“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 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””

“Christmas Dream”

Some time ago, I dreamed of feasting merrily
With dear acquaintances I wished were closer friends
And, dreaming, heard a choir sing a favorite song
As I let Christmas gaiety wash over me.
Time and again, I dreamed this dream for months or weeks,
But once I inked my pen and let a poem flow forth
That drew on that nostalgic, melancholy dream,
It never came again, and all I could recall
(Beyond its lasting charge of bittersweet emotion,
Or a snatch of melody from time to time)
Was one still, silent image of that table, bare
Of feast or decorations, friends or even light,
As if the gathering (and dream) had never been—
Or, just as in a fairy-tale, I’d not believed.
Oh, Lord, if any dreams come true, help me believe!

I wrote this sometime in the last week, thinking of the dream that became the poem “On Time”. The fairy tale I mention in the last lines is, of course, The Princess and the Goblin.

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 blo, 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. (WEbook is still down.)

Christmas: Overwhelming but not unmixed joy

I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

(This column from The City‘s blog tells of a traditional greeting, like “Christ has risen!” / “He has risen indeed!”, that I had not yet been aware of: “Christ is born!” / Glorify him!”)

Christmas is the first high holiday of the Christian year (which began four Sundays ago). This is fitting because the event it celebrates (to the extent that it is the celebration of an event; I’ve argued otherwise) was the first in a series of central, pivotal (as Rebecca Miller argued yesterday), utterly unique events. Christmas remembers the beginning of “the turning of the tide,” as it is (nearly) the beginning of the year. Continue reading “Christmas: Overwhelming but not unmixed joy”