“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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“The King shall come”

The King shall come, when men have proved their worst,
Into the squalor of their ceaseless war
To prove God righteous, merciful, and just,
And lead from shame into a way of peace.

The King has come, announced by herald hosts,
And by his life, his sacrificial death,
And taking up his life again in might
Begun a kingdom that shall never end.

The King shall come when every knee has bent
And every foe surrendered to his rule,
Greeted with acclamation by his folk,
To sit down on his rightful throne on Earth.

I wrote this poem about this time last year, but at that time decided to postpone posting it here until this Advent, since I filled last Advent with my series on the O Antiphons. I tried to distill my understanding of the various subjects of the Advent season, which I meditated on in three prior posts in 2012, briefly into verse with some definite structure.

I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Incarnation” II

‘Twas God who first made Man in the beginning,
A perfect gardener for Eden’s peace:
Full-grown and mighty, wise yet innocent—
And yet, when faced with his first test, he failed,
And in his fall brought death to all that breathe.
(And so, in Adam’s fall, so sinned we all.)

Then God, to remedy our helpless state,
As he said he had planned from the beginning,
Stooped to earth and laid his rights aside,
And (marvellous to tell!) made himself Man,
Took up our flesh into his very being.
Born into a stable’s poverty
With all an infant’s needs and helplessness,
And no advantage that the world could see—
And yet, in hour of greatest trial, he cried,
“Your will, not mine,” and passed his final test,
And in his dying so put Death to death
And, rising, brought all who believe to life.

Nativity by Hans Baldung

I’ve been planning to write a poem for Christmas for months, and the idea for this one and the first few lines came to me a couple of weeks ago; I finished it last week. I could think of no title for it other than “Incarnation,” even though I’d already used that title so I decided to (as I’ve seen other poets do) reuse the title but mark this with a number to indicate which poem with the title it is.

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

The Incarnation: The Beachhead of the Divine Victory

As the Christmas season begins today, I wish you all a happy Christmas.

As I have written before, Christmas is a celebration of the Incarnation, of the fact that (if I may quote my own poetry)

The One who made and makes all things
Is, at the end of ages, made
In lowly human likeness, flesh;
He in whom “all things hold together,”
“Sustaining all things by his word,”
Now, humbly, is himself sustained
By virgin mother’s loving care.
He who, on Sinai, gave the Law
Descends from formless fire and smoke
To bear himself the yoke he made,
And, later, bear its breakers’ curse.

C.S. Lewis, I think it was, once likened the Incarnation to the beachhead of an invasion to take back for God what was rightfully his.

I like that analogy, but Lewis—or whoever—didn’t take it far enough. A “beachhead” of the sort that the Incarnation was in the spiritual war is not the insertion of a few covert operatives to bide their time, do one flashy but limited mission, then evacuate. It is, rather, the first openly-announced wave of an inexorable re-conquest.

For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
Wonderful,
Counselor,
The mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
there shall be no end,
upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom,
to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice
from henceforth even for ever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

And “all God’s promises find their ‘Yes!’ in Christ.”

(More about this in five months, when we celebrate the Ascension.)

Christ is born! Let us glorify him!

“Humility” — A Poem for Christmas

The One who made and makes all things
Is, at the end of ages, made
In lowly human likeness, flesh;
He in whom “all things hold together,”
“Sustaining all things by his word,”
Now, humbly, is himself sustained
By virgin mother’s loving care.
He who, on Sinai, gave the Law
Descends from formless fire and smoke
To bear himself the yoke he made,
And, later, bear its breakers’ curse.

And oh! the wonder of it all:
All this was planned from the beginning;
Long before the world began,
Ere our first parents made their choice
To listen to the serpent, eat
And know, and forfeit Paradise,
He who is Wisdom made his choice
To live our life—to be this child—
To suffer poverty, and die.

O vast, unfathomable grace!
O mercy none can tell enough!
How much we owe this infant King!
A debt that none could ever pay,
That he has taken on himself!
So let us, then, live gratefully
The life that he would have us live—
Be imitators of our Head.

The beginning of this poem came to me earlier this week, when I was contemplating again the miracle of the Incarnation; after further reflection, I was able to shape my further thoughts into the rest of what you see above. I’d been planning on writing a poem sometime soon that experimented with iambic tetrameter, after it was pointed out to me how consistently I use pedestrian blank verse, and so while I wasn’t sure it would work, I tried the shorter meter here.

As always, I earnestly welcome your (further) comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. 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 over two hundred poems, somewhat daunting). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also mirrored on my wiki.

“That first Christmas evening”

I wish you all a very happy Christmas. Christ is born!

I can’t tell you how many times, over the last several weeks—from people who think that “the Christmas season” runs from the First Sunday of Advent or even earlier through today, instead of from today until Epiphany—and in previous years I’ve heard the phrase “that first Christmas morning” or “that first Christmas morn.” I get the sense that the popular conception of the story is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea in the early morning on the local equivalent of December 25. Continue reading ““That first Christmas evening””