Advent

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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Advent Poem No.3 (2013) Startling News

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14

Just imagine,
the miracle of birth
without
a father.
The ridicule,
sniggers, gossip
and righteous anger.

But the holder
of the truth
knows
the reality,
the promise,
the eternity in her womb.

This truth
makes all
acid scorn
pale and fade
as the joy
is held.

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Reprising Some Christmas Poems

I thought that while I was thinking of poems for this Advent I would also reprise some of my favourite poems from past years. This one comes from the perspective of the Bethlehem innkeeper about whom, really, we know nothing.

The Innkeeper – Correcting the record

 
I’ve been given a bum wrap.
On the night in question
I’d gone to bed early.
The place was full
‘coz of this census thing.
I’ d been busy all day
fetchin’ this and 
and sortin’ that.
And I turned in.
I was bushed.
Now I find I am blamed
for leaving the Messiah
out in the cold.
How was I to know!
It’s not my fault!
The girl at the desk
(a bird brain!)
Never told me.
She told the pregnant lady
and her husband
to use the back shed.
I woulda had more
respect than that.
 
Years later 
people still blame me.
Matthew doesn’t mention me.
Neither does Luke.
But people
once again
jump to 
the wrong conclusions,
like they do so often.
 
Yep.
It coulda been done better.
But still,
how many people can say
the Saviour was born
behind their pub!
 
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Advent Poem No. 2 (2013)

I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.’

Gen 12:2&3

Abram was blessed to be a blessing,
but he is not alone.
You and I too,
can be blessed
to be a blessing.

One from Abram’s family
would come to be
Christmas –
the incarnation –
the promised Messiah
revealed.

mary crop

A primitive mural painting of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the Keldby Church on the island of Mon, Denmark.

You and I
can live in that promise
revealed.
Then we too,
can herald his coming,
his return.

Then we too
have been blessed
to be a blessing.

Categories: Advent, Bible, christian, Christianity, Poem, poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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