Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Eve

Read Luke 2:1-20

we've mucked out
the stable
    and put down the
            plush carpet;
you will come,
    tracking in mud
    from the Jordan
        and shaking sin's
            from off your

the animals
have been dropped off
    at the SPCA
        and the room
you will come,
        leading the lost,
        the least, the little
                into our midst.

we've turned over
the manger
        and covered it with
                Irish lace,
    setting the table with
            the finest silver
                    and china;
you will come,
        tearing the linen
        into strips
    for binding our
            selling the silver
        to feed the hungry.

we've tamed
and made marketable
            this most holy of
                shaping it by
        our own desire and
you will come,
        slipping between
            the cracks of our despair
    to fill our emptiness
                with grace,
        and the carols of angels
    to transform our
            acquisitiveness into

© Thom M. Shuman

Fourth Thursday of Advent

Read Psalm 18:1-20

        34th miner

for those
trapped below the crust
    of the earth,
                as well as all
            trapped below the surface
            of casual compassion,
    you are the driller of

for those who live
    in shelter cobbled together
        from buildings thrown
        down by quaking ground,
                    and those who dwell
                in cardboard suburbs
                surrounding gentrified
                        city cores,
    you are the carpenter of
                    new life;

for your children
    continuing to mop up
            the spills after all
            the celebrities have left,
                    and your creatures
                who struggle to find
                places to nest their
    you are the shrimper who
           draws them out of
                troubled waters.

we love you, O LORD,
            for you delight in us
    so much that
        you became

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fourth Wednesday of Advent

Read Isa 31:1-9; Luke 1:39-48a

we drive down
the crowded highways
                    of our days,
        never seeing another
            soul we might connect
                        with, until we
    spot the young fellow
    on the corner,
        standing next to his
            (looks like she'll deliver
            at any moment) partner,
                    with a handwritten
                    sign which reads,
        simply, 'Bethlehem';
            why are we the ones
                        to notice (and

the peacemakers are folding
                        up the tables,
        stacking the chairs in the corner,
    all the while blowing their noses,
            wiping the tears off
                                their cheeks,
        speaking with broken voices
                to the mike-holding cynics
                surrounding them for a
                    bite to satisfy their
                        11 p.m. viewers,
            'we just couldn't find anyone
            willing to take our ideas
    and without knowing why, we
            pull one of them aside
                    to get more information.

a family member we haven't
            seen in years (and whom
    we probably hoped we wouldn't) suddenly is
        on our doorstep, battered bag
                at their feet, slapping at
                    the dust of the years
                    clinging to their hopes,
        and as we look through
                        the peephole,
            wondering if they heard
            us walk to the door,
    suddenly, our heart shifts
                in a different direction
        as we reach for the handle,
'why me?'

© 2010 Thom M. Shuman

Fourth Tuesday of Advent

Read Psalm 94; Luke 1:26-38

        only the Shadow knows

overshadow us,
O LORD, you God of vengeance:

    not with bolts
                of lightning,
        but re-wiring the home
        of a great grandmother
                    on disability;

    not with a heavy
        but with that deep
                    basso profundo
            that knows the blues
                because you've lived

    not with the judgment
                we would inflict
        out of our prejudices,
            but with that justice
                    longed for by
                those we fear;

    not with a fist striking out
                in fury,
        but with a hand reaching
        out to hold on to
            the teenagers who
            walk Christmas's streets
                    after all the
                    church goers
            are snuggled safe in
                 our beds.

overshadow us
    according to your

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fourth Monday of Advent

Read Psalm 67

        stop and listen*

in that quiet
    in the middle of
            the rush
        to get our list
checked off:                Selah
in that stunning
        that it is not
    so much the
            elect Jesus
        came for, but
    everybody (even
those we avoid):            Selahin the gap
                as we lift
    our foot to around
        over the panhandler
            as we exit
    the ballpark, only
        to find us landing
on holy ground:             Selahin the silence
                when we
        hear God offering
    the highest bid at the
            auctions for all
        whose lives have
been foreclosed:            Selahin every moment
                where we keep
        our ears closed
            to the songs
of the angels:                Selah

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

* In the psalms, Selah is an almost untranslatable word, which may be a musical interlude or choral direction.
Some feel it may best be understood as 'stop and listen' or as Jesus said, 'let those who have ears, listen.'

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Read Isaiah 11:1-16; John 5:30-47


we flip through the pages,
    scanning rapidly down
                    each column,
        thinking we might find
            that (capital A)nswer
   solving every problem;
                failing that,
    we turn the book upside
            down, shaking it
        back and forth, in hopes
    that the gift certificate
                for eternal life,
            the lost family deed
        to heaven,
    any truth at all
            might slip out of
            it's hiding place,
        landing at our feet.

but Truth
    has taken Jesse's branch,
            and shaped a broom
        to sweep up all
                our troubles and afflictions,
            and toss them into the
                to clear a way home;
        Truth has whittled a pole from
                    the root we are always
                    tripping over,
            hanging his flag of justice
        and reconciliation on it,
    waving it high over his head,
                so we can follow;
        Truth has put away the
in order to
            live it.

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Third Saturday of Advent

Read Psalm 149

        from vinyl to igod

when we look
under the tree
    and think
                maybe we have
            done too much,
        rather than not enough,
    a new carol will resound
            in our living rooms;

when politicians
    pass on massive spending
    for the haves-more,
            to fund shelters and
            soup kitchens for
                            the poor,
    the carolers will dance down
        the legislative hallways;

when school boards
refuse to cut music, books,
                    and art out of
            their budgets, believing
    that without those, the kids'
    spirits will falter,
        the band at the football game
         will play a chorus of hallelujahs;

when our scratchy, dusty, old
get stuck in the groove
    of doing things the same
            you come along
        whistling a new song
   composing it on our

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 17, 2010

Third Friday of Advent

Read Psalm 148

        carol of the praises

praise God,
    all you birds
    swooping down to
        scoop up the seed
            left out on the deck;
praise him,
    tail-twitching cat
        stalking them from
        behind the safety of
            the dining room
praise the LORD!

praise him,
    you tireless dogs
    chasing one another
        round and round the yard
        until a blizzard of loose
            swirls around you;
praise God,
    all you little kids
    putting the carrot nose
        in the snowteacher's face,
                    a book
            in her hand;
praise the LORD!

praise God,
    you fathers spending
    Saturday morning baking
                    sugar cookies
            with a gaggle of children,
        not scolding
    when more icing gets on
                their faces than
            on the bells and trees,
    the sprinkles dotting
                their cheeks
        like freckles;
praise him,
    all you mothers
    who stay up until time
                    for Vigils,
        assembling the race track
            for your daughter,
    putting the doll house
    together for your
praise the LORD!

©  2010  Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Third Thursday of Advent

Read Isaiah 9:18 - 10:4


will you come
    with your arm outstretched
        to stop the right and the left
        from devouring each other,
            so they might feed
                all whose stomachs
                are tightened from
                    true hunger?

will you come
    reaching out
        to take down
        the widows' heads
        mounted on den walls,
            replacing them with
            a picture of your beloved

will you come
    gathering up
        the orphans on display
        in the trophy
            sending them out
            to make angels in the

will you come
    to snatch
        slander out of our
     smearing the sweet
            balm of kindness
        on our chapped lips?


© 2010 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Third Wednesday of Advent

Read Psalm 53

        lamed vavniks*

the 98-pound weakling
        who gets in the face
            of the mammoth
                linebacker who keeps
    bullying the 9th

the trash collector
    who takes an extra few
        (which he can't really
             spare this morning)
                    to salt the icy
                    driveway of his
        elderly customers;

the little girl who,
            while waiting for her bus,
    tries to collect the
        diamonds on top
                of the snow drifts
            for her teacher;

the mentor
    who shows up at every
                event his student
        takes part in (even
    though he cannot stand
                    to sit for very

    all of them?

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

*according to rabbinic tradition, the
lamed vav(niks) are the 36 'hidden righteous'
in the world.  Even if the rest of the world
became completely barbarous, the presence
of these 36 would keep God from destroying
the world.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Third Tuesday of Advent

Read Psalm 85

        and don't call me shirley

in the rainbow
    prisming through
        the waterfall of
            icicles hanging from
                the roof,
                    your beauty
            is at hand;
in the mother
    suckling her baby
        at three in the morning,
      her fatigue-rimmed eyes
            watching the snow
                falling gently
                outside the window,
                    your grace
            is at hand;

in the family
                rather than gifting
        themselves this year,
            supports the shelter
    for homeless families,
            even offering their
                    your hope
            is at hand;

in the familiar
    whose hallowed refrains
                    our voices;
in the little acolyte
        lighting the advent
            wreath on your Eve,
    whose eyes shatter
                our souls;
in that story
    we could recite backwards,
            whose promises
                still prick
                our ears,
                    your salvation
            is as close
    as your

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 13, 2010

Third Monday of Advent

Read 2nd Peter 1:1-11

we may not see
            but if we pay
            close attention,
in the children
    sharing a sled
    on a snow-packed hill,
in the father
    sending an extra lunch
    to school with his son,
        to slip into a classmate's
in the mother
    taking on an evening
        shift at the store,
            to get the clarinet
    her daughter has always
               dreamed of,
        we catch glimpses of

we may not hear
                but if we listen
            with open ears,
to the college age
    brother who tells his
        little sister, 'of course,
            there is a Santa;'
to the songs of hope
    coming out of
        the shadows of
to the crunch of fresh
   snow being angeled
        by the goofy dog,
            we can eavesdrop
    as you practice your
        for Christmas Eve.

    in those glimpses,
        in those whispers,
we can

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Sunday of Advent

Read Matthew 11:2-11

a cool cloth
laid gently on
    a fevered brow;
holding hands
with a parkinsoned
singing hymns
with a father who
    cannot remember his

is the comfort
    we can wrap
    around others in
            the winter
        of their

as we grieve
the loss of wisdom
    in the ones
        at whose feet
    we sat;
as we work
to transform a culture
    where the scarred,
        the wrinkled, the broken,
            the limited
    are marginalized;
as we serve
        our sisters and brothers
    who have no

is the protest we cry
    out to

are you the
    we hope for?

come, Lord Jesus,
    of all hearts,


© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Seond Saturday of Advent

Read Luke 22:31-38; 2nd Thessalonians 3:6-18


when lethargy
is our bosom buddy,
    and our hearts
        falter in caring
                for our brothers,
    our arms are too weak
            to embrace our

when we worry
so much about doing
                something wrong,
    that we are incapable
        of seeing the simple
            good we could
            offer another;

when it seems
that our faith
    is failing more rapidly
    than the market,
        and apathy shawls
                our souls,
    so we turn away
        from our calling,

    you come along,
    to visit the prisoner,
        to feed the hungry,
            to walk into death's
                cold embrace,
    simply saying,
            'watch what i

and it is enough
    to make us ready
        to go with

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 10, 2010

Second Friday of Advent

Read Isaiah 7:10-25; Luke 22:14-30

        come the day

on that day,
    you will show up
        at my house,
    a waitress on your
        a trash collector
                on your left,
    saying, 'hope you don't
        mind me bringing my
            two best buds;'

on that day,
    you will bring a
            picnic basket,
        filled with warm,
                just-baked bread,
            jars of preserves,
    and a bottle of the best
        from your wine

on that day,
    we will curl up
    on the couch,
        a big bowl of
            drenched in butter
    between us, as we watch
white christmas
     it's a wonderful life
             love actually        until the winter moon
    slouches off to

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Second Thursday of Advent

Read Psalm 62

        the abomination

perhaps auden is right
            that we are
    'more afraid of silence'*

why else do we
    pack our ears
        with buds of songs
    as we walk on a
            crisp wintry morning;

why else do we
    draw an iron curtain
            of riveting conversation
            about the weather and sports
        between us
            and our neighbors
    on the evening

why else do we
    become so inarticulate
        when gifted with
        the time and place
    to speak out against

it is in silence that

we find the harbor
    for our restless hearts;
we see the sister who
        is hungry,
             the brother who
        longs for a friend;
we hear the hope
    whispered by the
    sliver of moon in
            the night sky.

in silence,
    o my soul,
        in silence.

© 2010 Thom M. Shuman

* 'We are afraid
   Of pain but more afraid of silence; for no nightmare
   Of hostile objects could be as terrible as the Void.
   This is the Abomination.  This is the Wrath of God.'
       W. H. Auden, "For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio"


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Second Wednesday of Advent

Read 2nd Thessalonians 1:1-12; John 7:53-8:11


our hearts are hardened
   our eyes peeled for transgressors,
      our pockets full of rocks,
we're ready
   and waiting
      for your return:
at the head of that
mighty band of angels
      dressed in burnished armor,
   carrying sharp-edged axes,
            unleashing volcanos of flames,
      unfolding the leaked documents
      where all the names are listed . . .

so come!

   kneeling down
   to gently write words like
   in the dirt floors of our

   to look us in the eye,
      staring deeply into
            our souls,
   and, finding, the seeds of
      buried there, water
         them with your tears;

   to whisper the words
      which only you can
and only we can hear,
      and we will go,
   giving thanks to God
            for you,

(c) 2010 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Second Tuesday of Advent

Read 1st Thessalonians 5:12-28; Luke 21:29-38

        at all times

keep your eyes wide
    in every moment,
    in every place:

where those who
are called heroic,
    share their socks
    with those who
        have cold feet;

where teachers keep
enough patience on hand
    for every fidgety child,
        for every inquisitive mind
        filled with never-ending

where those who have
put in double shifts
    for the last two weeks,
    stop at the 24/7
            prayer room
        before hitting the sack;

where those whose
arms, legs, hands
    are corded with
        sculpted muscles,
    pick up knitting needles
    to make scarves and mittens
            for the homeless;

for when these things
    can the kingdom
be far behind?

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 06, 2010

Second Monday of Advent

Read Psalm 122

when the teenagers
        knot together
in front of the stores,
    smoking, cursing, annoying,
            i can mutter
        under my breath as i
            make a wide circle around
    or i can pray,

when i follow the dog
        and step carefully over
                all the litter
    spilled carelessly on the walk,
(nudging him away from the scraps),
        i can rush home
        to call the council, demanding
            they do their job,
    or i can take an extra
        bag, praying for creation
            as i pick up the mess.

when i open the paper
    and read the stats,
        i can shut my eyes;
when I turn on the radio
    and hear the bulletins,
        i can close my ears;
when i drive down
to the urban core,
    i can lock all my doors . . .
i can pray for the welfare
            of all of my
        sister and brothers
    seeking their good.

i can do all this,
    can't i?

©  2010  Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent

Read Matthew 3:1-12


reporters stand out
in the bitter cold, and
    shout out their questions,
        at the cashmere coats
        walking to their chauffeured cars,
    but the self-righteous
            smile smugly and wave;

the subpoenas
have been issued,
    placed into the hands of
        the selfish and the
            venal who,
    when they appear
    before the committee,
        respond to the charges
                with silence;

out by the curbs,
the HDTV box is placed
next to the garbage cans,
        the beer cans and liquor bottles,
        the lies and abuse,
        the bruises and the tears
    carefully hidden from sight;

as the Light begins
to walk boldly over the
    John drives ahead,
        stopping and throwing
        the trash into his truck
        already overflowing with
            so-called facts,
            shredded documents,
                and broken promises,
calling out to the folks
peeking out their doors,

'straighten up;
    the cover-ups have ended!'

© 2010 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 04, 2010

First Saturday of Advent

Read Psalm 72 and Isaiah 4:2-6

when we head out to
    the mall,
        and find a store
        named 'Justice'
    where impartiality
            is included with
        every gift,
    and fair play is the
            only game
                on the shelves;

when we get up
    at 3:00 a.m.
    on Black Friday
        so we can be first
        in line to get
            the rifles that have
                been turned into
            and the tridents which
                now send fireworks
                    into the sky;

when we go online
    and purchase as much
        as our budget allows
            (breaking open our kids'
                piggy banks, if needed)
    and take advantage
            of the free shipping
        to send it to all
        the broken places
                in the world:

on that day, we
    shall be your
        we shall reflect your

© 2010 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 03, 2010

First Friday of Advent

Read Isaiah 3:1 - 4:1

at Harrods and Nordstrom,
   the folks stand staring
            in front of the windows,
    tempted by all the finery
                displayed before them;
at Nieman Marcus, at Marks and Spencer,
        all that we might ever want,
            (but, ever use?)
        draws in the crowds,
                attracted by the perfumes,
                    the jewelry,
                        the richness
            of life.

if we were to wander
    across the avenue
and turn down the less
        traveled street,
    we would find you
    sitting in the window
            of your nondescript
    your feet working the
            pedal of the sewing machine,
as you take up a hem here,
        and let out the waist there,
    as you lengthen the pants for some,
as you shorten the sleeves for others

then handing the garments
                to us,
    you nod, 'the fitting rooms
        are in the back'
and when we come out
wearing what you have made
    (an apron for one,
            overalls for another,
    a pair of wellies that fit perfectly,
        the bandanna to mop our brows)

you send us back out
    to muck out the stable,
        and repair the manger;
    to get the guest room ready
        for the magi;
    to lay out the cheese and crackers
        for the shepherds;

to get ready for the Babe
    who will lead us.

© 2010 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, December 02, 2010

First Thursday of Advent

Read 1st Thessalonians 3:1-13

        night and day

we thought we could
    put up with
        those words that crush us
            with their mean-spirited
        those looks that pin us
            to despair's wall;
        the cruelty which wears
            piety's mask.

we thought we could
    stick out
        the never-ending days
            where every hour is filled
            with chronic grief;
        those nights where unanswered
        prayers scud across the skies,
            with no dawn peeking
                    over the horizon.

we thought we could
    carry the load
        of the suffering that takes root
            in the most barren lives;
        of the tears our friends
            baptize us with;
        of the injustices the merciless
            gift to the most vulnerable.

we thought we could bear it all

so send

send Jesus to us
    once again.

© 2010 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

First Wednesday of Advent

Read 1st Thessalonians 2:13-20

in the morning
(practically the first thing),
    i lift my invocation
        to you,
    praying my psalm of
        over my aging body
            the antiphon echoing
                    the stiffness of
                my joints;

five times a day (or more)
my voice is lifted to you,
    sometimes speaking those
        words of weariness and
            over the struggles of
                my life,
    all too often
    simply whispering the aches
                    in my heart
        of those people who
            fray my nerves;

at compline in the evening,
before i slip under the covers
    cuddling up next to my
    all too fitful companion, sleep,
        my examen of the day
        brings up all those fractured
            all those moments when
                time seemed to be
                avoiding me.

    gratitude continues to
        patiently sitting in
        the corner,
hoping (and probably
    praying constantly!)
        that I will pick her up
        and carry her with me
    the rest of my life.

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman