An Unlectionary Poem For The Ending Of A Year

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE NEW YEAR’S . . .
(Suggested Texts: Genesis 1: 1-5; Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8)

‘Twas the night before New Year’s and all through the nation
people celebrated with great festive elation
the end of the old year, the start of the new,
hoping for good cheer and of blessings, a few.

All through the nighttime in boisterous bunches,
friends and their families were slurping pink punches
and munching on sweets with the utmost of urgency,
taking on treats like it’s some kind of emergency;

mommas and poppas, and uncles and aunts,
in their glittery dresses and their glossiest pants,
laughing and dancing in houses and halls,
in funny hats prancing as at a grand ball;

some drinking, perhaps a bit more than they should,
but taking a taxi and trying to be good;
determined in turning from all thought of sorrow
to make from their yearning a happier tomorrow.

Well, up in God’s heaven the angels looked down,
and God could detect on their faces a frown.
“What’s the matter?” God asked, out of kindly concern.
“I am hearing you chatter, and why your downturn?”

“It’s their problem with time,” said one, after some thought.
“Your children seem to feel time’s an enemy plot!
For instance, they’re making those famed resolutions
of things to try changing: some problems’ solutions,

“and things they would like, this year, to be better;
like a smaller waist size, and to fit smaller sweaters.
Some have higher hopes than just improving their look:
dreams with wide scope, like writing a book

“or taking a trip to some exotic new place;
remaking their home with new colour and space.
And it’s all very well that they’re hatching these plans,
for they’re aware that they dwell in mortality’s land.

“For them, time’s a challenge; too often, it’s feared;
an enemy, a dilemma, a mystery unclear.
And so they have made this rather frenzied occasion
to mark one year’s fade, and the next one’s invasion.

“But underneath,” said the angel, “beneath all the gladness,
we believe we detect a few notes of sadness,
as if the calendar’s page that they now have to toss
is some kind of stage in an ongoing loss.”

“I think you are right,” said God in reply.
“Too many people greet the days with a sigh.
For some, days are quick, the time fast to go.
yet for some, if they’re sick, it’s too long, too slow.

“For some, time’s so short the years flash out of sight.
For others, days drag, and the dark, lonely nights.
For those in distress time’s a burden to bear;
but for those at their best, it’s a gift they can share.

“Yes!” said the angel, “that’s how you meant it,
when to the young world the first light you lent it.
‘Twas you, God, separating the dark and the light,
who created time, making the day and the night.

“And you kept to that rhythm as the world was warmed:
one day at a time was how everything formed!”
God nodded, agreeing: “Life progresses in stages,
ever in my keeping through eons and ages;

“and that’s how my people should look at time too:
one day at a time is the steadiest view.
For I am God-with-them each night and each day,
around them, within them; their companion, I stay.

“Time’s my creation, where with them I dwell;
and for the whole world I will make all things well.
Yet I know they grow weary for a new world to come;
I know their tears, hearing them cry out, ‘How long?’

“The first followers of Jesus were exactly that way,
begging to know when he’d bring the new day
that would end all oppression, mend the world of its sin.
Surely no more digression — when would that day begin?

“I know it’s not easy for humans to be patient.
But I am still active, my love’s not complacent.
As the world at the start was not instantly complete,
so my goals for all hearts may take time to meet.

“But as they hold hope for a more peaceful earth,
as they pray, work and strive to bring justice to birth,
I, with them in their caring, am countering hate:
I, with them, also bearing the long patient wait.

“So here’s another thing my children should recall:
that time comes for summer, and time comes for fall;
the season for reaping follows that which is sown;
there’s time for stones’ keeping, or a time they are thrown.

“Time means things happen like decay in the wood;
but time also means the chance comes to do good.
Time means: look not just at that which is frayed,
but see also in trust when repair can be made.

“In other words, the truth is that people must choose
the way they will fill up each moment they use.
Will they be helpful, and gentle, and kind;
or will they be hateful and bitter of mind?

“Will people choose justice; compassion, not greed?
Or will they be selfish, ignore others’ needs?
Each hour and each day of the time they’ve been given,
will they choose love’s way, the way of Jesus and heaven?

“For, each evening’s sunset, each morning’s sunrise,
each touch of beauty as light kisses the eyes,
each breath that is breathed, each hand’s loving lift
— each day that’s received — is God’s precious gift.”

The angels grew quiet as they pondered God’s words.
From around the wide earth the usual sounds could be heard.
They could see stress and worry in many folks’ faces,
and much frantic hurry in most of earth’s places.

How they longed for the world to experience God’s peace,
that it might be shared, among all and to each.
And especially, at the dawn of the calendar year
they hoped would be gone much of sadness and fear.

“So it’s about what they choose every day,” they sighed.
“Praise God, that God is with them to help them decide!
And may they from God’s table of love shared, divine,
spread joy, as they’re able, one thankful day at a time.”

(Yes, God is with us, beloved,
and ever will be.
Therefore: “Happy New Year”, many blessings
to all of you, and to me.)

Copyright ©2019 by Andrew King

Poem For the Sunday Lectionary — First Sunday After Christmas (Yr. C)

AFTER CHRISTMAS
(Luke 2: 41-52)

The tsunami that crushed so many in Indonesia this week
missed my borders by thousands of miles.
The wildfires that destroyed so many homes this year
burned far beyond my horizon.
Guns spilled blood in nearby cities, but no bullets
flew on my street.
Hunger tore bellies in large swaths of the world
while the barbecues cooked in my neighbourhood.

Oh yes, there were struggles, there were
grievings, losses, hardships;
the failures and stumblings
that caused myself or others pain;
yet for me — as for many of us —
life has been the calm of a sun-washed island
around which earth’s storms
have swirled without touch.

And I wonder if life was like that for
Mary and Joseph as they travelled
to the Passover in Jerusalem.

Long past was the drama of the dream
that spoke to Joseph, warning the young parents
of the danger to their son. Long past
was the journey that took them as refugees
to Egypt to escape the hate of Herod
that would destroy others’ lives.

Now in Nazareth they lived
on an island of relative calm,
where the wars fought by Rome or
violence suffered by others
had little or no effect day to day.

Life was now routine,
though perhaps not entirely easy,
troubled only by the challenges
faced by many
to make sure there would be food
for the day.

But if long past was the danger
and the difficulty of fleeing,
if long past was the hardship of being homeless,
long past, as well, were the angels and the shepherds,
the singing and the shining and the smell of manger hay.
And long past, as well, was the visit of the Magi, those
strange travellers from the east with
their amazing, wondrous gifts.

Had Mary and Joseph forgotten so much
with the passing of the years?
Was life now so dulled by regular routine,
by daily business, daily pressures,
that Jesus’ own significance was all but lost?

For us, too, perhaps, the time that follows Christmas
— where once again the very blessedness
of our little islands of safety,
or where once again the daily pressures of ordinary life
dim the joyful memories of the singing and celebration —
is a time where the birth’s significance
is all but lost.

How easy it becomes to lose sight of Emmanuel
— God with us — when our lives
are relatively calm.
How easy it becomes to lose sight of Jesus
in the crowds, in the comings and the goings,
in the swish and the swirl of daily needs.

Where shall we look for him
if we’ve lost sight of what he means?
Where shall we seek the One
born gift of God?

Perhaps we have a temple, a sacred, holy place,
a place where we are opened to glory and to mystery.
A place where we sense the presence of the Divine
touching us and speaking to our hearts.
Perhaps we find Jesus there.

We may find him offering wisdom.
We may hear him asking questions.
We may find him nudging minds
to seek the purposes of God.

And outside in the world’s suffering
we will find him busy, too.
We will find him about God’s business,
pursuing God’s loving intentions,
embracing the wounded and weary
with God’s healing and peace.

I know we are appropriately thankful
for the blessedness of our lives.
I know we give God thanks
for all islands of calm.
But may we not forget, in the time that
follows Christmas,
that we are servants with Jesus
of purposes higher than ourselves.
May we not lose sight in our busyness of the Christ
who is about God’s business,
who goes before us into the neediness of the world.

Copyright ©2018 by Andrew King

Christmas Eve

THE GLORY
(Luke 2: 1-14)

And the glory of God shone around them.
Not because it was suddenly there
but because their eyes were suddenly opened
to what had been there all along.

In the glittering gift of the praising stars,
in the holy hush of the kneeling night,
in the whispered prayers held aloft by the trees,
in the answering song of the grasses and breeze,
the glory of God was already around them.

Around them in the breath of the sheep that were sleeping,
around them in the flames of the fire they were keeping,
around them in the faces of the friends who were watching,
and within them in their hearts as they listened to the speaking
of the messenger of God, opening their eyes to
the Loving Holy Presence,
to heaven already happening,
to the glory, constantly shining.

Maybe it takes something special, something new and wondrous;
or maybe it can happen while we’re just tending to our business
in the ordinary, the daily routines of life,
that we are caught, shaken, wakened

to God somewhere working, to love
somewhere growing, to hearts
somewhere lifting in joyous songs of praise,

and we are moved, we are warmed,
we are opened wide like windows
to the glory that was here, that is there,
that is beyond us and within us,

that is waiting to make us, too, messengers
in the nighttime. Singers of the song.
Part of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
Peace, good will, to this needy and beloved beautiful world.

Copyright ©2018 by Andrew King

And may I also commend you to: “The Flight Of The Heavenly Host

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Christmas +1, Yr A)

THE SHADOW FALLS PAST CHRISTMAS
Matthew 2: 13-23

Hear the broken-hearted weeping
in the blooded streets, see
the frightened family fleeing
the night so gouged and torn
with loss. We cannot forget
the shadow that falls past Christmas.

Sometimes the tree falls down and the lights
are crushed. The car goes off the road
driving home from the party. Storm
sets in, shutting down festive celebration.

Shadow falls past Christmas:
the Herod dark of hatred, shattered
lives and homes, cruelty
and the killing power of greed;
dreams of joy chased down by fear and grief.

Infants dying of neglect and malnutrition,
oppression claiming victims every day,
and so frequently corruption unabated:
the songs of hope that came like dreams
seem easily defeated.

But see the infant Christ
not among the murdered.
Untrapped by hatred’s reach, by
greed’s cold grasp, by the power
of death so constantly pursuing,
infant Love lives on, the hope
and will for justice and peace
persisting.

Shadow falls past Christmas. But
see the light still shining;
faith and hope still singing; the contest
for the human heart goes on.

May we, as Joseph did, keep
listening to the words of dreams.
Keep moving the feet
toward morning’s hope,
free as a gift of love,
however distant the dawn.

And may the darkness fail to chase us down.

Copyright © by Andrew King
Reprinted from First Sunday After Christmas, 2013

A Poem For Christmas Eve/Day

THE FLIGHT OF THE HEAVENLY HOST
(Luke 2: 1-14)

They flew over cities of a thousand old sorrows,
they flew over hills of a hundred hard griefs,
they flew over fields of love fallen in ruins,
and over dim hovels long haunted with yearning,
and over bright palaces of the powerful feasting,

and in their old graves the prophets
looked up to see them,
and the brown grasses bent to the rush of their passing,
and the wild seas lifted their waves in adulation,
and the pilgrim wind wept with the joy of their singing,

and the angels flew on to the pivot of history,
they flew upon wings made of messages of light,
and the prayers of the ages rose up to enwrap them,
and they stopped over stones of moss-covered memory
where hope’s moldered bones had lain down to die,

and the night held its breath and the dark knelt to listen,
and the trees brought the stars close with trembling hands
as a baby’s first cries cut the air in a stable
and shivering stunned shepherds
heard praises fill the Bethlehem sky.

Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Christmas 2, Yr C)

TO CREATE A NEW YEAR
(Ephesians 1: 3-14; John 1: 1-18)

It’s the first Sunday of the starting year.
Once more we hear the usual news on
the radio: the deaths by gun and bomb,
the lives awash in pain, the anxious fears

of many an “expert” for tomorrow.
Hatreds rear their ugly heads, raging roars
in the mouths of the powerful, the doors
to chaos swing on oiled hinges. Sorrow

abounds. Where now, we ask, is the newness
of the turned page? Where the fresh beginning?
How may we know that goodness is winning
and that sunrise is rolling back darkness?

We may know by listening well: a song
from long ago is still being sung, ringing
like a bell in the shadows and bringing
hope, both old and fresh as dawn, to the long

patient march of the years toward God’s planned
healing of the human world and hurt earth.
That song is the Word made flesh, given birth
into time and into us; and in our hands

is placed Christ’s grace – grace upon grace – the light
that darkness has not overcome. Despair
may tempt still. But in us, through us, God’s care
for the world flows, song of God’s own delight,

and with the strength of that care always near
in our hearts, faith points our eyes toward joy:
seeing the turned page indeed as new day
for service that will create a new year.

Copyright © 2016 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Christmas 1, Yr C)

IF WE MISS YOU
(Luke 2: 41-52)

If we miss you leaving the festival
leaving the celebrations and memories
leaving the feasting and traditions
leaving the prayers and the songs;

if we miss you leaving the festival
returning to the stresses and pressures
returning to demands and deadlines
returning to the everyday routines –

we can find you in places of peacefulness
we can find you where wisdom is spoken
we can find you where holiness is nurtured
we can find you where God’s love is shared

and we will find you back with us in our travels
we will find you still with us at home
we will find you growing stronger within us
your grace embracing us, our hearts your own.

Christmas Eve (Yr C)

A PRAYER FOR CHRISTMAS EVE
(Luke 2: 1-20)

Here is the emptiness of my night
     may it be filled with your glory
Here are the silences of my heart
     may they be filled with your songs

Here is the watchfulness of my eyes
     may they be opened to wonder
Here is the listening of my soul
     may it hear the joy of your love

Here is the hopefulness of my journey
     may it lead me swift to your side
Here is the searching of my anxious mind
     may it find rest in your peace

Here is the wood and straw of my days
     may they be a bed for your presence
And here is the humble cave of my life
     may it be your home, gentle Saviour.

A Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (First Sunday After Christmas)

THE SHADOW FALLS PAST CHRISTMAS
Matthew 2: 13-23

Hear the broken-hearted weeping
in the blooded streets, see
the frightened family fleeing
the night so gouged and torn
with loss. We cannot forget
the shadow that falls past Christmas.

Sometimes the tree falls down and the lights
are crushed. The car goes off the road
driving home from the party. Storm
sets in, shutting down festive celebration.

Shadow falls past Christmas:
the Herod dark of hatred, shattered
lives and homes, cruelty
and the killing power of greed;
dreams of joy chased down by fear and grief.

Infants dying of neglect and malnutrition,
oppression claiming victims every day,
and so frequently corruption unabated:
the songs of hope that came like dreams
seem easily defeated.

But see the infant Christ
not among the murdered.
Untrapped by hatred’s reach, by
greed’s cold grasp, by the power
of death so constantly pursuing,
infant Love lives on, the hope
and will for justice and peace
persisting.

Shadow falls past Christmas. But
see the light still shining;
faith and hope still singing; the contest
for the human heart goes on.

May we, as Joseph did, keep
listening to the words of dreams.
Keep moving the feet
toward morning’s hope,
free as a gift of love,
however distant the dawn.

And may the darkness fail to chase us down.

Copyright © 2013 by Andrew King