Faith Meets World

Reflections on faith in a messed-up but beautiful world

Category: Poetry (Page 2 of 2)

A post-Christmas meditation

Tradition has it that Christmas decorations should be taken down by no later than Twelfth Night, which by my calculation is tomorrow, 5th January. They came down in our house a few days ago. To mark the occasion, here’s a short meditation I wrote a couple of years ago:

The lights are gone from the Christmas tree
Sparkling tinsel no longer adorns the walls
The dark window is no longer brightened by festive colour
God’s light still shines

Christmas games are over for another year
All that remains of the long-awaited feast is photos and memories
Cherished family has returned to far-flung homes
God’s love still encircles

No more carols, cribs or gift-bearing magi
Shepherds in the fields must abide until next Advent
The holy infant in a manger, meek and mild, is stored away
God’s truth still rings out

Christ, may the reality of your coming be present with us day by day
Lord, may your unquenchable light long burn bright in our hearts
Saviour, may your hope sustain us through the weeks and months ahead
And may we live now and forever in this mystery: Immanuel, God with us

The night before Christmas revisited

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the land
The people were stooped under Rome’s mighty hand;
They clung to the hope their oppression would end
As they looked for a king they believed God would send.

They read in their books what the prophets foretold:
A Messiah would save them, as promised of old;
This coming Redeemer would save them from sin
And a glorious new kingdom of God usher in.

But how could it be they had waited so long
For a Saviour to come who would right every wrong?
Where were the signs of his glorious reign
When their day-to-day lot was all suffering and pain?

Would God send a champion, a warrior bold
To make their oppressors relinquish their hold?
And if not a warrior, in what other way
Could their freedom be won and their night turned to day?

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Descending Theology – The Nativity

She bore no more than other women bore,
but in her belly’s globe that desert night the earth’s
full burden swayed.
Maybe she held it in her clasped hands as expecting women often do
or monks in prayer. Maybe at the womb’s first clutch
she briefly felt that star shine

as a blade point, but uttered no curses.
Then in the stable she writhed and heard
beasts stomp in their stalls,
their tails sweeping side to side
and between contractions, her skin flinched
with the thousand animal itches that plague
a standing beast’s sleep.

But in the muted womb-world with its glutinous liquid,
the child knew nothing
of its own fire. (No one ever does, though our names
are said to be writ down before
we come to be.) He came out a sticky grub, flailing
the load of his own limbs

and was bound in cloth, his cheek brushed
with fingertip touch
so his lolling head lurched, and the sloppy mouth
found that first fullness — her milk
spilled along his throat, while his pure being
flooded her. (Each

feeds the other.) Then he was
left in the grain bin. Some animal muzzle
against his swaddling perhaps breathed him warm
till sleep came pouring that first draught
of death, the one he’d wake from
(as we all do) screaming.

— Mary Karr

(Source: Mockingbird)

God of all my yesterdays

past-present-futureGod of all my yesterdays
You were there when I was no more than an inkling, a passing thought
In the choosing of names and the anticipation of imagined futures
You were there to hear my first words and see my first doddering steps
In the laughter of friends and parties and the tears of frights and bruises
In school yard games, secret gangs and schoolboy crushes
In daring dreams of far-off lives
Long before I knew of you, you were there

You were there in all the decisions and choices that made a life
In the hope and the joy of wedding vows, new birth, new life, new home
In the flash of angry words and the pain of disappointment
As reality broke upon the shores of expectation
In all the celebrations and all the sorrows
You were there

God of all my todays
You are here as I survey the mountains and the valleys of years past
Here in my questions, my shame and my regret
Here with me in the fruit of decisions good and bad
Seasons come and go, and still the wind blows where it will
And when the past weighs heavy on my soul
You beckon me towards a future yet unwritten

God of all my tomorrows
In the manifold laughter and joy that is surely yet to come
In the fullness of seeing long-held dreams come to pass
In the bittersweet holding of cherished memories
And the lingering disappointment of unfulfilled hopes
In the letting go of what must be released and the taking hold of what is yet unknown
Even when the night draws in and autumn turns to winter
Still you will be there
For you are there already, as you have been there all along
Immanuel, God with us

(Image: © 1994-2013 Sargent’s Fine Art & Jewelry)

What kind of Messiah?

An ancient world of pain
A people bowed under the weight of cruel injustice and oppression
Living like strangers in their own land
Good people struggling to hope for a brighter future
Trying to make sense of how God could have let this all happen
When they have always done their best to be faithful to Him
Somehow believing, against all odds, that their faith will not be in vain
Waiting, hoping, watching for Messiah to come

And who is this baby lying in a smelly barn
The secret of his birth known only to his parents
Forced to flee in the night as the tyrant’s sword brings death to many like him
Growing in obscurity, just another country boy learning his father’s trade
As the world goes on and the suffering continues?
Doesn’t look like any Messiah I ever heard of

And who is this man, baptised as one of many
Wending his way through deserts and fields
No place of his own to call home
Creating a stir with his stories and feats
Bringing his message of hope before moving on
And leaving so many things unchanged?
Doesn’t look like any Messiah I ever heard of

And who is this would-be king, riding on a donkey’s colt
No sword in his hand, no crown on his head
Weeping as the crowds cheer him on
No tight-knit support group to organise his campaign
Only a ragtag bunch of dreamers, rogues and misfits?
Doesn’t look like any Messiah I ever heard of

And who is this despised one, hanging on a cross
A crown of thorns upon his bloodied head
Abandoned and denied by his followers
Publicly shamed and humiliated
Spat on and beaten half to death
Hope snuffed out, just like so many times before?
Doesn’t look like any Messiah I ever heard of

And who is this risen one, Light of the world
Living in the hearts of his children
Still bringing hope in the midst of pain
And joy where only sorrow has any right to be
Still refusing to play the world at its own game
Showing instead that there is a more excellent way?

Strange kind of Messiah
You could almost miss him if you didn’t know him

Descending Theology: The Resurrection

easter-resurrectionFrom the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in—black ice and squid ink—
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse’s core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest’s door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now

it’s your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

— By Mary Karr; source: Poetry (January 2006)

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

The Way It Is, William Stafford (1914-1993)

I guess we probably all have our own interpretation of what the thread referred to in this poem is. Some might say it’s faith; others might assume it’s God, or love, or truth. And perhaps it’s something of all of these.

To me, the thread in this poem speaks of finding our true selves – by which I do not mean our best selves, the shiny, happy people we so desperately want others to think we are. I think it’s something about digging down, stripping away the masks, the pretence, the lies we tell ourselves and others, and finding the deep truth of ourselves, who we really are. In that deep place, if we dare to dig far enough down through the pain and the fear, we find both the innocent child, free to play, to dance and to love, and the imprint of the eternal God, who is Himself perfect love. That’s a thread worth finding and holding onto.

I’m digging.

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