Ven, Espiritu, Ven (listen here)

Ven, Espíritu ven,
Y lléname Señor
Con tu preciosa unción

Purifícame y lavame
Renuévame, restáurame, Señor,
Con tu poder

Purifícanos y lavanos
Renuevanos, restáuranos, Señor,
Te quiero conocer.

Come, Spirit, come.
Come and fill me, Lord,
I seek more of you

Come and purify, and cleanse my life
Sanctify, renew my mind, oh Lord
With your healing power

Come and purify, and cleanse our lives
Sanctify, renew our minds, oh Lord
We want to know you more.

Jeremiah 29:4-7 (CEB):  
The Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, proclaims to all the exiles I have carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and settle down; cultivate gardens and eat what they produce….  Increase in number there so that you don’t dwindle away.  Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare.

Israel was promised something better. They were God’s chosen people, weren’t they? The ones who were supposed to save their nation on behalf of all the nations? The city on a hill not to be hidden, a light to shine for all to see?

But now Israel was in a foreign land. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last that God’s chosen people would crawl out of the battle, not as the victorious army of the Great I Am, but humiliated and bleeding, separated from their families and from the crumbled remains of Jerusalem, the place where they knew their God to reside.

“My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest” (Ps. 22:2).


Valéria came to America for her daughter. Now she lives in a trailer highly susceptible to palmetto bugs. She rents out a room to a sickly old man, partly to pay the rent, partly as a favor to the church. Because she works three jobs, by the time she gets home, Valéria’s two kids have done their homework, eaten cereal for dinner, and have put themselves to bed.

BUT The week before Christmas, Valeria takes off of work to cook all day long. She makes tamales (the green kind and the red), a soup called posole con pollo y cebolla y cilantro, hot chocolate with cinnamon and chile.

“Posada” is the Spanish word for inn, or better yet, “shelter,” and it is also the name of a Mexican Christmas tradition.  Travelers dress up as shepherds, Maria and Jose, (Mary and Joseph), the three kings, and even a donkey, and they walk around the neighborhood, or in our case, the trailer park.

With candles and guitars, we knock on doors to ask for posada.  En el nombre del cielo, os pido posada… In the name of heaven, we ask for shelter. Time and time again, doors are shut in our faces. Even though it’s all an act, it represents every rejection we’ve ever known.

Finally we knock on the door of the last trailer, and Valéria opens the door. “Are you Joseph? And your wife is Mary? Enter, travelers! I didn’t recognize you!” She sings.

We rush inside, and the noise of laughter, singing, and talking is wonderfully deafening.

We worry that the floor will fall through because there are so many people.

The children break the piñata and chase each other around our legs.

Someone insists that I eat another tamal and take six home.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.


I can’t imagine this was everything that Valéria dreamed of for her daughter when she trudged through the desert 18 years ago.

And this wasn’t what Israel dreamed of either, when they wandered in the desert for 40 years.

Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile.

Make a home in the darkness, this is what Jeremiah said to the people when their dreams didn’t work out the way they’d planned.

Plant a garden, and plant it in Babylon.

Work for peace and justice, even in this foreign, enemy land.

Make a home in the darkness.


Last Advent, I found myself a bit lonely and scared, reaching for the things that bring me quick happiness the doesn’t last. On Tuesday mornings, Elaine, one of my college professors who is now a mentor and friend to me, would stop by my house for coffee before work. She is gentle and wise and because of her deep empathy she knows what I am going to say before I say it.  One week she brought me an Advent book called Night Visions. Before she handed me the book, she read to me this passage as if I were a child:

The Advent journey begins in darkness. I am familiar with this terrain.
A child of the night, a lover of stars, it is in the darkening hours that I feel most at home.
Yet often we are fed with the untruth that darkness is synonymous with evil and that all that is light and bright is good.
We require darkness for birth and growth: the seed in the ground, the seed in the womb, the seed in our souls, in the dark lies possibilities for intimacy, for rest, for healing.


The people of Israel were in a foreign land. It wasn’t ideal to say the least.
They dreamed of home, of their old life together.
They dreamed of the dreams they used to dream —  of their children thriving, of not being hungry or separated from those they loved, of worshipping a God who, even if “he” wasn’t into glory and victory, at the very least showed up every now and then.

All of this to say…. It is easy to try to skip the darkness of Advent and anxiously sprint to light of Christmas.
It is easy to get so lost in wishing for what was or what might have been that we discount what’s at hand.
It is easy to miss Jerusalem so much that we forget that Babylon might have something to teach us.

Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile.

Plant a garden in Babylon.
Have a raucous party in your trailer that runs the risk of breaking the floor.
Inhabit the darkness of Advent, instead of escaping to Christmas.
Notice something miraculous in the posada, the shelter, in the quiet of the early December nightfalls, or maybe even in line at the grocery store.

As my dear friend Julia told me once:  “Find a way to make beauty necessary; find a way to make necessity beautiful.”

Make a home in the darkness, if necessary.


This song, “Ven, Espiritu, Ven,” is, in my opinion, an Advent song. It begs God for the presence of the Holy Spirit, but the tense of the verbs implies that the Spirit is not yet here. It implies that we are not yet pure, that we are not yet clean, that we are not yet renewed, that we are not yet restored. But in spite of the implicit “not yets” – or maybe even because of them – there is beauty and timelessness in this song. There is value in acknowledging that we are not yet on the straight and easy highway back to Jerusalem, but that radical beauty can happen even in a roach-infested trailer, even in a foreign land, even in the darkness of Advent — and even still, we just might find that our tiny gardens in Babylon bear a pretty awesome resemblance to the Kingdom of God.

Make a home in the darkness.

Ven, Espiritu Ven.