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It was eleven degrees outside and still dark. We were drinking coffee.

“Did you really write that? A wee Babe’s face? Todd asked after I read him my poem.

“I did. You don’t like it?”



“We don’t talk that way,” he said attempting a Scottish accent.

“A poem doesn’t have to read like we normally speak. Do you like the word dank?”


“Why not?”

“Because it’s used to describe a basement usually, not a stable. You could use ‘odorous’ maybe. But we like thinking it was clean straw. We want it a little nice for the Baby Jesus. A nice manger with clean straw…”

And this was our banter in the wee hours of the morning as I pondered the message for Day Eleven 2019 in the Advent Calendar. And I also wondered where the imaginings ended and the tangibles began?

For a long time there had been a picture stuck in my mind from cards we send and carols we sing, and my own imagination surrounding the Christmas story. But I longed to feel deep in my heart what Jesus and Mary and Joseph had felt, and had endured that night when the star appeared over Bethlehem.

When I gave birth I couldn’t walk for three days. There was the shock to my body, the stitches, things for pain. There were nurses and doctors, and food. What and when did Mary and Joseph eat? In my mind I saw Mary with her new baby crouched beside that manger after giving birth, hungry, in pain, and I ached for her.

Release, relief merging with mystery, a miracle and wonder.

What do we hold on to? Like water being purified, can we strip away all that’s unnecessary?

Because if you in the midst of the cards and the carols carry sorrow, don’t be discouraged. It was a dark day for Him too.

He made Himself nothing so we could gain hope in a wee Babe’s face.

Though a great company of heavenly hosts appeared exclaiming, Glory, He laid in straw in a gloomy dank place—the heart of the world.

Now here our hearts lay open, waiting expectanly for this light that flames the fibers of our inmost being—enlightening, warming, refining, overwhelming, extinguishing the old life, quickening us to the place where we will no longer fear the flame because everything combustible will have been consumed.

Poor and knowing grief—the deepest of the deep—He came and comes into the dark cold caves of our hearts with His igniting fire.

Todd was right, we like thinking it was clean straw. We want it a little nice for the Baby Jesus. A nice manger with clean straw. We can’t change that, but we can allow Him to change our hearts.

His birth on earth, this offering and sacrifice of grace everlasting—salvation—is received with repentance, humilitiy, and with awe.

Four photos of the moon.

Pondering Advent. Originally posted December 2019. Advent Calendar.

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