Friday, December 13, 2013


Proclaiming the news of the Christmas gospel is a daunting assignment for a preacher. Many of us ask ourselves, "What can I add to this old, old story?" For a number of years my response to this challenge has been to attempt a Christmas sermon in verse. When preaching, I try to read these sermons fluidly, without undue attention to the line endings dictated by poetry. 

I offer this as my blog Christmas card, with thanks for reading, and a prayer that all will hear Good News in this season.

Some have said that childhood is a luxury
of modern times, something we’ve come to see
through the eyes of Dickens and the others.
But I’m not convinced. I think that mothers

and their fierce, soft love made childhood to be
what it is. A time for little ones to see
all life and promise in their mother’s face,
who lets them grow to be themselves in a place

where they are safe: to reach, to try, to laugh, to cry;
To fall and get picked up, a healing smile in mother’s eye:
“All better!…” This is no sentimental new
modern thing, this childhood, it’s the path through

which in all times everyone has learned to be
who they are, and how to live, and how to see
the way. Thus Mary, pondering shepherds' news
still had to teach her wonder child how to tie his shoes.

That is to say, that Christmas truly means
that Christ was born of Mary, a real kid. In his teens
the gospel tells us that Mary had to scold
him for wandering off – “Where have you been! Haven’t I told

you to stay with us in the crowd? Your dad
and I were worried.” And though the young lad
had an answer (teen-agers always do),
he heard how much his mother loved him. And his father, too.

For Joseph, too, had held the little child
that Christmas night, when for his Mary mild
he’d made a bed for them of wood and straw
and pondered, too, the shepherds tale of awe.

And for the love of Mary he’d become
the father of her angel-blessed son.
A carpenter, he’d teach him all he could,
of how to make a life of nails and wood.

Her Joseph held the child that night and said,
“You are mine,” and kissed his little head,
“And I am yours,” and knelt and said a prayer
that he would show this boy a father’s care.

So love came down at Christmas, but I wonder
if it was through a father and a mother
that little baby Jesus grew to be
the man of love that we have come to see…

upon a cross: The place where Mary’s heart
was broken, where heaven tore apart
the sky, as the angels had, when shepherds wondered
that night so long ago; when Mary pondered

these things in her heart. These things? Is this
what called forth carols? Angels’ songs of bliss?
The same mother’s love that kissed a bandaged knee
would have covered, held this boy, so it could never be.

And did Joseph throw himself before the swords
and say, “Not my boy!” Shout to the soldiers and the hordes,
“This is my son. Take me.” As any father would?
And did he then remember how that good

news had sounded in a stable on that night
when shepherds told of skies aglow with light?
And his own angel’s message: How he heard,
“Joseph, save this child, he’ll save the world!”

And so recall how Mary is the one
whose fierce love made a home for God’s own son;
how Joseph loved his Mary and this boy:
This little family is the whole world’s joy.

But joy this Christmas still seems lost in night;
we search the heavens for the angels’ light.
We see a glow of hope, the dawn of morn.
We hear the news, “To you a child is born.”