17 december

But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Photo on the top of this page was taken from the article “Donate food in Gaza” on the Feed Our World website

The Gift

Bryan Hart

Every Good Friday, I revisit George Herbert’s poem, “The Sacrifice.” In Herbert’s telling, Christ describes his own passion across 63 stanzas, each line brimming with beauty and theological insight. It is a masterful recounting of history’s greatest story.

In an attempt to do for the incarnation what Herbert did for the crucifixion, I have written “The Gift” as a riff on “The Sacrifice.” It is shorter and no masterpiece. But like its inspiration, it dwells on the incarnation’s theological revelation (God with us) and heart-rending beauty (God with us).

In his opening stanza, Herbert gave a nod to the incarnation (“To me, who took eyes that I might you finde”). In my closing stanzas, I did the same with the crucifixion. Neither can be properly understood alone. But where “The Sacrifice” emphasizes Jesus’s willingness to suffer grief, “The Gift” emphasizes his lavish generosity. Mine is a modest poem, but I hope one that can help us worship in appreciation of the manifold glories of Christmas. God is with us!

The Gift

Come all ye burdened, lowly, and blind,
Come, all who are lost, that is, all mankind,
“To me, who took eyes that I might you find”:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Who else but the Author of life itself
Would to descend from the heavenly shelf?
Into this tale I have written myself:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Of love and logos, of philosophy,
The sages dreamt, though only hazily;
But now, at last, can all be seen in Me:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Becoming low, my humiliation
Secures a more splendid transformation;
The lowest I’ll raise in exaltation:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Oh Eve, who heeded what the serpent said,
The shame for commencing sin’s crimson thread
Can end—Your seed has come to crush his head:
Was ever a gift like mine?

From Eden did the angels Adam send,
But now to his offspring they do commend
Me, the new Adam who will the world mend:
Was ever a gift like mine?

In Abraham all nations will be bless’d,
But how? Accomplishing it is my quest;
I come to dress them in my righteousness:
Was ever a gift like mine?

An ancient stump sends up a royal shoot,
A King to whom all kings will pay tribute;
But greater is the prize that I’ll impute:
Was ever a gift like mine?

From Bethlehem that King would come, ’twas said.
But I’ll be more, their only House of Bread,
And give my body that all may be fed:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Do not ignore my genealogies;
Both sagas of human catastrophes
Are my share in our trade of fam’ly trees:
Was ever a gift like mine?

For I assume Joseph’s ancestral shame,
Attaching its failure to my good name,
So my perfection all failures might claim:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Zechariah spoke of coming Sunrise
from God on high, to darkened souls supplies
My light, that mortals I’ll immortalize:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Elizabeth carries within her womb
One to straighten my way, a voice from whom
Disciples will learn of the true Bridegroom:
Was ever a gift like mine?

A manger contains my body from cold,
The very one who does the cosmos hold;
The glories of Christmas are manifold!
Was ever a gift like mine?

Begotten not made, yet born of virgin,
Still a stranger myst’ry I illumine:
How sinners are made into God’s kinsmen:
Was ever a gift like mine?

The Shepherds hear first, for to them I am
Inaugurating my ovine program,
In which the Chief Shepherd becomes a Lamb:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Mary’s heart is my childhood treasury,
Alas, a sword will bring it injury;
Fear not, I’ll heal it in my Victory:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Simeon finds that for which many sought,
Open, his hands receive what can’t be bought;
My grace is never earned but only caught:
Was ever a gift like mine?

The Magi seek me via shining star,
Meet a heavenly Son, brighter by far
Than all other treasure, one without par:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Herod from his throne rules my land with might,
But finds in my infancy cause for fright;
Why, since his sins I have come to make white?
Was ever a gift like mine?

My parents to Egypt with me fly,
So as Israel I identify,
That their wanderings I might rectify:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Not only thirty years I’ll be a man,
My flesh is permanent, so that I can
Be Advocate for an eternal span:
Was ever a gift like mine?

With sufferers I come to sympathize,
To take their pain and with them agonize;
In me their High Priest they’ll soon recognize:
Was ever a gift like mine?

Is this not why I’ve come? I’m born to die
As ransom for many, their souls I’ll buy,
That all wretchedness I might beautify:
Was ever a gift like mine?

The tree of life I made, for man’s good;
The cross of death men made, not knowing I would,
As a carpenter’s son, trade wood for wood:
Was ever a gift like mine?

So, as angels sang celestial chorus,
Immanuel will be the most joyous
Carol men will ever sing: “God with us!”
Never was a gift like mine.

Ode to Joy

Joy, thou shining spark of God,
Daughter of Elysium,
With fiery rapture, goddess,
We approach thy shrine!
Your magic reunites those
Whom stern custom has parted;*
All men will become brothers*
Under your protective wing.

Let the man who has had the fortune
To be a helper to his friend,
And the man who has won a noble woman,
Join in our chorus of jubilation!
Yes, even if he holds but one soul
As his own in all the world!
But let the man who knows nothing of this
Steal away alone and in sorrow.

All the world’s creatures draw
Draughts of joy from nature;
Both the just and the unjust
Follow in her gentle footsteps.
She gave us kisses and wine
And a friend loyal unto death;
She gave the joy of life to the lowliest,
And to the angels who dwell with God.

Joyous, as His suns speed
Through the glorious order of Heaven,
Hasten, brothers, on your way
Exultant as a knight victorious.

Be embraced, all ye millions!
With a kiss for all the world!
Brothers, beyond the stars
Surely dwells a loving Father.
Do you kneel before Him, oh millions?
Do you feel the Creator’s presence?
Seek Him beyond the stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

7 Prayers for the Advent

By Reverend Henry Keys


Lord God,

Help me to expect to see and know You in every part of this day. 
May Your Holy Spirit guide and guard me in all my doing, speaking and thinking.

May I expect You to be involved in my family and work relationships. 
May I be able to entrust to Your love and grace those problems and tensions which are beyond my power to solve.

May I expect You to speak to me as I watch the news and read the papers.
May my reactions be compassionate, measured and fair-minded.

May I expect You as I think about the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. 
Help me  never to  lose trust in Your sovereign power and to remain faithful in prayer.

May I expect You when I am tempted to be vengeful or bitter, unforgiving or thinking of retaliation.

May I expect You when I deflect my anger against those who are innocent or who cannot respond.

Thank You that You are a God who loves to forgive, the God of peace and hope.
May I enter into Your joy today.


“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set,
then there’d be peace.”

John Lennon

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