For the Caregivers :: The Blessing of Small

This sequence of poetry was conceived for the caregivers of The Good Samaritan Society, a non-profit organization that provides accommodation, health, and community care services to aging individuals in need. As I wrote these poems, I prayed for those whose care encircles others around the clock, who give often out of a sense of their own limitation and lack. I do not personally know what it’s like to provide this kind of care, though I have dear friends in this season right now. Their perseverance and hands-on love are inspiring. It is with humble gratitude that I dedicate these poems to caregivers everywhere – you are the presence of Jesus in a needy world. Merry Christmas!

The Blessing of Small

Be blessed to receive the still, small presence of God
in the creases of your cupped hands,
lifelines of flesh that he himself walked
so he could trace us into his own heart
and reveal the expanse of love there.

Be blessed to press this humbling mystery 
into the hand of another —
the passing of a flame,
your hushed and holy care,
a fragment of song,
and finally, a bending low,
     for here, here is God with us. 


Lindsey Gallant
From Small: An Advent Poetry Sequence
Composed for the caregivers of The Good Samaritan Society (
Illustration by Elizabeth Evans

Toes :: A Poem for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

This poem is the heart of the sequence, and I think it’s my favourite. This is the upside-down mystery of Christmas which is good news for all of us in tight spaces.


Ten tiny toes, wrinkled and new,
beautiful good news bringers
bouncing on the knees of Mary
     as if she were a mountain
     and he were a gazelle,
     as if she were a snake
     and his smooth heel a dragon slayer,
     as if she were a river
     for him to dance in.

Ten tiny toes, unable to bear the weight,
     yet, of what will come,
     each step ordered for joy toward
     their tearful anointing.

Ten tiny toes, ruddy flesh and unfused bone,
that used to rest large on the footstool of the earth,
now made small,
     small enough to kiss,
     small enough to be wrapped in our scraps,
     and held in aching arms.

Somehow the light shines even from his feet,
for God is love,
right down to his ten tiny toes. 


Lindsey Gallant
From Small: An Advent Poetry Sequence
Composed for the caregivers of The Good Samaritan Society (
Illustration by Elizabeth Evans

Chickadee :: A Poem for the Third Sunday of Advent

There are a few lucky – or perhaps I should say patient – people out there who have felt this half ounce of joy in the palm of their hand. It is a meeting of wild and tame, of mystery and mundane, of heaven and earth. This idea for a small joy flew straight to me, without any effort on my part. Which makes me wonder if another name for joy isn’t grace.


Joy wears a black cap and weighs half an ounce,
a puff of feathers winking one beady eye
as if to say 
     I know a secret.

As if it isn’t twenty below
and snow, snow, snow,
as if the weary world was not weeping icicles.

Joy lives seed-by-seed,
each plump shell appearing like a promise
worthy of a hallelujah chorus,
a gospel in miniature.

And perhaps it is cheerful because it sings,
and perhaps we too can be sung
right off our heavy feet
and into feathered glory in the highest. 


Lindsey Gallant
From Small: An Advent Poetry Sequence
Composed for the caregivers of The Good Samaritan Society (
Illustration by Elizabeth Evans

The Devil in My Manger Scene

He’s down in the left-hand corner of the scene, a bent and crooked little man clothed in a dark wooly covering. Like a shepherd, only more sinister.

“Who’s that guy?” my ten year old son asks, pointing to the unfamiliar figure. He recognizes the other characters in the picture—Mary and an infant Jesus in the middle, flanked by ox and donkey, angels, shepherds, three wise men, and yes, Joseph, who this strange and dark figure is addressing. Joseph looks a little melancholy, a little perplexed, sitting down there in the corner. 

“That’s the devil,” I answer. 

Three sets of eyebrows raise around the table. Silence. 

“Yep, the devil’s in the nativity scene.” 

We are looking at a copy of a centuries-old Orthodox icon. An icon is not just a piece of art. Beyond a pretty picture, it is meant to point beyond itself to the deeper nature of reality, and is a reflection of theological truths. I’ve brought out this Icon of the Nativity during Advent so we can learn how early Christians thought about the birth of Christ and its significance. 

This little vignette of Joseph and the devil may be unfamiliar to you. (I’ve never seen the devil advertised as part of any nativity set. Why haven’t marketers jumped on this?!) It’s based on a second century story of the events surrounding the birth of Christ. This story is by no means canonical, or authoritative as Scripture, but it does give us insight into very early Christian perspectives on the nativity. 

So, what’s the devil doing here? This wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Well, the story goes that after Jesus was born, the devil disguised himself as a hunchbacked shepherd and came to Joseph to sow seeds of doubt in his mind about the whole “virgin birth scenario.”

He holds a weathered old stick, a tool to mock Joseph, saying, “Did God really say that a virgin would give birth to a son who was conceived by the Holy Spirit? Isn’t that about as likely as this dried out stick suddenly sprouting leaves and buds?” 

Joseph’s in a tough spot. You could understand his confusion. He can barely explain the situation to himself, let alone the others who snigger behind his back. And maybe he’s feeling a little left out. He’s not at the centre of this scene, basking in the glow of the star-struck infant. He’s just a guy along for the ride, trying to do the right thing, to protect his young wife and child, and just keep putting one step of faith after the other. But it’s been a long road to Bethlehem. And he needs to sit down a minute. He needs a little air.

And it’s here, in this very natural moment of weary perplexity that the shape-shifting Old Scratch appears like an ordinary peasant that just happened to wander down from those hills up there on the right. His strategies are timeless:

“Did God really say … ?”
“Are you sure you aren’t just making this stuff up?”
“Poor Joseph. I know you love the girl, but let’s face reality.”
“All this incarnation nonsense—you think God has really showed up in your pathetic little world?”

Joseph’s eyebrows are furrowed. His drooping head rests on one hand. His eyes are locked on the stranger’s. 

At first I was a little put off by the devil’s presence in this oh-so-holy night. But perhaps this icon is closer to reality than many other manger scenes?

There’s a place here for doubt. For fatigue. For wrestling with temptations that don’t disappear when the twinkle lights go up. For an acknowledgement that Christmas is not something we come to without a little fear and trembling and downright puzzlement. 

There’s a place here for people who are feeling on the outskirts of joy, who can’t muster up the carols just now. There’s a place for sitting wearily in the left-hand corner of Christmas. 

But here’s the thing—Joseph’s still part of the scene. He has’t lost his halo, even though he’s locked eyes with the devil himself. There’s a Light here that embraces even this. 

Joseph will resist the temptation, so the story goes, though not in his own power. He will get up, and go on to embrace Mary and her mystery child fully. He will take his place in the gospels as devoted father and protector. Righteous Joseph. But here, for a few minutes, we are invited into his humanity—into an experience by no means unique to him. It’s familiar to all of us. 

If you need it, there’s a place beside Joseph for you this year. There, on the rock, where if you look over the hunchback’s shoulder you can see a tree in bloom. You’re still part of the picture, too.


Lindsey Gallant
S. D. G.

Whisper :: A poem for the Second Sunday of Advent

When I began to think about a small expression of peace for this Second Sunday of Advent, it was a whisper that took form in my mind. To receive a whisper requires both our silence and our stillness. The command is also an invitation: “Peace, be still.” Can we shape ourselves this Advent to be “all ears?”


     to the worried restlessness of not-enough
     to the hurried rushing of not-yet
     to the wound-tight storm and its unalterable course of collision.

Oh listen, soft and low it comes
     — a whisper — 

     It is the lung-warmed vibration 
     of presence near and intimate,
     the sweet everything in the ear.

And when I am sounded in the timeless space between these lips
     I become still, 
                    at peace.


Lindsey Gallant
From Small: An Advent Poetry Sequence
Composed for the caregivers of The Good Samaritan Society (
Illustration by Elizabeth Evans