“Good morning. We’re going to do a short prayer and then open. Join in if you want to.” Every morning at Manna House, that is how we begin. Guests and volunteers are invited to join hands with each other and pray.
But this morning is not most mornings. This is the season of Advent. We are in a time out of the ordinary, a time of expectation. We are in a time when we are invited to enter into the darkness of the womb. Mary invited the very Word of God into her womb, and we are invited into the womb of God to be expectant with Mary, to respond to the promise of new birth.
Sojourners Magazine recently shared a prayer from Shannon Casey who wrote in Embracing Darkness This Advent Season, “In the darkness of the womb, the future is waiting to be born. And yes, sometimes we’ll feel terrible, but this Advent, may we have ears to hear the midwife as she compassionately reminds us to breathe.”
How do we hear the midwife and compassionately breathe together? Maybe it can happen in song. To sing together we have to listen to each other and breathe together, we have to find harmony together. So for this Advent, for our prayer together on the front porch at Manna House, we are invited to sing together, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
There is something powerful about pulling this “church song” out of church and placing it into our lives at Manna House. Each one of us on the front porch at Manna House are in various ways broken, hurting, and in need of being reborn. We each carry our sins, our faults, our histories of wrongdoing and failings. We are all human beings, vulnerable, in need of love and welcome and respect. Some of us have housing, some do not. Some have some degree of wealth, others struggle with different levels of poverty. For all of us, for Manna House to be a place of hospitality, we have to extend some trust to each other. We each stand in expectation and hope of a better life, of wholeness.And so we sing together “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” and listen and breathe together the words of this song that alternates between the darkness of the womb and the light of new birth.
We are captive, we mourn in lonely exile, until the Son of God appears.
We are under Satan’s tyranny, in the depths of hell, but then comes victory over the grave.
We experience “the gloomy clouds of night” and “death’s dark shadows,” but then comes the Light.
We are not at home here on this earth. We are alienated from God and each other, but then comes the key of David to open the door, and we are all welcomed into God’s home, into the Beloved Community.
Singing on the front porch we are a motley choir. A bit off key now and then. A bit forgetful of a word or two of the song. A bit hesitant even to sing. But somehow the song envelopes each of us and we gain a glimpse of another time and space where homelessness ends, where racism and classism and homophobia and sexism cease, where people are just people together.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel