, Kelly, but a deep breath and a heartfelt thank you.