Reflections on Incarnation in this Season of Advent

The familiar faces of my parishioners occupy the screen before me as I sit on my zafu, a cushion Buddhists often use while doing a seated meditation called Zazen. I started this weekly meditation group within months of my arrival at Christ Episcopal Church almost six years ago. It is modeled loosely on a recovery meeting I attended throughout my early twenties at the San Francisco Zen Center. When the Bay Area issued its shelter-in-place orders in March 2020, we started gathering remotely, which we continue to do to this day.  Read more

No Christmas Without Her: Bathsheba’s Story

Nothing quite says Christmas like a sermon about Bathsheba. Bathsheba is the last woman’s name other than Mary’s to be mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew. Except we don’t exactly get her name. She is remembered as “the wife of Uriah,” already hinting at a complicated story of survival. Christmas does not come to us without survivors of trauma. All of the women in Jesus’ genealogy are survivors, and remembering and retelling their stories are ways to remember and retell our own, naming our hurt even as we name our hopes. White text against a red background, with a crown in gold above the text, which says, "Christmas does not come to us without survivors of trauma. All of the women in Jesus' genealogy are survivors, and remembering and retelling their stories are ways to remember and retell our own, naming our hurt even as we name our hopes." with author information below. Read more

No Christmas Without Her: Rahab’s Story

Who do you consider to be a hero? Our word “hero” comes from a Greek which literally meant protector or defender. Originally, heroes were not necessarily good, but they were always extraordinary; to be a hero was to expand people’s sense of what was possible for a human being. Every culture, every people, constructs their own heroic myths because we need heroes; they express our ideals and hopes, they define the courage, honor, justice, and the other shared values we aspire to. Perhaps when you consider heroes, you might consider heroes of the faith like the ones mentioned in Jesus’ own genealogy in Matthew, but you probably do not think of Rahab. Read more

A photo of wooden nativity set with undetailed faces, surrounded by a golden ribbon and sitting on top of burlap cloth

When Hope is Hidden

As we settle into the darkness of the changing of season, we are also being encouraged to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Light of the World as the Advent season commences. The juxtaposition of looking for the light in the midst of the darkness always brings a tension to this time in the liturgical church calendar. How are we supposed to look for the light when the daylight fades with each passing hour? Read more

No Christmas Without Her: Tamar’s Story

In Jesus’ family tree, there are a lot of really obscure names, but there are also some famous people. Matthew’s account starts with Abraham. Luke’s genealogy traces Jesus all the way back to Adam. Either way, we learn that Jesus has to do with beginnings: God’s creation of the world, and God’s choosing of God’s people. Further down the line there is King David, linking Jesus with God’s promise that a descendant of David will rule Israel forever. This family tree is almost entirely made up of men, but there are five exceptions: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. 

First, there is Tamar. Tamar’s story takes up one chapter, Genesis 38- a brief detour from the longer story of Joseph. It doesn’t seem to be connected much to anything around it, which is enough for some scholars to question why it’s there at all. Tamar’s story begins when Judah, one of Jacob’s sons and Joseph’s brothers, settles in another place, marries, and has three sons. Judah’s oldest son is named Er, and Judah takes a Tamar as a wife for him. But then, Genesis 38:7 tells us, “Er…was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.” Not how I believe God generally operates, but so the story goes. Read more

Four white candles sit in an evergreen wreath against a dark background.

Communion Setting for Advent

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.


In the beginning there was Love, Love so radiant it could not be contained–bursting forth as the sun, filling the sky with light, then breaking off into tiny pieces, into stars, to brighten the dark night sky.

In the beginning there was Love, Love so bountiful that it needed something to love, so it created the earth and filled it with all sorts of good things: sheep and horses, cats and dogs, fish and birds. Love made people in Love’s image–made us!–with lips to smile, lungs to laugh, and warm hearts. It didn’t take long for us to learn the opposite of love–we learned to beat one another with our fists instead of hugging one another with our arms and to offer words of hate instead of praise. Love’s heart ached because of the broken world, so Love spoke through prophets and priests, calling us back to our Creator’s embrace.

And so with your people on earth, and all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn:


Sanctus                                                                                                                                                                                     FWS 2257b


When our hearts were too hard to hear the words of the prophets, Love came down to earth, in a form that we would recognize. So Love became Jesus, a baby to be cuddled and kissed, who would fall down and skin his knees, who would wrap his arms around those he loved. Love came down and lived among us, teaching us how to love one another. He filled the hungry with good things, gave words of comfort to those who were hurting, and spoke of the day when Love, not power or wealth, would rule the world.

But there were those whose hearts were still hard. They refused to believe such a thing was possible. So they tried to quench the Love of God, crucifying him on a tree, broken by a world of hurt and pain.

On the night in which he gave himself up for us, Jesus sat at a table with friends. He taught them that they must love one another just as he loved them. He taught them that everyone would know they were his followers and friends if they had love for one another.

Then he took bread, blessed it, and shared it with those around him, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Whenever you eat it, remember me.” When the supper was over he took a cup, again he blessed it and gave thanks, then shared it, saying, “This is my blood, given for you. Whenever you drink it, remember me.”

And so we remember as we gather around this table and proclaim the mystery of faith:


Memorial Acclamation                                                                                                                                                                      FWS 2257c


Pour out your Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and cup. May they be for the living body and blood of Christ, Emmanuel, God’s Love with us. By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet. Through your Son, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church all honor and glory is yours, Almighty God, now and forever. 



Four white candles sit in an evergreen wreath against a dark background.

I Will Cry Out

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. —Luke 2:1-7 (NRSV)

In the birth story in Luke there isn’t much about the actual birth! We hear more about the decree to be registered and where Joseph is from than how it went for Mary when it was time for her to deliver the child. The text leaves it to us to fill in the details. Was Mary’s delivery long or short? Who was there with her? Just Joseph? Or others? How did she feel, giving birth so far away from home?

In The Women’s Lectionary, author Ashley M. Wilcox explores female characters in the Bible and feminine descriptions of God, enabling a year of preaching on both the human and divine feminine.

This is just one of the stories about mothers giving birth in the Bible. And it is reflected in the stories of God as a mother. When I was working on my book, The Women’s Lectionary, I became fascinated by the images of God as a mother in the Bible. God is an angry mother bear in Hosea, and Jesus describes himself as a protective mother hen. One image that has captured my imagination is the description of God giving birth in Isaiah: “Now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant” (42:14).

What if this was our creation story? We already have at least two stories of the creation: the orderly division in Genesis 1 and the messier, muddier version that follows. This is another creation, the God who cries out like a woman giving birth, “who created the heavens and stretched them out,” (42:5) like a body stretching to make room for new life. Read more

A Prayer for the Waiting

Do you like waiting? I write about how in dealing with infertility, you are often stuck in two-week increments: two weeks to ovulation, two weeks of waiting. Repeat. Only, it isn’t always so simple either — long cycles or short cycles, closed clinics or other disruptions. For 53 months, I felt like I was endlessly waiting. Advent is celebrated as the liturgical season of waiting, waiting for Christ to come again. But waiting is exhausting. It’s even demoralizing sometimes. The following prayer does not romanticize the waiting but seeks to be open to God’s presence in the midst of it.

God who wipes our tears away, hurry up already. The weight of waiting has left me spent, unable to focus. I have no control, no reasoning can get me out of this, and scrolling often makes it worse. I want you to swoop in and zap my struggles away. I want you to lift up the lowly, now. I want you to make the world new, now.

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When Christmas Isn’t Joyful Part 2: A COVID Christmas

When I was a kid, I loved going to my grandma’s house on Christmas. Of course I loved the gifts and being with family, but what I really loved was Grandma’s Christmas tree. Have you ever seen “icicle tinsel” that is basically thousands of loose shiny silver strings? That was Grandma’s tree. And by “Grandma’s tree,” I don’t mean a few scattered here and there; I mean the tree in its entirety. Though my grandparents always cut down a live tree, by the time Grandma was done decorating it, nary a pine needle or branch was visible, only silver tinsel illuminated by multicolored Christmas lights she had surely owned since the 1970s.

The author’s 2020 annual ornament.

That tree brought me pure joy. If I close my eyes, I can still see it.

On All Saints Sunday, my spouse and I sat around the breakfast table with our kids and recounted some of our favorite memories of family members who died before they knew them, memories that bring us joy even in the sadness of these loved ones’ deaths. Grandma’s tree was one of those memories for me.

In 2020, we need every ounce of joy in every place we can find it.

Last Advent, I wrote a piece entitled “The Story of the Bird: When Christmas Isn’t Joyful.” I shared about how our family has a particular ornament that commemorates a particularly difficult year, and how we hang it up and tell that story every year. In December 2019 when I wrote that article, I had no idea what 2020 would be.

But here we are, revisiting our ornaments and the stories they tell. You’ve probably seen some of the 2020 ornaments going around this year: dumpster fires, toilet paper, masks, or my personal favorite of the Grinch pictured next to the year 2020 with the words “Stink, Stank, Stunk.”

But did it? Did the whole year “stink stank stunk”? I am not one to silver-line things, as last year’s essay reveals. When we only focus on the “happy things” while overlooking what’s underneath, we aren’t being honest about our true emotions and experiences.

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Craft Store in September

Christmas in September

Here it is, September 24. The heat has tapered off, the colors are starting to turn, and pumpkin spice is everywhere. Yet, if you walk in your local craft store, that fact might elude you. I was recently in search of a sketchbook for my son, and as soon as I walked in the door, the sights and sounds of Christmas — with red and green, glitter and bells — overcame me. The aisles were lined with these craft supplies and decorations, and I walked by shopping carts full of greenery and ribbon. I’ve barely breathed since Labor Day, and yet it seems as though Halloween has been completely subsumed by Christmas.

Craft Store in September

Craft Store in September

In fact, if my own social media feeds are any indication, the corporate rush into holidays is one of Americans’ favorite things to collectively complain about. The chorus of “IT ISN’T THANKSGIVING YET! PUT YOUR CHRISTMAS STUFF AWAY!” rings almost as loudly as the passive-aggressive posts counting down the days until Christmas, chiding people to refrain from any songs containing the words “holly” or “jolly” for that number of days.

And it isn’t just Christmas, is it? Easter decor is out by Valentine’s Day, Independence Day by Easter, fall by Independence Day, Christmas by Labor Day… and the cycle continues.

It feels rushed and capitalistic. Like the only thing the stores care about is getting us to buy more, earlier. And… that is true. When you’re out in September and see a Christmas decoration you absolutely love, there’s no way to know if it will still be there in December, so you should buy it NOW, right? Then buy more when the season does roll around! Stores know this, and they are happy to feed that need for more, for better, for newer.

I don’t deny for one minute that that is true; corporations sell what makes money.

But there’s an also true here, another reality that offers a different lens. Without denying capitalistic goals, the also true is that stores are not the only places that blur the lines between seasons and holidays.

This is also true in clergy offices.

Clergy are always one season ahead. At least one season.

Sometimes, that feels a little bizarre.

It’s an odd mark of ministry; cultivating worship experiences and programming to fit the theme of each season requires a lot of advance preparation, so we are never really full present in the season we’re in. We live our lives in this “already but not yet”… one foot planted firmly in the present, leading in worship and programming that meets the needs of our congregations and communities, at that very space and time. And the other foot is always — always — a step ahead.All over the country, on this very day in September, pastors are working on their Advent sermon series, planning seasonal events, and filling newsletters with “Save the Dates” for December. Advent planning has been a regular conversation in my clergy social media groups for weeks, and I‘ve even seen some references to Lent and Easter 2020 popping up. By the time our congregations are actually observing Advent, clergy will be knee-deep planning Lent: preaching on Sunday morning about awaiting the birth of embodied Hope… all the while spending Thursday afternoons planning Lenten Bible Studies that focus on the fallibility of our humanity.

And occupying that space, the ever-present reality of the already but not yet, is holy. It’s like a little sneak peak into what’s ahead, prayerfully seeking where God is leading us and our congregations next. Getting to lead what is with grateful anticipation of what might be.

Embracing that has been helpful for me, laying down my sword in the fight against one-season-at-a-time and living into the messiness of the reality of blurred seasons. So, one recent morning, I breathed deeply, lit an evergreen candle, added peppermint to my coffee, and streamed a Christmas movie in the background while I got to work.

And then, when I walked into this craft store that had exploded in red and green, I let out a sigh of solidarity. It wasn’t just me. I know that we have all of autumn, not to mention four full weeks of Advent, before we get to Christmas. But some days, focusing on that grateful anticipation of what might be is what my soul — and my planner — need.

So the next time you see Christmas decorations out long before Thanksgiving, remember that, as people of faith, Hope is already here.