The first candle symbolizes the light of the hope of the prophets.

Advent is finally here, and I know this year will be significant but not yet in what way.  As I contemplate another foray into hope I name the longings of my heart alongside my fear of disappointment. 

I’ve got big and beautiful plans that need to start in small and subtle ways.  I’m content with waiting for the momentum to build.  Or so I think.

I’m unafraid of evil.  But naïve to my terror of good.

We go to get our Christmas tree earlier this year than any other year.  We decorated the house before Thanksgiving, realizing too late that all the contents of our boxes were filled with savage memories.  I could not deck the halls with this. 

We put most things away, shifted others, and bought (for the first time) decorations that reflected our place in life.  The kids chose items and after the new was raised in place of the old I noticed that it was white instead of red.  Isaiah 1:18 becomes more playful than admonitory.

The outline of the mountains takes my breath away, as ever.  We witness it for half a mile before turning to the farm where we will find our tree.  Winter is so beautiful here.  I love that I live in a place where the harshest, darkest season of the year will stun you with awe.  The advent is palpable.  When will it snow, where will it spring?

The tree we find is noble and the deepest hue of green.  We drive away into darkness and I feel droplets falling hot on my hand and cold strands on my cheeks.  I will weep this advent season.  I have decided to welcome it.  There is nothing lukewarm in my world.  This is our second Christmas here following the three hardest years of our lives.  The inkling of hope returns and I feel the haunt of peace creep onto my shoulders.  Despite my best intentions not to be fooled by goodness again, it permeates the stress and I am defenseless.  To conceive by the Holy Spirit demands an awareness that is terrible to beheld.

            full of grace,

What I long for more than ever this advent is incarnation.  Would that my mind and spirit would inhabit my body.  So far hope has only signified the awareness of the disconnect.  The powerlessness of my desire feels more reality than falsehood and I’m tired of waiting for my own arrival.

What faith does it take for word to become flesh and spirit to enter body?  This candle will burn out before the others are lit.

            pray for us sinners,

Sometimes I think I’ve given up.  Trinkets and remnants of broken company I kept in my closet as tokens of hope were removed.  Several necklaces, a blanket, books, and dishes.  Carefully I place them in a box to give away.  Loss upon loss.  Foolish enough to think I could sanctify talismans of rejection.

Advent has to surprise me.

            Hail Mary,

Friend, knowing and unaware, made a rosary and hands it to me next day.  “I know what it is to know God and not prayer.  May this be your road out of the wilderness.” 

So I climb beads searching for home.  Surprised that letting go of hope brought recompense.


I decide to learn the joyful mysteries first.  I think I’ll be here awhile.  The series of Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s have given my orphaned soul, parents; my exiled heart, companions.

            Holy Mary, Mother of God.

We bring the tree home and set it up with only lights.  They dim and fade in cadence with the newfangled gadget husband found.  Could there be more magic?

            Blessed art thou among women,

The four children snuggle close.  We decide it is time.  There is a song on an album reserved for Christmas eve, but the moment is now.

            and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,

The familiar and sacred carol fills the room.  Yet I am startled.  The lyrics are that of the only prayer I have offered in a year over the past weeks.  It is the Ave where I am learning to walk the lonely journey both as mother and child.

Our Lord is with thee.

I close my eyes and the twinkling form of the tree seals itself for a moment inside the dark of my lids.  The sound of only voices crescendo in the melody that I have yet to determine is the manifestation of a sunrise or set; were we to hear instead of see.

            now and at the hour of our death.

My baby squirms in my lap.  Hot and cold mingle together on my face again and I look to her standing, eyes level.  The chorus has mounted to utter the last word and I surrender to its ascent.  Littlest sees me with knowing and leans in.  She waits.  Kissing my lips on the final Amen.

Who knew resurrection would begin with the caress of tears?

Hail Mary, full of grace.  Our Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.