Advent

Reprise: Advent Poem

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.’

Gen 3:15

sunrise new

 

The first morning glimmer
of light
tells us the sun is coming:
A new day
A new hope
And eternal possibilities.

The dawn light
is a daily
covenant promise
that the son is coming:
who with a bruised heel
would crush
the enemy’s head
forever.

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Advent Poems

That Holy Thing

mary crop

From the walls of the Keldby Church, Mons, Denmark

George MacDonald (1824-1905)

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes, and lift them high:
Thou cam’st a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.O son of man, to right my lot
Nought but thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea thy sail!

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!

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Advent Poems

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.

In the StreetMary

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!

Henry Lawson 1894
(Source: http://www.ironbarkresources.com/henrylawson/InTheStreet.html
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Advent Poems

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 …?”

Advent 1955
By John Betjeman

The Advent wind begins to stirWise man
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.

Source: Collected Poems by John Betjeman.
London: John Murray; New Edition, 2003.
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Advent Poems

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.

ADVENT: “COME,” THOU DOST SAY TO ANGELS

Stained Glass Window Cologne Cathedral

Stained Glass Window Cologne Cathedral

“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.

ROSSETTI, CHRISTINA (2012-09-30). Delphi Complete Poetical Works of Christina Rossetti (Illustrated) (Delphi Poets Series Book 12)  Delphi Classics. Kindle Edition.
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Another Christmas Poem From The Past – The Shepherds

The Shepherds – a narrative

It was like any other night in winter.
We were alert.
The predators are always hungry in these months.
Lamb is always on their menu.
The cold, froze our words.
We were shivering
and then
we were still shivering
but now in fear.
Out of nowhere, 
well, the sky really,
this amazing light shone.
Day, in the middle of the night!
Shivering, trembling, cowering.
Paralysed.
Nothing to hide behind –
except sheep.
Even Big Jacob was jelly!
 
The bright being declared,
“Don’t be afraid,
I’ve come to give you news
of the Christ – the Messiah.”
 
It’s a baby!
In Bethlehem! 
 
So we bolted for Bethlehem,
The sheep could look after themselves,
for a while.
This news was too good to miss!
 
We found a mum, dad and baby,
by a feed trough,
and somehow,
as the mum, Mary
showed the baby to us,
we just knew, what the angel said was true.
She held God in her hands!
And our lives, and the world,
Would never be the same
again.
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Advent Poem No. 7 (2013) The Herald

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 …

DSC_0444Luke 1:76

Zechariah cried,
“The crier has come”.
Not with a baby cry,
but the booming voice
of a herald,
a proclaimer,
… a final prophet
of the old covenant.

His John
would shout and convict,
baptise and point,
and guide to one to come
soon.

Zechariah’s child
was the path smoother,
the way maker
and light shiner.

He would
lose his head
but gain his life
as the promises
he proclaimed
came true.

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Advent Poem No. 6 (2013) Bethlehem

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.         Micah 5:2

Bethlehem,
small and undistinguished,
draws no attention to itself.

But God does.

Rachel’s tomb and
Ruth’s second marriage are
found here pointing
to a royal line.

David, his brothers
and his dad Jesse
called it home.
Little knowing
a greater home awaited.

Philistines
under Satan’s command
were fought
back at this hamlet.

Yet from you would come
the Messiah:
the hope of Israel

and the world

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Reprise -The Magi

Here is another Christmas poem from an earlier year.

They laughed behind their hands
when we set off.
Our camels loaded.
What will it be?
A king?
A child?
A what?
We headed westward
with anticipation
and gifts.
The omen was clear
shining in the sky –
our compass and guide.
 
All of our studies seemed
true.
But
what if we found
no child
no king?
Could we return?
Our reputations a joke!
 
But “something”
was felt by us all
as we travelled
the long miles west.
 
We found a king
in Jerusalem.
Too old,
Too mean,
Too unwise.
We vowed not
to return this way.
We stargazed on
and came
to a man, woman and child.
No pretensions.
Humble
Joyfilled
poor
but ALIVE!
 
Then we knew!
We were sure!
The child, king , messiah
was found.
We could return home
with stories
with hope
… and our reputations.
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Advent Poem No. 4 (2013) The Coming Light

DSC_0145The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;

Isaiah 9:2

I am the light of the world.

John 8:12

The Coming Light

Mole like
we call and crawl
though darkness.
Light, beauty, colour
unknown to our hearts
encased in blackened
cloud:
A cumulus* of sin
which blinds us
to life.

“A light is coming!
A light is coming!”
a small voice cries
across the years.
He really means,
“Life is coming!”

Mole like
we still stumble
until
the light
takes us,
gently holds us
and with the irony of
spit and dirt
opens our eyes.

* Latin for heaped

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