They shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. – Micah 5:4b

If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.

Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.

But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.

I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.

I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:


That is the poem Beloved Is Where We Begin by Jan Richardson from her collection of verse entitled Circle of Grace.[1] It is a poem for Lent, but it also speaks to us of the Advent promise we hear in the prophecy of Micah, “They shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.”[2] On the Christian journey, as poet Richardson writes, wherever it may take us, there will be help; there will be the security promised by Micah.

The 17th Century French philosopher Blaise Pascal described human beings as having what he called a “God-shaped hole,” not a flaw, but rather a natural yearning, “the empty print and trace” of a true happiness that once was there, an “infinite abyss” that can only be filled by God.[3] Similarly, St. Augustine of Hippo, the 4th Century African bishop, in the first lines of his Confessions, wrote that “our hearts are restless till they find their rest in God.”[4] Based on such insights, Lutheran theologian David Lose has suggested that before there was “original sin” there is “original insecurity.” He writes, “Adam and Eve are tempted to overcome that original insecurity not through their relationship with God but through the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, fruit that in that moment looks to be shaped just like their hole.”[5]

Mary’s great song of triumph, the Magnificat, celebrates the filling of the hole of insecurity by the One incarnating in her womb:

[God] has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.[6]

These are the gifts of “the strange graces that come to our aid only on a road such as this.” This is the time of year when the Incarnate One whispers most clearly into our ears, “Beloved, beloved, beloved.” This is the time of year when we discover that that insecure, yearning hole in the middle of our existence is already filled. We sing the old familiar hymn:

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.[7]

And we realize that it is in that God-shaped hole that Christ is born and born again, and thus we, too, are born again and we find the security promised by Micah and celebrated by Mary.

I’m not preaching this week, but if I were, I think I might say something about insecurity and Incarnation.


Click on footnote numbers to link back to associated text.

[1] Richardson, Jan, Circle of Grace (Wanton Gospeller Press, Orlando, FL:2015), page 96

[2] Micah 5:4b

[3] Pensees 10:148

[4] Confesssions 1.1.1

[5] Into Temptation, Working Preacher Website, March 7, 2011, online

[6] Luke 1:51-53

[7] Brooks, Phillips, O Little Town of Bethlehem, The Hymnal 1982, Hymn No. 78, verse 5.