“That first Christmas evening”

I wish a merry Christmas and blessed Christmas season to all my readers.

It is common, in some circles in which I move, to say that Jesus was born “that first Christmas morning” or even “that first Christmas morn.” But I, being curious and something of a quibbler by nature, have at times wondered: what time of day was the Christ Child born? Is the idea that he was born in the morning “possible, but in this life we’ll never know,” like the popular notion that there were exactly three Magi (or in fact that he was born on what is now December 25), or “unlikely,” like Rossetti’s charming, picturesque, theologically on-point, but in-details-dubious poem “In the Bleak Midwinter”? Continue reading ““That first Christmas evening””

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An Important Anniversary

The Nailing of Luther's 95 Theses by Julius Hübner
Half a millennium ago today, the story goes, an obscure college professor posted a list of propositions for debate to the church bulletin board, and from that one spark God breathed his fire in the Church back to life again.

The central insights of the Reformation have been crystallized in what, five centuries later, we now think of as “the five Solas”: the salvation of Man is

  • By grace alone, not because we in any way deserve or could deserve it;
  • Through faith alone, not by or on the basis of anything we could or will do or accomplish;
  • Through Christ alone, for there is and can be no other way;
  • As recorded in the Scriptures alone, for they are the sole infallible Rule by and against which which all other claims of truth must be measured; and
  • To the glory of God alone: the salvation of Man is the means, not the end.

Oh, that the fire of the Holy Spirit would once again set the world ablaze!

“Passion”

Painting by Jacques Tissot

Mere days ago, when he rode up the hill,
The cheering throngs, with palms and wild acclaim
Did him the royal homage he was due.
And, when his foes rebuked him, Jesus said
That if the crowds held back Hosannas, praise,
Or shouts of acclamation, then the very rocks
On which the road was built would shout his fame.

But now, today, the Passover begun,
The fickle crowds now thirsty for his blood
And justice through their courts’ injustice done,
Creation shows this statement was no lie:
The very sun grows pale for these three hours;
So great her anguish at the pain of him
By whom she first was spoken into flame,
That darkness blots out every beam of light.

And when he breathes his last, his final words
Proclaiming that man’s debt is paid at last
And trusting all—his spirit—to God’s hands,
In grief and satisfaction the earth shakes
To mark its Maker’s death. At the same time
God tears the heavy curtain into two
That hangs within the temple’s Holy Place
to shield imperfect, mortal priests from death,
Because the perfect, final Sacrifice
Was offered and accepted, once for all,
To take away the sins of Adam’s sons.

I wrote this poem, for today’s occasion, this past week. It was initially sparked by reading the Palm Sunday text with fresh eyes, and perhaps a little by Rebecca Miller’s post about the Triumphal Entry (and her question about whether it should be Good Friday at all is also well worth reading). Over the next few days it mostly “wrote itself,” and then I just had to work through how to end it without breaking the meter.

As always, I earnestly welcome your (further) comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (perhaps starting with those linked from one of the “archive ” installments, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also mirrored on my wiki.

“Triumphal Entry”

Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey

See, O ancient city, chosen of God,
Your king has come, upon a donkey’s colt
In humble triumph and in lowly state:
For he needs not your cheers to make him Lord,
But well deserves them for the mighty act
He’ll pass between your door-posts to perform.

But, faithless city, whom the prophets warned
Until their words were silenced by your stones,
Behold the Man of whom the prophets spoke:
Redemption, if you turned to him to heed,
But should you set your hearts against his claim,
You bring that judgment’s doom upon your head.

I wrote this poem earlier this week, thinking about the Gospels’ accounts of Palm Sunday.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (starting with those linked from one of the “archive ” installments, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share it with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also archived on my wiki.

Epiphany

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you, and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Tomorrow is Epiphany, the feast day celebrating the appearing, or manifestation, of God’s glory to the nations. Continue reading “Epiphany”

“Psalm 4”

O righteous Lord, my God, that you would hear
And answer me when I cry out to you,
And rescue me—for I am in distress.
Have mercy on me, Lord, and hear my prayer.
But you, O men, how long will you defame
My source of glory with your fantasies,
Preferring idols’ falsehood to the truth?

But God has set his godly ones apart
To be a holy people for his name,
And therefore he will hear me when I call.
But should you tremble, angry or in fear,
Despite anxiety, despite your wrath,
Be watchful, careful that you do not sin,
But rather, when you lie abed and rest,
In silence search your hearts under God’s light.

Make every sacrifice in righteousness,
And place wholehearted trust in God alone.
Though many ask whence any good can come,
We look to you alone, O Lord our God,
In hope your face will shine on us in light.
But you have filled my heart with plenteous joy
So that my joy must overflow its brim—-
More than the happy mirth of harvest plenty.
Therefore I will lie and sleep in peace,
For you, O Lord, have made my rest secure.

I wrote this setting of the fourth Psalm gradually over the past several weeks.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (starting with yesterday’s archive installment, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share it with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also archived on my wiki.

“Psalm 1”

How blest is he who, blameless, does not walk
In evil paths that wicked men command,
Or take his stand with those who will not heed,
Or sit among the disobedient—
For his supreme delight is in God’s law
His thoughts dwell ever on it all the day,
And in his heart he nightly meditates
On all the precepts that the Lord has made.
And therefore he’s established like a tree
That’s planted by the waters by God’s hand,
That yearly bears its fruit abundantly
And stretches forth its branches lushly garbed
With leaves, unwithering, of verdant green—
And every work to which he’s turned his hands
The Lord has made to prosper and succeed.

Not so the wicked, whom God does not help.
Like piles of chaff left on the threshing floor,
Then scattered by the wind, they too shall pass.
For thus the wicked shall not stand for long
Under the judgment of God’s holy throne,
Nor sinners live among his righteous saints
Who always gather for his glory’s praise—
For God preserves the paths of righteous men,
But wicked men are stumbling down to death.

This versification, or “setting,” of the first Psalm is the beginning of a new intermittent series of poems I’ve embarked on. I intend to write at least one setting of each of the 150 psalms.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (starting with yesterday’s archive installment, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share it with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also archived on my wiki.