Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent Poems

At the end of my summer holidays I spent a week with a friend in Armadale on Skye.  It was just the two of us with a plan to write. We both had books half written and thought to make some progress. Mine was a second poetry book.  I thought the first poetry book published a couple of years ago was so good that perhaps I didn’t have a second book in me so I had been putting it off and putting it off. In the process of helping my friend organise her material – absorbing stuff about Scottish clans – I took a fresh look at the second book and began to see what poetry I already had and what poems I needed to write new.  The first book had an Easter section and the plan was for this new book to have a Christmas section. Trouble was I didn’t have that many Christmas poems and the ones I had were all very alike – nativity scenes really – different words, different rhyming schemes, different rhythms but same poem.  Maybe I should just abandon Christmas – don’t we all feel like that sometimes?

Advent arrived. I had signed up for email devotionals, bought a study book and found a sheet of Christmas themed Bible verses to write out each day – the usual overdosing.

It came to me that I might want to use the advent devotionals and/or the study book and/or the Bible verses I was writing out daily to use as poetry prompts.  I figured that by Christmas and up to the end of December I would have a whole pile of poems to add to the Christmas section of the new book.

Seriously? Have I had fun? Absolutely!

Some poems are book-definites, others need a bit of polishing up to hit the mark, some will never make it and one or two are rather quirky but I love them.  I am four prompts behind schedule.  My brain tells me it’s OK to write a bad poem to fill the space or just two lines that rhyme.  Not every poem has to be brilliant. The writer in me objects strongly and insists on a good poem!

It’s the reading up that I’ve enjoyed the most.  Reading up about Herod, or the star, or the magi has given me a different perspective of Christmas.  I have always known stuff but it feels like I am on my own little journey, seeing aspects of the Christmas story from all the different characters involved.  In trying to find their heart I have found interesting bits of my own.

Yesterday’s poem was all about Joseph.  I was reading articles about the role of men at the birth and whether they had any real role to play at all.  Gone are the days of walking up and down the corridor outside the maternity suite in the hospital.  They are there holding their wife’s hand – but do they need to be?  Apparently, yes. Bonding matters to fathers just as much as it does to mothers.

I read the things that men had written about holding the baby minutes after the birth, even before the baby is cleaned and wrapped in a blanket. They are in awe of this little life they hold who wield such power over them.

I admit to a real surge of jealousy, almost anger that I had been denied that experience.  There are times when childlessness bites deep and the wound never really goes away.  I felt angry that my husband never had that experience either. He would have been a great dad.  Some little child would have had absolute power over him.  I would have been relegated to the role of bad cop.

I thought of Joseph holding Jesus and searching his tiny face for signs of himself even though he knew he wouldn’t find any – the set of the chin or the shape of the ear.  Of course, Joseph was the biological father.  God chose so wisely when he chose not just Mary, but Joseph too.  In his later life when Jesus talked of God as Father – it was Joseph that had taught him all he knew about fathers and Joseph had done a good job.

There may not have been any DNA of Joseph’s floating about in Jesus – but Joseph had built himself into Jesus through the words he spoke, the compassion he showed, his gentle patience as a carpenter and his love of God and His word.  God himself couldn’t father Jesus in his humanity but He found someone who could. 

Joseph’s Son

I marvel at Your tiny form
Cradled here, so soft and warm
I breathe Your fragrance, hold You near
And tremble with an awesome fear

I cannot help but look to see
If in You there’s a trace of me
Of form and frame there’s nought we share
Yet God has placed You in my care

My boy to nurture and to grow
But You…God’s Son…I just don’t know
A task so big, I dread to fail
But God so close, I will prevail

I see the grain in lengths of wood
In You I’ll shape what’s kind and good
And then one day, I’ll glance and see
In You there’ll be that trace of me

Tuesday, December 08, 2015


East dwellers; immortalised by storytellers
Avid learners; lighting candles both end burners
Star gazers; read what’s written there amazers
Truth seekers; into heaven’s purpose peekers
Risk takers; crossing deserts, journey makers
Stable finders; smell of scented hay don’t minders
Crown wearers, gold, frankincense and myrrh bearers
Knee benders; up into heaven praise senders
Christ revere-ers; simply blessed to be right here-ers
Home headers; as they travel joy spreaders

Thursday, December 03, 2015

There's Something About Mary

I think I have been taught to mistrust Mary over the years.

I cut my spiritual teeth, as it were, in the Roman Catholic Church. We had been wrenched away from Sunday School at the local Congregational Chapel just streets away to walk two miles every week to the Roman Catholic Chapel in a neighbouring village.  I wasn’t pleased to go as I was planning on winning the annual memory verse challenge that year.  I had come third the previous year and felt I had something to prove. The Roman Catholic Chapel didn’t have memory verse challenges.  It didn’t really have anything designed for children at all.  We just sat in the pews with the adults and followed the liturgy in the books we were given. I never really dived in deep into the theology of saints and statues.  I watched “The Song of Bernadette” many times and considered a life as a nun until Donny Osmond rescued me.

The other churches that have dotted my faith landscape have not been kind to Mary.  One almost gets the impression from them that Mary must have posed for the marble statues, that she was a willing partner. She’s just one of us, they insisted, nothing special.

I have been thinking about that and I’m not so sure she was nothing special. What young girl in any culture doesn’t dream of a wedding day? I’m sure Mary did – but God launched her into a very different future from the one she planned. God had been silent for hundreds of years so miracles were not part of everyday life.  What other alternatives were there to explain a young girl’s pregnancy? And the law was harsh on women even without the charge of adultery being thrown into the mix. Mary embraced it all.

She wasn’t just a womb, you know. Chromosomes only go so far in producing a person.

Without Mary, the Jesus we have would not be the man He turned out to be. Before He began His ministry, Jesus had thirty years of Mary. It was her arms that comforted Him and her fingers that wove the fabric that His clothes were made from. It was her voice that sang the lullabies that sent Him to sleep ad her gentle shakes that woke Him in the morning. She bathed the grazed knees of childhood tumbles and pulled out the splinters when he began his work as a carpenter. Her silly songs made Him smile and her pain made Him cry. And what He learned about the Father He learned from her. What he learned about servanthood he learned by following her example.  What He learned about prayer came from listening to her prayers. He became the man He was because she was the woman she was.

Mary’s Song

My heart cannot contain such praise
My soul bursts with delight
For God stoops down to rescue me
Displays his power and might
Those kings who claim to be secure
Their thrones He sweeps away
The rich with greedy grasping hands -
Such men have had their day
He turns to lift the mild and meek
The famished heart to feed
The things He promised come to pass
There’s boundless joy indeed

Luke 1:46-55