prophets of Christmas

When you think of prophets at Christmastime, you likely remember those Old Testament sages, like Isaiah and Malachi, who foretold the birth of Christ hundreds of years before the angel’s appearance to Mary. The prophecies are true! It is a miracle, we say, and rightly so. But the birth story has its own prophets, people who recognize and bear and declare the Word of the Lord to others. They are miraculous in their time, for they are women. Before John the Baptist prepares the way in the wilderness, his mother Elizabeth is the first to call Jesus Lord. Before the shepherds run to spread the good news in the towns, Mary gives a magnificent oracle of prophetic praise. Before Jesus preaches in Jerusalem, the old prophetess Anna tells all who are looking for Jerusalem’s redemption that the Redeemer is here.

Luke gives us the names and stories of these unlikely prophets in his gospel. They are among the first to participate in the Spirit’s work surrounding Christ. They are among the first to tell us who this Child is, and why He has come. They speak into the future, to all who open their hearts to the advent of Christ saying “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word.”

In the days leading up to Christmas, I plan to post glimpses of each of their stories. In all the noise and busyness of our Decembers, may we hear and receive again God’s word to us in Christ.


My friend Travis suggested I write out my “intercessions.” I’m not very good at them. But maybe this will help me pray.

God of travellers,

I’m in Union Station today, and there are so many people. I don’t know how to pray for them all. I pray they will get where they’re going safely and that they will find home or hospitality at their journey’s end. I pray your grace will sit beside them on the train, and that they will be able to see you. I pray they will hear a whisper of your voice amidst the noisy gongs and clanging cymbols. Help me to love the ones I rub shoulders with, espeically the pushy impatient ones and the ones who talk too loudly on their cell phones beside me. To my friends on the GO train, let me be an aroma, like the smell of Cinnabon in the concourse, the sweet smell of bread and love. Keep us all safe and bring us home to you.


putting the bulbs to bed

Having a garden helps me understand God. This morning I planted bulbs. It was four degrees when I went outside, but the sun was shining and stirring up the sweet aroma of resting dirt and rotting leaves. I had on my long-johns and puffy plaid jacket. I felt my way through the squiggly worms and small stones of the little plot under the walnut tree, digging down deep enough to put the daffodil bulbs to bed. How odd to be planting when all else is dying. What a ridiculous sort of hope it seems. I sang them a lullaby, praying all would be well, that the squirrells wouldn’t get in and gobble them up. It’s somehow easier to pray with dirt under my fingernails. I pray not only for the daffodils, but for my own heart. I know it’s full of rocks and weeds and ravens. There are days I’m sure it’s frozen over, days when all seems dead. But by a miracle, God has made death his speciality. So I pray that God will feel like gardening this morning too, that his little spade is sharp, that he’s saved a handful of crocuses for me.

calling out your name

Call me Abraham. A crazy old geezer who picked up and went after some mysterious God of the wilderness. Ok, maybe not the old or the geezer part, but definitely the crazy. I’m drawn into his story, as if my star fell out of the sky and landed on the path out of Ur. I’m tagging along, one of the servants carrying the camel-hair blankets or something. I try and listen in on his whispered dealings with the smoking firepot, and I can see the blazing torch hovering in the night. We’re strangers and aliens, following the path between the cut up pieces of meat. It’s a strange path of sacrifice and having angels to high tea. It’s fearful and wonderful, and yes, crazy.

I don’t know how to get where I’m going, but I’ve seen it before. I can’t remember if it was in a dream, or when I was a little girl in Saskatchewan roaming the plains. It’s a hill, a moment of reaching its crest, the thrill of the wind behind me and the sudden opening of the sky above. The grass is long and rustling in the wind, and I think there’s a big rock, the kind you can sit on and pray. Maybe there are stars, billions of them, or it could just be a storm brewing. I’ve got that feeling that something is about to happen and yet I’ve never been more at rest. This is home. I know I’ll recognize it when I see it.

Is it a place of earth or is it on the other side of the door? I think Abraham probably asked the same question.

Rich Mullins wrote a song about the way I feel when I get that longing in my stomach. Here’s the last verse to “Calling Out Your Name”

From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever ’til you see
What time may never know
What time may never know
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
To run wild with the hope
The hope that this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
And I feel the thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name
And I know this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
I feel the thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name