Friday, December 30, 2011

New year

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

A new year is upon us. It's time to take down the old calendar, and if it has nice pictures, save it—you can use it again in 2022— and put up the new one, or the 1984 one that you’ve saved for 2012.

As you do, ponder the old calendar. Look at all those days. God was with you on every one of them. Think of all you've done, and give thanks for your endeavors. Give thanks for all the people you met, the folks who did things for you, the souls you touched, the companions you had on the way. Give thanks for all you've seen, and marvel at how the things that you've experienced, and the ways you chose to receive them, have become a part of who you are. Give thanks for the challenges, the terrible days, the long hauls, for they, too, are part of the journey that has brought you to this day, and part of who you are.

And of course remember all your mistakes, and even more important, what you learned from them. And know that as you leave behind the old year, all those mistakes are forgiven. The little goofs and the profound betrayals, the odd slips and the unbreakable habits, all are forgiven. They are as past as that old year, gone. All that remains is wisdom, what you learned from them.

You have changed and grown. That's the good news as you stand at the threshold of a new year: we can change. In the new year we can become new people. Of course we resist change, but the truth is that it's really not change that we dislike so much as loss. It’s our resistance to change that’s hard. Change, and the loss of the familiar, puts us in a vulnerable, powerless position, a place where we’re not in control, and we don’t “know” enough. That’s what we don’t like.

And that— that place of powerlessness, dependence and not knowing— is the gospel place, the place where our only hope, and our only power, is God. It’s the place Jesus invites us to be. It’s all about dying first and then rising. Did you notice last Sunday what Simeon in the temple said about the baby Jesus? “This child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel” (Lk. 2.34). Not the rise and fall, like coming and going. But the falling (first) and then the rising. So 2012 is the year you will die.

And rise. You will surrender everything to God's infinite love, and let God re-create you. Enter the new year ready to die and rise in the Spirit of the Eternal One who gives you life as a gift. So this new year will be great—it will include your birth-day!

As you put up the new calendar, even if it says 1984, be mindful that you are about to become someone new. This re-creation will involve loss, and you will be tempted to resist it. But God will be with you every single one of those 366 days. Be ready to accept the changes that will come, to rely on God’s merciful presence, and to be re-created in this new time. The whole year will come at you one moment at a time; you can enter into each present moment, willing and lovingly present, for you will be in the Loving Presence.

May God deeply bless your new year. It will be good.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."
—Matthew 2. 1-2

Hidden in the folds of the long night's robes
gleams a star that knows,
and that shows a Way.

In the village of your soul dwells a Wise One
with sacred eyes
and the courage to leave home.

The heart does not choose a way
by the road, nor the inns,
but the love at the far end.

A bird calls out to its lover,
revealing its presence,
unafraid to alarm the hunter.

Bring provisions,
and burial instructions.
Leave the house open.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Around Christmas time a lot of movies tell you to “Believe," but they don't have a clue what to tell you to believe in. It's not helpful to just haul off and believe any old silly thing. The movies tend to be about believing in Santa Claus, but of course they don't really mean that. I think sometimes the movie makers themselves don't believe in anything deeper than entertainment, unless what they really intend to say is not “Believe” but ”Imagine,” or maybe “Honor people's dreams.”

Still, it seems that Christmas wants to inspire us to believe something. Well, what? The Christmas story has as much fantastic stuff as the Santa story: a virgin birth, angels, magi following a star that somehow stops over an individual house. Are we just supposed to believe all that stuff? Or is there something more significant that we're supposed to believe? Why is it significant that we believe? And if it's actually true, why do we need to be told to believe it? Wouldn't it be obvious?

Here's what I think the Christmas story invites us to believe. Believe that God is with us, that the Holy One dwells within you. Believe that you are God's Beloved. Believe that God would forsake the comforts of heaven in order to share your life with you. Believe that God comes to you, suffers with you and stands up for you for the sake of the eternal, inviolable well-being of your soul.

That stuff is hard to believe only because we look with our rational, thinking minds, and can't see it. This truth we can only see with our souls. It takes practice to see God. But it changes our lives when we do.

The fact is that aside from the highly symbolic parables that Matthew and Luke tell about Jesus' birth, we know nothing of the conditions of his birth at all. The gospel writers' point is not history; their point is who Jesus is. I don't think it matters what you believe about the virgin birth and the manger and all that. It matters what you believe about God. And about yourself and your belovedness, and the world's.

You are not alone. God comes to you, to save you. God is in the world. Believe that.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Third day of Christmas

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Today people go back to work, return to normal life. Malls & radios stations have stopped playing Christmas music. Stores are advertising Valentines' Day. And it's only the third day of Christmas. Never mind them. Now is when it sets in, the realization that we're in this for the long haul, that this is not about a holiday, a brief flash of silent light and then business as usual. This is the long, hard work of Incarnation, of opening ourselves to God's miraculous, indwelling Presence, and of bodying forth God's love into the world.

It feels a little harder without the candles and the singing, doesn't it? Now it's not special; it's just... well, life. Which, of course, is what Jesus came to—not some Christmas card picture, but real, regular life. Not even nice, clean, comfortable life, in fact, but the life of a homeless refugee family. Now here's the real miracle of Christmas: not that God is present in the decorations and the special meals and the family times and all that, but that God is present in the regular times. God is beside us and within us all the time.

Be mindful today that this is the day of Christ's birth in you. This is the day the angels will sing. This, not some day now past, is the day you have been waiting for! This present moment, God is coming into your life, into the world. And you are awake, looking with the eyes of your heart, ready to see the star, to hear the song, to embrace the child, to bear the love.

This is the mystery of Incarnation: the gift of the present moment, and the miracle of the Present One. Now. Here.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bethlehem flash mob

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

In the dark of a cold night, on the edge of a dusty little one-pump town at the far end of the Roman Empire, an angel sings. It's a quiet little song, about bringing love into the world. Then a newborn baby cries. It's an ordinary cry, and it is the sound of God with us. The mother takes up the cry, for they are homeless, and she loves her baby. The father is in a state of complete wonder, and he joins in and starts singing.

Shepherds nearby are fascinated, the way onlookers are at a flash mob—but then they join in the God-is-with-us song. It's beautiful. Angels join the chorus, doing this really cool dance, and singing glory. They sing glory in the highest heaven, and they sing peace on earth. Anna and Simeon take up the tune in the temple. And soon the pillars of the temple are rocking and swaying. And the animals about to be sacrificed are nodding and shouting ”Amen!”

And then Magi from the east come waltzing in with swirlly robes and wicked cool hats, doing this really amazing whirling dervish and singing, “God is with us! Glory!” Herod and his security forces with their pepper spray come in and try to bust it up, but the magi lead them off into the parking lot and the dance goes on. Then people all over Judea are doing it, lepers singing like angels and paralytics dancing around in their wheelchairs, and Roman soldiers, all singing glory. Around the corner, behind a pillar, Pharisees are secretly doing it a little, just a little, kind of from the neck up, and humming along, and taking lots of videos.

People in prisons join in the song. It echoes a lot because of the cells. People in exile join in, and refugees, and the crowd is getting huge. People in hospice care and on death row are singing, everybody singing glory. Whole races are singing, whole continents dancing. Then the wind is singing and dancing, and trees waving their arms, and hurricanes whirling around, and cloud formations dancing and dancing. Then galaxies join in, whirling around with their arms flung out and singing glory, until the whole universe is dancing glory and singing “God is with us!” And you begin to feel like you're the only one who hasn't joined in yet.

And then the glory vanishes into the world and the angels disappear into the crowd. And the next day people get up and get their coffee and go to work and do their ordinary things, and the world goes on. But that baby is still out there somewhere, and that tune swirling around in your heart.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Blessing

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

In your deepest darkness
may the eyes of God
twinkle like stars.

May the sounds of the world
become song,
become angelic.

May you always hear,
like voices in the next room,

May God come,
into your life.

May you receive
the most holy gift
of wonder.

May God give you the courage
of the young mother
in the darkness.

May you hear the song
of the presence of God
within you.

May your ordinary life
be a sign of God's nearness
to the lowly.

May all the refugee families
in your world
find shelter.

May you always ponder
the mystery of your dear,
umbilical life.

May the cries
of the Christ child
keep you awake.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

The true "reason for the season" was before Macy's and Santa, even before the Christians and their Christ Mass, even before the Romans and their midwinter Saturnalia: on the longest night of the year, in the darkest dark, the earth turned again toward the light. We remember this when we hang wreaths and lights and bring a tree inside. The Christians decided there was no better time to celebrate Jesus than the winter solstice, day the light comes into the world. I don't think Jesus would mind the "pagan" roots of the solstice celebration. He would have thought it odd to think that he himself was the reason for the season. He came to reveal something even more fundamental than himself: the light of the grace of God. He wanted us to be rooted in Creation, in the most basic truths of our living, like the light that we live in. He wanted us to pay attention to what Is, and to see it as holy. Even as we head into winter, the earth has already begun the lengthening of days, just as God promises resurrection before we even begin to face life's losses and challenges.

That's all very well, but I'm thinking about all of you in Australia, where it's the opposite solstice: today is the first day of Spring. Hm. So I guess the deal is that matter where you are, today is the First Day. And no matter what you are experiencing, it will change. No matter where you are on the great wheel of time, there is neither infinite light nor darkness. The important thing is to tun toward the light. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. God is present in it all. Where is the light coming into your world? Perhaps in the darkest places.

Today, whether you are entering the Holy of Holies or slogging through a dismal mess, be mindful of the Divine Bliss indwelling within you. Whether this day looks to be a grand one or a flop, remember that it's the day Christ comes to dwell with you. A day of birth. A first Day. It doesn't matter whether you are coming or going, whether the day is long or short, your fortunes rising or falling: look toward the light.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A commercial-free Chrkstmas

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

Some people make it sound like you're not really a Christian unless you complain about the commercialization of Christmas. I say, Bah, humbug!

I don’t care. I don't notice the commercialization, or pay any attention to the alleged “war on Christmas.” Because in our society not only the meaning of this season but all the teachings of Jesus, the whole Gospel, has been commercialized, politicized, trivialized, domesticated, hollowed out, dumbed down, dressed up, and turned into a Barbie doll. So what? It’s always been that way.

The mystery of God is inaccessible to dualistic thinking, so of course most people don't get it. What Jesus taught was so contrary to conventional wisdom, so outside our understanding and judgment, and so opposed to the systems of oppression, fear and social status that we're invested in, that of course people misunderstand it and resist it and distort it and co-opt it. Jesus initiates God's Empire of Grace, which overthrows all the empires of this world, including the Empire of Rome, the Empire of Deserving, and the Empire of Halliburton. So even the Christmas story includes the profound resistance against itself, in the violent reaction of Herod and the slaughter of the innocents. Of course people want to trivialize the radical nature of God’s grace and its claim on us, the universal power of God’s forgiveness, the subversive reality of resurrection. Why wouldn’t they want this to be a story about a cute little baby’s birthday, on which we should buy big TV’s?

Ignore them. The whole point of walking a spiritual path is that you don't go the way others do. The point of meditation is to let go of the world's “Babel sounds.” Don’t expect others to validate your faith. Don’t waste your energy on expectations of them. (If you need a more commercial-free Christmas, watch less TV and stay out of the mall.) Put your own Christ in Christmas.

Open your heart to God’s amazing presence. Seek awareness of God’s incarnation in the simple, among the poor, hidden in the unheralded. Don’t be fooled by this world’s expectations. A Savior is coming, who sets us free from all oppression—the oppression of our sin and guilt, the oppression of fear, the oppression of death, the oppression of those who use power and wealth unjustly, and the oppression of other people’s opinions. The good news of Christmas is that God has come to set you free, even from people who misunderstand and abuse Christmas!

Christ is coming. Open your heart to the good news.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O antiphons

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

O Holy Presence, whose love brings all things into being,
come, and draw open by your light the ancient blossoms.

O Beloved, radiant with glory in all Creation,
come, and awaken us; teach us to see.

O Hands of God, who has opened doors that none could shut,
who has healed and blessed, and none could defy,
come, and hold us in your grace.

O King of Gentleness, who knows our sorrow
and yet embraces us with joy,
come, and guide our hands in the way of healing.

O Open Eye, who sees us in all truth, and loves us,
come, and reveal in us your beauty.

O Light of Justice, whose heart breaks for those who sit in darkness,
come, and show us the way of courage and compassion.

O Companion, who makes us all one in your love,
come, and kindle in our hearts the spirit of the Beloved.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, December 19, 2011

A message from God

My Dear Little Ones,

I give you my peace. I want you to know how dear you are to me. I know that sometimes you feel that you are missing from your own life. I know that you are frightened, and I see how your fear turns to meanness. But you need not be afraid. I have heard your cries in the night. I feel your anguish at the shame that haunts you, the terror that stalks you. I feel the tears of your loneliness on my own cheeks, and I long for you to know that you are not alone; I am with you. I desire deeply to be with you, and I long for your healing. I want you to come back to your life. So I will come, to save you.

I want you to know it in your bones, to fee it in your chest, to hold it in your arms, that nothing can separate you from me and from life, not your selfish fear, or your deepest suffering, or even death. So I will come to be with you. I will come in your darkest night, so you know there is no place I will not be with you.

I know that your trust is hard won, that it is not easy for you to give yourself over to someone so deeply unknowable, so unheard, so invisible. So I will come to you as one of you, as a child, a poor child on a cold night in a rough place. I will come to you at your most vulnerable, and be so vulnerable with you. I will come and share your suffering and your delight, every moment. I will come to live inside you.

I will come to you as the most powerless, so that you may receive me—and yet I will come to you at your worst, and therefore as you are least able to receive me. Yes, I know that in my tenderness I will suffer. But so I choose, to remain close to you. I am telling you beforehand, so that you are not terrified at the awfulness of what you may do to me. My dears, I forgive you already.

I know what is to come, and still I will come. I will come until your guilt is swallowed up in my grace, until your shame is dried up by my love, until your pain blossoms into wisdom. I will come again, and again, and again. Watch for me. Watch for the tender child with the light of your healing in his eyes, with your beauty in her small hands. Even now I am coming. I am coming.

I will be very small and needy. Will you watch for me? Will you hold me?

My peace I give to you.

Your Holy One.


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mary, with lily

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

having enough of words,
lays aside her prayerbook
and gazes at the lily,
full of grace,
imagines God's delight at its creation,
the praying hands of its petals
beckoning down into its gentle infinity,
little flecks of pollen trembling
with her heartbeat,
its tender fragrance seeping
through all the world's meanness,
enduring forever,
held in a slant of light,
white, against the scumbled walls,
until her gaze becomes angelic
and she knows.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Mary sees

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,
                  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior....
         for she has looked with favor
                  on the lowliness of her servant.
         Surely, from now on
                  all generations will call me blessed;
         for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
                  and holy is her name.
         Her mercy is for those who reverence her
                  from generation to generation.
         She has shown strength with her arm;
                  she has scattered the proud in their illusions.
         She has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
                  and lifted up the lowly;
         she has filled the hungry with good things,
                  and sent the rich away empty.
         She has helped her servant Israel,
                  in remembrance of her mercy,
         according to the promise she made to our ancestors,
                  to Abraham and Sarah and their descendants forever."

                           —Luke 1.46-55

Mary already sees clearly the Reign of God that the prophets envisioned and that Jesus will establish. Salvation has come to her: despite the world's addiction to status and its illusions of her lowliness, she knows she is blessed. Despite what the world has told her—that she is young and poor, without standing or power, that she is female, that she is someone else's property, that she is at the mercy of other people's whims—despite the lies of the Evil One, she believes that she is beloved. The Mighty One has already done great things for her. Even before the child is born, the Promised One has already taken the throne.

The Reign of God comes whenever the good news breaks through. It comes whenever a child feels accompanied, whenever a peasant girl believes that she is worthy. Salvation comes whenever the hungry are fed good things, and the rich turned away empty-handed, whenever the poor are empowered or the mighty made to share. The world is redeemed every time an outsider is treated with reverence, an immigrant is welcomed, an abuse victim respected. The new world dawns when a person who has been silenced speaks, or when you give light and space to a vulnerable place in your heart.

The Savior is born when we overcome our insistence on how she should come. Keep your eye on the peasant girl. She knows.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.
Do not be afraid,
for you have found favor with God.
The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore your child will be holy.

—from Luke 1. 26-35.

Beloved, you have found favor with God. Already.
You need not work for it, or reach impossibly.
God is delighted with you as you are,
and loves to be with you, always.

Now, then.
Live your life.
Let God think of your ordinary days as holy.
Raise your kids. Do your work. Blossom as you will.
Holy Spirit will come upon you;
therefore it will all be Holy.
The love you give your children will make them holy;
the love you bring into the world will redeem it.
Your labors and lovings, the secret work of angels
hidden in the flour you knead and the floor you scrub
and the foreheads you kiss will ring with glory.
Nothing will be changed, child, but your eyes will be opened.
Your hands will be the throne of the almighty,
whose eternal grace will reign forever.
This, not some shimmering dream,
is what will save the world.
For nothing will be impossible with God.

Now say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word."

And every morning say this to yourself:
“Hail, Beloved, full of grace.
Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your soul.”

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Immaculate conception

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Biology is not suspect.
An ovum may have split
and made itself again,
miraculously producing
inexplicable chromosomes,
but this is not required
for a joyful, brave and gentle life.

The virtue of the virgin birth
is not that Mary didn't let her flesh
produce the way God made it to,
nor that the intercourse created good
was deemed less so,
unbecoming for holy people
or incompatible with compassion,
but this:
that God offered and Mary received
the life-giving life within her
directly, and through no one else.

There is no intermediary
between your immaculate heart
and the embodiment of God.

Say yes.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, December 12, 2011

God's house

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

The Lord declares to you
that the Lord will make you a house.

—2 Samuel 7.11

The first time I heard this scripture I imagined God like a magician turning David into a house. Poof! Now you're a house.

That might not be what this means, but it stays with me. It's not that weird. After all, Paul says that your body is the temple of God. And what Gabriel said to Mary was essentially, “God is going to come live in you.” Maybe this is the message of Christmas, the meaning of Incarnation: you are God's dwelling place, God's house.

You hold God inside you. God actually dwells in your body. Your thoughts, words and actions, your body itself and your breathing, are where God lives. God sleeps in you at night. God gets up in the morning and goes in and out of you. When God steps into the world, it's after having been nourished in you. When God gets weary of the injustice of the world, God comes home to rest in you. Evil can't take you over as a squatter because God lives there. You are where God feels at home. God sometimes remodels. God sits looking out a window, feet up, and says, “Yeah, I love this place. Built it myself.”

Be a spacious house for God. Make plentiful room for the Holy One to hang out in. With big windows. Like Mary, don't just let God in; let God take over. Begin the day by expanding your soul, breathing in, creating room. Let God make you a house. And let God live there.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, December 9, 2011

Advent blahs

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Dear God,
I just don't feel like Advent today. I don't have time to sit in the velvet darkness and contemplate some wonderful silence. I don't feel Jesus coming. I'm not in touch with any promise or vision. I have absolutely no idea what Isaiah means by “preparing a way,” and even less idea about that crazy John the Baptist jumping around in the desert with grass in his hair. I don't know what it means to “make of my heart an open manger.” I'm just not there. I'm busy, tired and distracted. I haven't set up my stupid little Advent wreath; the candles lie in their stupid little box in the closet, under a lot of stuff. You're starting to bug me. All the spiritual hype about repentance and transformation sounds to me just like the crap from Macy's about how I need to buy their stuff. I've done Christmas before. I know what to expect. I bet I'm going to be just fine in January like I am now. So I'm just going to go right on with my ordinary little life here, OK? Whatever is in my soul, I'm not handing it over. It's nothing special, anyway, nothing devout and holy. It's clenched inside, plain and undeserving, and fine with that.  I'm fine. I just want nice presents and a good dinner with the kids. That's all. So if you're going to break in on my world, it's up to you. If you're going to do some wacky Gabriel thing with me, knock yourself out. Go ahead and make flesh turn into heaven, and a plain human life divine. If you're going to come into my life, don't wait for me. Just do what you do, you know, behind our backs and unasked for and all that.  Go right ahead. Just do your thing. OK? Please?

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advent Pentecost

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He himself was not the light, but he came to bear witness to the light.
—John 1.6, 8

John the baptizer appeared, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight a path for God.” …. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me.... I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

—Mark 1. 2, 7, 8

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.
—Isaiah 61.1

Do not quench the Spirit.
—1 Thessalonians 5.19

Here in Advent we have a little Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit! We open our hearts to the God who is not only the infinite creator beyond us or the savior beside us, but also the spirit who dwells within us. We await the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, we await the coming of Christ as the culmination of human history, and we also await the birth of Christ in our own hearts.

Christ was born to serve the poor and to re-weave the torn fabric of our world in which we separate ourselves from those who suffer, and thereby separate ourselves from God. Christmas is not a sentimental tale about a cute baby; it's about the healing of the world. When Christ is born in us, Christ's spirit comes to life in us in a new way, and we become devoted to that same work of the mending of the world. Our lives are re-shaped for the purpose of bearing witness to the light.

To be baptized by the Holy Spirit is to be changed. The Spirit takes over our lives, like it did Mary's, for the sake of the healing of the world. The Holy Spirit seeks the inclusion of those who have been excluded, the forgiveness of those who have been judged, the raising up of the downtrodden. (This also means the bringing down of those who have too much power or wealth. You'll hear it loud and clear next week in the Magnificat, in Luke 1.46-55). The coming of the Holy Spirit is not about feeling good; it's about the transformation of human society.

Don't imagine that on Christmas day you'll open presents, eat a big feast, then sleep it off and get up the next day and return to life as usual. It certainly wasn't like that for Mary and Joseph. In “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we sing, “Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us tonight.” Do you really want that? Then expect to be changed. Don't quench the Spirit, but be open to the life-giving, life-changing presence of the One who is coming to life in a new way within you.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent prayer

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Holy One,
prepare your way in me.

Give me faith, like the stable,
to know your presence within me.

Give me courage, like Mary,
to let your life overwhelm mine.

Give me strength, like Joseph,
to protect what is holy, tender and growing.

Give me patience, like the shepherds,
to be still and listen.

Give me humility, like the magi,
to kneel before your presence.

Give me trust, like the child,
to let myself be borne into a new world.

Give me joy, like the angels,
to bring good news to the poor.

Give me love, like the manger
to hold Christ within.

Holy One,
prepare your way in me.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
In rough-edged wind,
edge of town,
end of day,
light all used up,
a shed waits, still,
dust settling,
bedding down for the night,
doors resting on their hinges.
You want to say it's empty,
but it's full—
full of silence, of longing,
of waiting,
full of God's hopes,
full of space for a birthing.

The passion that makes worlds
is still dreaming.
This stable is made of that,
the manger carved, through eons,
of your deepest ache,
this empty space,
this womb,
created by your soul, unerring,
leaning toward that realm.

Enlarge its longing in you.
Breathe in.
Let the cupped hands of the manger
hold your heart open
with God's deepest desires.
The angel song that sounds like sorrow
but feels like joy,
the harmony of longing and confidence,
swells in the waiting silence,

Warm wind
blows in through the window.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, December 5, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

May the God of peace sanctify you entirely;
and may your spirit and soul and body
be kept sound and blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

—1 Thessalonians 5.23

God does not live in outer space. God lives in our souls. The wonder of the Holy Trinity is that God is not only infinite but also incarnate. God, who is pure love, lives within all loving souls. The birth of Jesus reveals God in human flesh, in human love, in human presence. Jesus is not an exception. God is fully present in all of us in love.

As you prepare for the coming of Christ, don't think that it's going to be just a sweet baby born one night long ago. It's God's incarnation—God's inhabitation—in Jesus, and also in us. Imagine God, present and loving, within you. God lives and reigns in your heart. Your soul is the manger in which the Christ child lies, from which he looks upon the world. Your heart is the throne from which God reigns with unconquerable gentleness and infinitely deep compassion.

As you sit there and read this, as you walk about today, the whole glory of heaven radiates from within you. The presence of God gives you life; it is your pulse, your breath, your awareness. Live in harmony with God's presence within you. Act and speak in harmony with God's delight in you. Let every breath be God praying in you. Of course your awareness of this will change you radically. Go with it. May the God of peace occupy you entirely.

Weather report

increasing throughout the day,
with patchy moments of clarity,
as the jet stream of time
moves through the divine,
condensing into this world.
This will produce holiness,
especially at lower levels.
Mystery tomorrow, with a general
blessing trend.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent blessing

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Mary understands what it's like for you,
with God inside you, swelling with life.

Mountains bow to your courage;
valleys stand up in honor of your humility.

Your longest nights
will enfold miracles.

The darkness will reveal the star
the light has hidden.

Angel choirs in their swirling robes
will sing glory to your world. Yes, yours.

Heaven is gift-wrapped
in the most ordinary paper.

Your waiting is faith;
your longing is holy.

Someone on the edge will prepare a way
into your life for your Redeemer.

Your Savior longs with longing deeper than yours
to be with you, even in this ragged winter.

May you listen and hear Gabriel,
look into the rough manger of this world and see God.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Deepen your waiting

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Since everything will be changed in this way,
what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly lives,
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.

—2 Peter 3. 11-12

If you do not know what it is you are awaiting,
surely it is God.

The clock on the wall is dumb,
and only leads you in circles.

Relinquish all thought of control.
Keep your hands open and empty.

Without your hands on the rose
it will unfold.

Give your waiting spaciousness
so that it may be a blessing.

Sit with Mary:
not in lack, but great with life.

Open yourself to what is still becoming
so that it may.

Let your life create the welcoming space
for what is yet to arrive.

Like a poet waiting for the right word to come,
you will be visited.

Let this moment be enough;
let there always be more to come.

For more than you can imagine,
for longer than you can manage,

deepen your waiting.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light