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Christmas poems: Unimagined hope proclaimed

by
20 December 2019

ALAMY

The Annunciation to the Shepards, by Henry Ossawa Tanner

The Annunciation to the Shepards, by Henry Ossawa Tanner

KEVIN CAREY, a Reader, a retired IT consultant, former chairman of the RNIB, and a General Synod member from 2005 to 2010, has been writing Christmas poems, among other works, since 2000.

He sings in three choirs, and became aware of the limited number of texts available, some of which, such as “In the bleak midwinter”, have become “imprisoned” in particular settings. Nearly 20 years later, a part-time project to furnish more texts has turned into a 377-page collection: All Hail the Glorious Night and other Christmas Poems (Sacristy Press, £19.99 (CT Bookshop, £17.99))

Coda 

A dancing snowflake calms a bleating lamb
A star shine cheers a weary king
A berry stores the blood unshed In the beginning.
 

An angel sets alight the secret sky
A chorus makes the whole world sing
A mother hums a lullaby In the beginning.
 

The snow melts and the star declines
The blood bursts in the gloom
An angel bears a golden cup
On the darkest afternoon:
 

A lamb starts awake in a golden haze
An angel greets the risen king
A mother feels her womb ablaze In the beginning.
 

Old Austrian Hymn

Written in Vienna, 3 March 2014

O thou whom ancient seers foretold
Would light the dark and heat the cold,
Of David’s line and Jesse’s stem,
The morning star of Bethlehem
For us to shine
Was meekly in a manger laid,
Not carried in a grand parade,
His honour guard an ox and ass
Who let the humble shepherds pass
To worship human flesh divine.
 

Whose might surpassed the power of Rome
To reign here in our humble home,
Against whose armies no defence
Could withstand simple reverence
For God made man:
Whose triumph over death was so high
As low was his nativity,
Whose unimagined hope proclaimed
His mission for mankind regained,
To finish what his birth began.
 

Jesus, the wonder that you shared,
Our flesh can never be compared
With any other gifts of thine,
Though they are boundless and divine,
Not even grace,
For God incarnate moves the heart
In ways that words cannot impart;
This child exceeds all mystery
All creeds and all theology:
The logos in an infant’s face.
 

The Old Shepherd

One must remain to watch the wandering sheep
Placid again, the angels gone away;
It was the boy or ancient me they said
By drawing lots for which of us must stay.
 

I would not draw but said the boy must go,
Enough of joy and sorrow I have known,
What more than angels bringing God’s good news
Could I desire, his mercy to be shown?
 

That night, not knowing when I was asleep,
I think I dreamed the angels came again,
All kneeling down before a golden child,
Proclaiming him Messiah born to reign.

The boy awoke me with a brother’s kiss,
Not far behind I heard the others call:
He told his story, I told him my dream
Of how the Christ had come to save us all.

Urban Snow 

No peace like urban snow,
More wonderful than in the wild,
For silence and cold glow,
Hushing the earth for a new child.
 

No light like star unknown,
More wonderful than charted light,
Illumining a manger throne,
On a clear night.
 

No sound like angel sound,
More wonderful than Bach’s cool fire,
Bringing good news not found
In gratifying earth’s desire.
 

No love like Jesus’ cry,
More wonderful than poetry,
Born for us all in poverty,
The sweet “hello” with no “goodbye’’.
 

Wenceslas

Councillor Wenceslas nipped out
For a pint and pasty
Where the snow lay round about
Heaped and grey and nasty:
Dimly shone the lamps that night
Where the thickest fog lay,
So he stumbled on a man
Lying in the doorway.
 

“Hither stooge and sort this out,
If thou knowest, telling
Yonder vagrant why has he
Not got his own dwelling?”
“Sir, when he was discharged from
Our country’s great army
Trauma that he suffered from
Quickly drove him barmy.”
 

“Rouse him with your walking stick
From his drunken stupor.
Hello, is that the Police?
Nice to hear you, Super:
You should clear our town of scum,
Keep it disinfected,
Businessmen can only thrive
If it is respected.”
 

“While your profits rise and rise
All the rest are falling,
Cuts to social services
Really are appalling,
Cuts to justice and police,
Health, welfare and wages;
Destruction of the working class
Is in its final stages.”
 

“Liberal rot from the police!
Just keep law and order.
And kick all the foreigners
Back across the border:
Get rid of the nanny state,
Westminster and Brussels,
Cut taxes and cut red tape
For the man who hustles.”
 

While he shouted down his phone
On his own condition,
The poor soldier at his feet
Died of malnutrition:
So the moral of this tale
Set in winter weather
Is that in spite of what they say,
we’re not in this together.
 

Interpreted in Love

All that there is from shoot to frowse
From bloom to blow
From beat to blood
Is tightly bound within the bud.
 

All that there is from Word to end,
From crib to Cross
From spark to fire
Is in the knot of God’s desire.
 

All that there is from step to fall
From whim to will
From salt to clove,
all is interpreted in love.
 

Uffizi

Florence, May 2015

Medici by the hundred stiffly kneel
To haloed babies plump and pink as veal;
As if the Christ-child’s favour could be bought
By those who condescended to pay court.
 

No shepherds here, nor sheep, the pastoral
Limited strictly to the classical;
God for the settlement of marriage deeds
Protected from the sight of humble needs.
 

Yet even the most splendid empires fall
As war, greed, lust and gambling take their toll;
Yet Tuscan shepherds still look out for danger
And bring their simple offerings to the manger. 

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29 September 2020
Festival of Preaching
A one-day online version of our popular preaching festival. With Mark Oakley, Sam Wells and Anna Carter Florence.   Book tickets

 

19 October 2020
Creativity out of crisis: Hymns and worship webinar
In association with RSCM, this online event will explore creative uses music and liturgy in the context online and socially distanced worship.    Book tickets

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