An Advent Reflection for Friday, December 17th by Emily John Garces
Lectionary reading for 12/17/2021: Psalm 80:1-7; Isaiah 42:10-18; Hebrews 10:32-39
Selected passage for reflection: Isaiah 42:10-18
10 Sing a new song to the Lord! Sing his praises from the ends of the earth! Sing, all you who sail the seas, all you who live in distant coastlands. 11 Join in the chorus, you desert towns; let the villages of Kedar rejoice! Let the people of Sela sing for joy; shout praises from the mountaintops! 12 Let the whole world glorify the Lord ; let it sing his praise.
13 The Lord will march forth like a mighty hero; he will come out like a warrior, full of fury. He will shout his battle cry and crush all his enemies. 14 He will say, "I have long been silent; yes, I have restrained myself. But now, like a woman in labor, I will cry and groan and pant. 15 I will level the mountains and hills and blight all their greenery. I will turn the rivers into dry land and will dry up all the pools. 16 I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them. 17 But those who trust in idols, who say, 'You are our gods,' will be turned away in shame.
“Sing a new song to the Lord!” – How many times have I heard these words? What do they mean? Is it enough to sing one of the same tired old church songs we always sing and change the words and chords around a bit? To whom was the writer directing their command? Sailors? Those travelling to new places? Do we need new songs when we go to new places? Won’t an old song do just as well? - even if so much of the world around us has changed beyond recognition.
And why is The Lord relinquishing her restraint like a woman in labor? What would that feel like? - to be silent for so long that you can’t contain it anymore and to release your inner being as a guttural scream - as a song so new that the agony of its arrival was as if you had just given birth to it. How loud would this cry have to be to level mountains? It sounds at first like a cry of destruction, doesn’t it? - rivers turning into dry land, the blighting of greenery - but maybe some destruction was necessary to “smooth out the road” – maybe making a “new path” (like making a new song) requires the roar of a little dynamite to help remove a few obstacles for others.
Today a friend told me that it’s upsetting that so many people seem to live under the false impression that they are not creative – when creativity is simply the action of letting your inside out – and there are so many ways in which we can do this.
Singing a new song can be a terrifying experience. Giving birth was a terrifying experience – watching something that had only existed inside me becoming part of the world and feeling simultaneously that the world wasn’t ready for it, and that it wasn’t ready for the world. But I gave birth despite my fear (with no pain relief in a rented room in The Netherlands) because once something is inside you it has its own desire to experience the world. Our inner womb is a safe place for creativity to grow – but a day comes when the daylight will call those creative dreams into being.
At first, I thought that the pain I was feeling was creative frustration, or creative inadequacy - it was when I identified the pain as birth-pangs that I was able to harness it in the creation of my “new song” – a book of 40 poems and 40 paintings, called ‘The Quiet Woman’.
Here is the title poem.
the quiet woman
is quiet because
she’s breathing in
inflating her lungs
debating her next move
waiting for her moment
taking up space
like an airship
when she speaks
you will feel the earth shake
you’ll have to lean into her words
one foot in front of the other
so you don’t fall over
when she speaks
there will be a landslide
trees will be uprooted
tectonic plates will collide
when she speaks
continents will drift back together
coincidences will reconnect
when she speaks
darkness and deceit
will feel the burning weight of light
running everywhere for cover
- and finding none
when she speaks
all the heavy air that she’s been
will belong to all of us.
Close your eyes. Place a hand on your body. What are the names of the creative beings you contain? What are the words that you have thought but never spoken? Focus on the tiny, unwrapped parcels of movement that you feel within yourself. Do you feel you have been silent for long enough? Be present with the depths of your silence. Is it the restful silence of healing and growth – or the silence of someone breathing in, ready to speak or to act? Only you know your body. Only you know what needs to be kept in, and what is ready to be released.
I start my book Hitchhiking with Drunken Nuns with the words:
“I am writing my own song in the faith that it will inspire you to listen to your own voice in the deep silence – and that you will start to hum the song of yourself – quietly at first, and then with the full capacity of your lungs.”
In the same way that people do not own the souls of their children, I do not own the forms that my creative expression wishes to take. I release it as I release my own breath. To stay or to go. To bring colour and music and light to the world that holds us close. I trust the same Creative Spirit who chose to plant Their desire for creative expression deep within me. I trust the new songs as I find them within myself, I trust that they are as unique and as original and as needed as the unique and original and very much needed person I have been created to be. Amen.
About The Author
Emily John Garces gained her middle name when she swapped it with her husband (Matthew Laura). She lives in a cottage in England and is an ex-missionary, an artist, poet, podcaster and all-round creative. She has two children, a dog called Eva, five pairs of doc martens, a Canadian canoe and a large appetite. She is author of Hitchhiking with Drunken Nuns and The Quiet Woman and can be found on social media.