So it was our clan’s turn
And the dice rolled in my favour.
Beth will be happy.
The old dear has always been proud
When I get my day in the temple.
With people praying outside
I was inside and about to light the incense
And then …
And then …
You wouldn’t believe it …
Next to the altar of incense …
You wouldn’t believe it …
We hadn’t seen one in hundreds of years.
Nearly scared the life out of me!
“Don’t be afraid,” he said.
Easy for him to say!
Then he goes on,
Beth, the old girl, will have a son.
At her age!
“Call him John,” he said.
Not even a family name.
He was to grow up like a Nazirite
– So no alcohol.
And he will turn people back to God.
How can this be? I said.
And then I said no more.
I couldn’t. I couldn’t talk.
This angel Gabriel,
As called himself,
Struck me dumb.
Until now as I hold John
In my arms.
And I can praise God!
Waiting is hard
Feet tapping restlessly
Advent is not just
.. even more, longing
For the Messiah
… and now
For His return.
Today’s poem is not a poem by a famous poet but one of mine from last year.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.’
The first morning glimmer
tells us the sun is coming:
A new day
A new hope
And eternal possibilities.
The dawn light
is a daily
that the son is coming:
who with a bruised heel
the enemy’s head
George MacDonald (1824-1905)
My fancied ways why shouldst thou heed?
Thou com’st down thine own secret stair:
Com’st down to answer all my need,
Yea, every bygone prayer!
In this Advent poem the Australian poet, Henry Lawson, connects the first and second Advents and links it with the need for social justice. You may not necessarily agree with his theology.
Where the needle-woman toils
Through the night with hand and brain,
Till the sickly daylight shudders like a spectre at the pain –
Till her eyes seem to crawl,
And her brain seems to creep –
And her limbs are all a-tremble for the want of rest and sleep!
It is there the fire-brand blazes in my blood; and it is there
That I see the crimson banner of the Children of Despair!
That I feel the soul and music in a rebel’s battle song,
And the greatest love for justice and the hottest hate for wrong!
When the foremost in his greed
Presses heavy on the last –
In the brutal spirit rising from the grave-yard of the past –
Where the poor are trodden down
And the rich are deaf and blind!
It is there I feel the greatest love and pity for mankind:
There – where heart to heart is saying, though the tongue and lip be still:
We’ve been through it all and know it! brother, we’ve been through the mill!
There the spirits of my brothers rise the higher for defeat,
And the drums of revolution roll for ever in the street!
Christ is coming once again,
And his day is drawing near;
He is leading on the thousands of the army of the rear!
We shall know the second advent
By the lower skies aflame
With the signals of his coming, for he comes not as he came –
Not humble, meek, and lowly, as he came in days of old,
But with hatred, retribution for the worshippers of gold!
And the roll of battle music and the steady tramp of feet
Sound for ever in the thunder and the rattle of the street!
Here is poem by Sir John Betjeman from about half a century ago. Its message is still relevant today on a variety of levels.
We still need to ask the question, “How, in fact, do we prepare …?”
The Advent wind begins to stir
With sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir,
It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea,
And in between we only see
Clouds hurrying across the sky
And rain-wet roads the wind blows dry
And branches bending to the gale
Against great skies all silver pale
The world seems travelling into space,
And travelling at a faster pace
Than in the leisured summer weather
When we and it sit out together,
For now we feel the world spin round
On some momentous journey bound –
Journey to what? to whom? to where?
The Advent bells call out ‘Prepare,
Your world is journeying to the birth
Of God made Man for us on earth.’
And how, in fact, do we prepare
The great day that waits us there –
For the twenty-fifth day of December,
The birth of Christ? For some it means
An interchange of hunting scenes
On coloured cards, And I remember
Last year I sent out twenty yards,
Laid end to end, of Christmas cards
To people that I scarcely know –
They’d sent a card to me, and so
I had to send one back. Oh dear!
Is this a form of Christmas cheer?
Or is it, which is less surprising,
My pride gone in for advertising?
The only cards that really count
Are that extremely small amount
From real friends who keep in touch
And are not rich but love us much
Some ways indeed are very odd
By which we hail the birth of God.
We raise the price of things in shops,
We give plain boxes fancy tops
And lines which traders cannot sell
Thus parcell’d go extremely well
We dole out bribes we call a present
To those to whom we must be pleasant
For business reasons. Our defence is
These bribes are charged against expenses
And bring relief in Income Tax
Enough of these unworthy cracks!
‘The time draws near the birth of Christ’.
A present that cannot be priced
Given two thousand years ago
Yet if God had not given so
He still would be a distant stranger
And not the Baby in the manger.
In recent years I turned my hand to Advent poems. This year I thought I would remember classics from the past. My first comes from Christina Rossetti.
“Come,” thou dost say to Angels,
To blessed Spirits, “Come”;
“Come,” to the Lambs of Thine Own flock,
Thy little Ones, “Come home.”
“Come,” from the many-mansioned house
The gracious word is sent,
“Come,” from the ivory palaces
Unto the Penitent.
O Lord, restore us deaf and blind,
Unclose our lips tho’ dumb;
Then say to us, I come with speed,
And we will answer, Come.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him …
“The crier has come”.
Not with a baby cry,
but the booming voice
of a herald,
… a final prophet
of the old covenant.
would shout and convict,
baptise and point,
and guide to one to come
was the path smoother,
the way maker
and light shiner.
lose his head
but gain his life
as the promises