The Art of Surprise

Lots of beginning writers pen stories with surprise endings. Surprise! your quirky narrator was actually a bowling pin . . . Surprise! they were on Mars the whole time! . . . Surprise! This is such a ubiquitous phenomenon that books on the craft perennially warn against using such trickery. Jerome Stern gives precisely this […]

The Exchange by Steve Bell

Advent, a season of renunciation? Yes – and for a very good reason. In this third Advent meditation, Steve Bell makes a thoughtful exploration of the path leading up to a meaningful Christmas, a reflection that has its musical expression in the song “Fashion for Me,” which appears in his excellent Advent-Christmas-Epiphany album Keening for […]

It’s Complicated, by Steve Bell

I am delighted to feature another in this series of Advent essays by Steve Bell, a gifted singer, songwriter, musician, and writer.  Here he reflects on his discomfort with Christmas –  as for me, I certainly recognize the way that false cheer can paper over the reality of loss and sadness that we need to […]

Advent Sonnet 4: Angels

My Christmas cards this year had reproductions of medieval paintings of the Annunciation. I noticed that the angels (Gabriel and any attendant angels in the background) were made to look human, yet were still a bit more dressed up, as it were, than the typical 21st century angel. Modern angels apparently do not dress in […]

Advent Sonnet 3: The Coming Light

My sonnet for the third week in Advent is based on the image of John the Baptist as “a burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35). As I did for Advent Sonnet 2, I considered the image in a modern setting, thinking about what ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ mean when the touch of a switch can keep […]

Advent Sonnet 2: Prepare the Way

My second Advent sonnet has its origin in my reflection on the Scripture reading appointed for the Second Sunday in Advent: Isaiah 40:1-11, a portion of which I have included below. Living as I do in Southern California at present, the image ‘highway’ rather unfortunately conjures up images of multi-lane freeways, concrete overpasses, billboards, and […]

Advent Sonnet 1: Silence

The season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, is a time for reflection and meditation, made quite a bit more difficult by all the other things competing for our time and attention on the lead-in to the Christmas season. I manage to avoid a certain degree of the ‘noise’ by staying out of shopping […]