Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas poems

I have made a new friend this year. I was introduced to Luci Shaw by Bonnie. Then Amber loaned me her copy of the little book Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation. It is a lovely collection of poems that Mrs. Shaw has written to her friends for more than sixty years.


by Luci Shaw

Yes, we have seen the studies, sepia strokes
across yellowed parchment, the fine detail
of hand and breast and the fall of cloth -
Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Titian, El Greco,
Roualt - each complex madonna plotted at last
on canvas, layered with pigment, like the final
draft of a poem after thirty-nine roughs.

But Mary, virgin, had no sittings, no chance
to pose her piety, no novitiate for body or
for heart. The moment was on her unaware:
the Angel in the room, the impossible demand,
the response without reflection. Only one
word of curiosity, echoing Zechariah's How?
yet innocently voiced, without request for proof.
The teen head tilted in light, the hand
trembling a little at the throat, the candid
eyes, wide with acquiescence to shame and glory -
"Be it unto me as you have said."

My maternal grandmother, Mom, also wrote Christmas poems. She composed a poem for the Christmas card that she and my grandfather sent out each year. A few years ago, my mother compiled the poems into a book for me and I have been re-reading Mom's poems the last few days. Here is the one written in 1959.

The Gift
by Lila Craig

Just a tiny Babe in a manger,
But how could we possibly know
The infinite love of a Father God
Had he never told us so -
Coming to know our weakness,
Our weariness, pain or loss,
Bringing the gift of endless love,
Forgiveness upon a cross?

How could we know the one great Gift
His never-ending life,
Unless, as man, He has shared our world,
Conquered its toil and strife --
Forever a Light in the darkness
Forever a Guide and Stay,
Leading us gently onward
To His eternal day?

He is the Gift of Christmas --
His Presence the treasure rare,
Forgiving Love and Life and Light
Entrusted to our care,
Until the glow reflected,
Illumines every race
And "Peace on earth" we chorus,
United before His face.

I am appreciating the way poetry focuses my thoughts and heart this year as I seek to slow down in these remaining days of Advent. All of the boys are home, my shopping is done, I have baked cookies and fruitcake and planned menus, the tree is up and decorated, lights twinkle around the front door and out on the back porch. Even the air has turned colder and it feels more like Christmas. The next few days are for family, friends, music, reading, reflection, and celebration.

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