A series of biblical reflections and prayers from David L. Miller, pastor of faith formation at St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Naperville, IL. David is the former editor of The Lutheran magazine and Director of Spiritual Formation at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
In due course John the Baptist
appeared; he proclaimed this message in the desert of Judaea,
'Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.' This
was the man spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said: A voice of one that
cries in the desert, 'Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.'
They kneel at the center of the labyrinth, a man and a woman,
having followed the winding path to the fleur de lis at the center of the canvas.
There is nothing in their hands. The serpentine path
stripped them of all distractions and every extraneous weight they were bearing.
Non-essentials fell by the wayside, too heavy to carry.
Theirs is a journey to the center of the soul. They have arrived
at themselves, souls stripped down to a singular desire that brings them to
their knees in a prayer that needs no words. Their posture says everything
His head low, nearly touching the canvas by a pot of
candles, flickering light reflects from hair thinned by chemotherapy. The woman
kneels nearby, eyes fixed on him, attentive to his every move, her heart clear
in unwavering eyes.
At the center of the labyrinth the surface noise of life
disappears. The daily clatter falls blessedly silent. And the voice of the soul,
a voice that is always speaking, is finally heard, “I want to live. Just let me
The voice pleads to be known and heard and loved. It pleads
for real life where the deepest things in us breathe and are spoken to those most
loved. It cries for joy of being the beauty and love it feels inside, the love
and beauty the Creator intends.
At the center, you hear your own deepest voice and the voice
of God, all at once. They are the same voice, one voice with a single cry, “I want
to live. Just let me live.”
This desire takes different forms and assumes different
words on different days. But underneath it all is this one, holy desire, first-born
not in our hearts but in the heart of the One who made us.
Advent is a time to prepare for the Lord’s coming, a time to
repent, to clear away that which that gets in the way of living from the center
of God’s heart within.
As I watch them, the man and the woman, kneeling at the
center, I see that they have arrived. Repentance has happened in them. There is no doubt they can live lives more real than any they have lived before. The voice of soul speaks even in their silence.
Arise, shine out, for your light has
come, and the glory of Yahweh has risen on you. Look! though
night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples, on you Yahweh is rising
and over you his glory can be seen. The nations will come to your
light and kings to your dawning brightness.
The mind is a ready traveler, instantly flying to far flung
rooms and places the heart knows well.
Today, I see a holy pilgrimage from afar, a hospice room, and
an old friend, Bev, tired, played out, knowing it is about time to go. No more chemotherapy,
no more trips to he hospital, just keep the pain at bay. Please.
Entering there are familiar faces, friends, colleagues,
members of the congregation, bearing prayer shawls and bread, wine and oil to
do a holy thing, assuring a tired heart that there is One who never tires, who
always watches and does not sleep.
They come bearing the peace of God and their grief, barely
able to take in what decades of disease has done to their beloved.
I see their faces, their sadness and their overwhelming
hunger to find some way--please God, some
way!--to pour the love within them onto this soul who has barely enough
strength to smile.
Still, there is that smile, dimmed, yes, but still there. I
have seen and know it, and it whispers a gentle welcome to each beloved face that
enters the room.
Even here there is joy; even in this darkness light shines. Each
pilgrim to the bedside awakens joy for one more time to say thank you, one more
time to receive the gifts of bread and wine they bear, to feel the warmth of a
shawl and the blessing of the hands that made it.
Everything I see is a sacrament of a transcendent love that
death cannot defeat. The windowless hospice room, dimly lit in shadows,
glistens with light. The room is filled with knowledge of God. No words can
speak it, but the heart knows.
Each pilgrim comes to this holy place bearing the gift of
their life, their heart, their hands. Each comes to bless, yet wondering if
they really have much to give.
They shouldn’t wonder though. They are well equipped for
their holy mission. They bear the love who will never let us go.
I wish they could see themselves as I see them. They are
more beautiful than they can possibly know. And when they leave, after they
have blessed Bev with the beauty of their souls, after they received the grace
of her whispered welcome, they will be more alive and glorious than when they
I could pray my Advent prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come to
this place and lighten our darkness,” but it seems unnecessary. You already
And you have given me the eyes to see it. What more could I