I started this hymn text last December as I began my 14-day hunger strike, moving deeply into my own hunger during this season of holy expectation.
Advent is surely the season in which we “deck the halls” and “trim the tree” as we get ready for Christmas. Our homes are filled with Christmas Carols (even if we’re supposed to be waiting until Christmas) and (hopefully) the scent of fresh cookies.
And YET, for so much of the world Advent is not merely the four weeks prior to Christmas, it is the gut-deep hunger for justice and for wholeness that swallows entire lives. Unless Advent begins in that place, Christmas is not a cause for joy.
(Note that in the text below I’ve marked both the line breaks ( / ) and the places where the tune requires you to hold a sound over a couple of notes ( o-over ). It reads fine as a poem without the extra markings, but if you want to sing it, you’ll find the markings helpful.)
The Place Where Advent Starts
As the darkness stretches o-over / all the daylight, all our lives
In the depths of expecta-ation / where the heart sees, You reside.
Dare we beckon to the hunger / fill our frame and fee-eed our soul
In this dim-lit struggling wor-rld / that our feasting be made full.
As we wait with restless lon-onging / for your kin-dom fully come
Rise the cries of warring na-ations / beats the pulse of terror’s drum.
“Comfort now, my people, comfort,” / spoke the prophet lon-ong ago.
“Still my peace comes to this wor-rld / midst its bombs, its spears and bows.”
As the earth cries out in an-anguish / less for birth than bitter toil;
As the poor, their fortunes fal-alter / as the ill, their spirits spoil.
Steel our vision, so that we see / full the depth of bro-oken hearts;
For in this place—hungry, ho-opeless / yes, in this place, advent starts.
Hasten now, come quickly to-oo us / ’fore our spirits faint with fear.
Be the light in deepest dar-arkness / be the hope that draws us near.
In your advent, may we waken / live the life you ca-all us to:
Every deed a Christmas man-anger / ready now to welcome you.
Text: David R. Weiss, b. 1959 (text, © 2011 David R. Weiss)
Tune: BEACH SPRING (The Sacred Harp, Philadelphia, “Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service”; Lutheran Book of Worship 423 – public domain)
Permission is given to photocopy The Place Where Advent Starts for use in worship.
David, thanks so much for this deeply moving hymn. That it grow out of your own hunger makes the words even more meaningful. Your preamble to the hymn especially resonates with me: “So much of the world Advent is not merely the four weeks prior to Christmas, it is the gut-deep hunger for justice and for wholeness that swallows entire lives. Unless Advent begins in that place, Christmas is not a cause for joy.” Thanks for helping to make my – our – Advent season a season where our expectation gives birth to action wherein we find the Christ Child. – JamieAnn