Stumped: An Advent Poem

“O Root”
Sr. Ansgar Holmberg, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet


Isaiah 11:1-9

You went upstairs behind a door—
Of course you’re coming down,
With trumpets blaring, clouds aflame,
With sceptre, sword, and crown.

Prepare the way! Clean up the mess!
Make sure the band’s in tune!
And keep an eye up to the sky,
For He is coming soon!

But what if you’re already here,
Just hidden out of sight,
The way our floodlit cityscapes
Drown out the stars at night?

We look up from this holy mess,
This stump with rotten roots;
But are you coming down to earth,
Or springing up a shoot?

Uprooting all we think we know
Of time and love and grace
With nothing but a wink and nod,
And laugh lines in your face.

It wouldn’t be the first time that
We peered at you and wondered:
“Are you the one who was to come,
Or should we seek another?”

Your mothballed coat and weary boots
Stump our expectation,
Redeem our sight, reveal the blight
As holy consecration.

The sudden unexpected twist
Makes smiles out of frowns—
A lion who lay with his sheep
Has turned the world around.

While we await the end of hope
In all our surety,
The only thing that’s certain
Is a certain mystery—

So tell me truth, but tell me slant,
Your hands over my eyes
Just like a child on Christmas morn,
And give me a surprise!

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