Fourteen³ - December 2015


Sonnet XV - On Advent
5th December 2015

As Autumn dies and opens winter’s door,
To glimpse a chocolate or some gospel scene,
We deck the halls with boughs of evergreen,
And build the fire’s friendly warmth to roar,
And in the freezer build our winter store,
And purchase gifts from stores of brick and screen,
(And brace ourselves for family seldom seen!)
And count the days from one to twenty-four.

We look ahead: to God incarnate born;
To light which lightens dark of darkest day;
To teacher; healer; storyteller; Christ.
To false arrest, to jailer’s mocking scorn;
To cross, to tomb, to stone which rolled away;
To blesséd baby grown, and sacrificed.

Sonnet XVI - On Tiny Mercies
20th December 2015

For every tiny mercy I will bring
My praise to thee from whom all mercy flows,
Who every need and wish and trouble knows,
The hope to which my bleeding fingers cling.
For when I choose to see in every thing
The marks of tiny mercies, I expose
The way His love in tribulation shows
And see the condescension of the king.

But when these tiny mercies won’t suffice,
I think of how the source of mercy cast
The greatness of his glory to the side;
Forsook, for dirty stable, paradise;
And into time and tiny baby passed
An awesome mercy, now personified.

The Nativity Of St Matthew

Sonnet XVII - On The Genealogy
22nd December 2015

With three fourteens the gospel writer shows
How sons of faithful Abraham became
The nation who was called by Jacob’s name;
And from this soil the seed of Jesse grows:
The kingly line of faithful David rose,
And grew into the tree which would proclaim
The faithfulness of God and spread his fame.
But chosen, faithless and forgetting, chose

To turn away and Jesse’s tree was felled.
Yet from the stump a shoot was growing still,
A witness to the faithfulness divine,
And Abraham and David were upheld,
And fourteen generations ran until
The Son of God was born to Jesse’s line.

(Matthew 1:1-17)

Sonnet XVIII - On Joseph
22nd December 2015

He sits alone, awake by candlelight;
He cries to God to show him what to do
With promised love, now proved to be untrue.
But in his pain, he wants to do what’s right:
He looks to find a way by which he might
Put off the shame and scorn which is her due.
He cries to God to show him what to do,
And thinks, and weeps, and prays into the night.

At last, he falls to dreaming and therein,
The Lord calls out to him from on His throne,
That he and she are favoured by His plan:
Her faultless son will save the world from sin,
So he must take the boy to be his own
And teach the Son of God to be a man.

(Matthew 1:18-25)

Sonnet XIX - On The Magi And King Herod
23rd December 2015

“Where is the new-born king,” the Magi said,
“In studying the charts of eastern skies,
We saw the royal constellation rise.”
And all who heard them trembled in their dread;
And Herod called and bade them: “Go ahead
To seek, to find the place this baby lies,
Report to me so I can go likewise
To lay my hand of blessing on his head.”

They found the place and opened up their store,
And royal gold, and holy frankincense,
And bitter myrrh they gave, then bowed to pray.
They left and in angelic dreams they saw
A vision of King Herod’s madness, hence
The magi went back home another way.

(Matthew 2:1-12)

Sonnet XX - On The Flight To Egypt
23rd December 2015

When Pharaoh’s madness burned, a dreadful prayer
Went up from Hebrew hearts, for God to save
Their infant children from a river-grave.
So Pharaoh’s daughter chose a boy to spare,
And took him from the Nile into her care
And so, God raised a leader from a slave,
Who crossed the seabed, parted wave from wave,
And God declared, “I called my son from there.”

The magi went back home another way,
This order came, as Herod’s madness burned:
“The blood of every infant boy shall run.”
So Joseph took the saviour-child to stay
In Egypt, and when Herod died, returned.
And God declared, “From there I called my son.”

(Matthew 2:13-23)

The Nativity Of St Luke

Sonnet XXI - On Mary
23rd December 2015

She sits alone, awake by candlelight;
She thinks about the promise made in haste:
The cosmic load on teenage shoulders placed
The pregnant joy; the scandal of her plight.
For how long can she hide it from the sight
Of him for whom she promised to stay chaste?
By pregnancy miraculous, disgraced,
She thinks, and weeps, and prays into the night.

But when the angel came and called her blessed,
And said God’s saviour king would be her son,
No thought of shame or scandal had occurred:
She’d trusted God and in her faith, professed
Just this: “I serve the Lord. Let it be done.”
And all creation wondered at her word.

(Luke 1:26-38)

Sonnet XXII - On The Angel’s Song
23rd December 2015

We sang to see the stars which graced the sky.
We sang to see the couple walk the road.
We sang when no one found in their abode
A place to let the holy baby lie.
We sang to hear the helpless baby cry.
We sang about the wonder He bestowed:
How Godly glory into foetus flowed
And for the sins of man He came to die.

We searched to find one worthy of the song,
To hear the news of joy to all the earth,
To whom the mind of God could be revealed.
We searched among the righteous and the strong;
We searched to find those rich with heaven’s worth;
We sang to lowly shepherds in their field.

(Luke 2:1-14)

Sonnet XXIII - On The Shepherds
23rd December 2015

A moonlit field, an unprotected flock,
A mound of ash where once a fire burned,
A slick of earth, by hurried footsteps turned,
A shepherd’s crook discarded on a rock.
The signs of haste, the signs of awe and shock,
Of shepherds, who from shining angels learned
Of God incarnate, awesome grace unearned.
(Did angels stay to watch the mutton stock?)

They went to see the truth of what they heard.
“They’re drunk! Or mad!” the ones who saw would claim,
As raucous praise joined angel-songs on high.
For they, in flesh, saw uncreated Word,
And simple souls upon that night became
The first-born heirs of Anno Domini.

(Luke 2:15-20)

Sonnet XXIV - On Simeon
24th December 2015

My eyes have seen salvation from the Lord,
The one who brings the far-flung gentile light,
And is the glory of the Israelite.
Long years I prayed that God would soon afford
That I should see King David’s line restored,
But I foresee that many men shall fight
The covenant he brings. And they shall smite
Both him and you, his mother, with a sword.

But now, let praises rise from every heart,
And let the prophet, Anna, now attest
That God has come, and set his glory by.
And as for me, I know I played my part,
I’ve all I need to lie in peace, and rest:
I’ve seen salvation dawn, so let me die.

(Luke 2:21-38)

Sonnet XXV - On Great Sorrow
24th December 2015

I pray for those who live their lives in fear;
For refugees torn far from home or aid;
For work exploited for a cheaper trade;
For those in pain for whom the end draws near;
For children scared to shed a silent tear;
For every broken heart or trust betrayed.
I pray that in me there would be displayed
The Man of Sorrows’ heart, this coming year:

You wept to see the clouds which soon would rain,
Destruction down upon the promised land;
When Lazarus among his forebears slept,
You shared in Mary and in Martha’s pain;
And on that silent night in Bethlehem,
You as a helpless, human baby wept.

Sonnet XXVI - On The Spirit Of Christmas
25th December 2015

I choose belief in what gives Christmas worth,
In blind and broken healed and captives freed,
In saviour God who for my sins would bleed,
In deity incarnate come to Earth,
In angels, shepherds, stars and virgin birth,
In family time to laugh, relax and feed,
In stockings stuffed with things I do not need,
In starting every year with extra girth.

But if you cannot choose belief in God,
Believe instead in decency and peace,
Believe in joy and fellowship and fun.
Choose not to find the festive season odd,
But choose to let the Christmas mood increase.
If this we choose, “God bless us, everyone.”

Sonnet XXVII - On The Aftermath
31st December 2015

And now it’s done, the gifts are all unwrapped;
We’ve heard the cracker puns, hilarious,
From uncles drunken and gregarious;
And full of sprouts and turkey we have napped;
And all our many gluttonies we capped
With chocolates manifold and various;
The tree-top star has grown precarious,
And needles shed from branches when they’re tapped;

We’ll soon return to work or school again,
And lose the warmth and light of Christmas cheer.
But will we let our Christmas spirit die,
Amid the dreary January rain,
Or keep our empathy and kindness near
Us day by day, so heaven will come by?

Sonnet XXVIII - On New Year’s Resolution
31st December 2015

You said, “It’s just a marker of the days,
A passing of the Earth around the Sun.
Tomorrow, nothing new will have begun,
They’ll be no difference in our ways,
For selfish, lazy human nature stays,
Within its course and nothing can be done.
So eat and drink and laugh now, everyone,
This mess that’s with us now will last always.”

We’ve fallen far from Eden, yes, but why
Is it too optimistic to suggest
That ours can be a better world again?
So at the clock’s approach of midnight, I
Resolved with all my heart to do my best
To do my best, and counted down from ten.