Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas Suite in Five Movements

1 The Fear

So simple, very few
Can be so bare, be open to the wide
Dark, the starless night, the day’s persistent
Wearing away of time. See, men cast off
Their finery and lay it on the floor,

Here, of a stable. What do they wait for?
Answers to learned questions? No, they have
Been steeped in books and wear the dust of them.

Philosophy breaks all its definitions,
Logic is lost, and here
The Word is silent. This God fears the night,
A child so terrified he asks for us.  
God is the cry we thought came from our own 
Perpetual sense of loss.
Can God be frightened to be so alone?
Does that child dream of the Cross?

2 The Child

Blood on a berry.
Night of frost,
Some make merry, 
Some are lost.

Footsteps crack
On a pool of ice.
Hope is back.  

This baby lies

Wrapped in rags, 
Is fed by a girl. 
O if God begs, 
Then we all hold

Him in our Power. 
We catch our breath. 
This is the hour
For the terrible truth.

Terrible, yes, 
But sweet also.
God needs us.
Now, through snow,

Tomorrow through heat
We carry him
And hear his heart
And bring him home.

3 A Litany

Mary of solace, take our hope,
Girl untouched, take our hands,
Lady of Heaven, come to our homes,
You bring Heaven down.

Mary of mercy, learn our laws,
Lady of care, take impulse to
Your heart, give us grace, 
More than enough
And a relish for
The renewal of love.

Queen of formal gardens, reach our forests, 
Girl of the fountains, come into our desert.
Mary of broken hearts, help us to keep
Promises. Lady of wakefulness, take our sleep.
You hold God in your arms, and he may weep.

4 The Despair

All night you fought the dream and when you woke
Lay exhausted, blinded by the sun. 
How could you face the day which had begun?
As we do, Christ, but worse for you.  You broke
Into our history. History drives you on.

Love before this was dust, but it was dust
You took upon yourself.  Your empty hands
Have scars upon them. You have made amends
For all wrong acts, for love brought down to lust. 
God, the world is crying and man stands

Upon the brink of worse than tragedy.
That was noble. Now there’s something more
Than careful scenes and acts. Some men make war
On you and we feel helpless, are not free
To struggle for you. God, we’ve seen you poor

And cold. Are stars dispensing light that you
Should find the universe turned... can it be
Away from you? No, no, we cannot see
Far or fully. Christ just born, you go
Back to the blighted, on to the thriving Tree.

5 The Victory

Down to that littleness, down to all that
Crying and hunger, all that tiny flesh
And flickering spirit - down the great stars fall, 
Here the huge kings bow.
Here the farmer sees his fragile lambs,
Here the wise man throws his books away.

This manger is the universe’s cradle,
This singing mother has the words of truth.
Here the ox and ass and sparrow stop, 
Here the hopeless man breaks into trust.
God, you have made a victory for the lost.
Give us this daily Bread, this little Host.

Elizabeth Jennings

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