It is nearly midnight as I begin writing this and I am still changing some of the words to the poem. I "finished" it earlier this week and words — even, whole lines — have been changed nearly every time that it has been subsequently re-read.
I always have such high hopes each new year. Last year, I discovered Daily Audio Bible and I thought, This is great! I'll get on the treadmill every morning and listen to the Bible being read to me. Then came the mornings when I overslept, or needed to go in to work early, or the recordings weren't ready on the app, or whatever else came along. And I got behinder and behinder and finally quit — before Easter. NOTE: Being a night-owl is NOT conducive to being an early-bird!
Yes, I realize that behinder may not be a word — yet. Lewis Carroll made up words all the time! I've caught myself saying (aloud!) noon-thirty instead of 12:30.
So, this is a short blog. No sermonette. No soapbox. Just a poem that I was blessed to write — the third one in December! I haven't been this productive in a long time. But, I'll be happy to ride this wave of creativity into next year and see what the Lord has in store for me.
Turn the Page
Our calendars have reached the end,
and, soon, we'll turn the page;
a new year will begin again —
time doesn't stop or age.
We may have tried to read each day
God's Word without a miss;
but found that we were — back in May —
still in Leviticus!
We may regret those pounds not lost,
or books we never read;
or grieve that bridge we may have crossed
with words we may have said.
And we may feel we can't go on
without a loved one there;
whose shoulder, smile or laugh are gone —
yet present everywhere.
But next year, by the grace of God,
we all can make amends
by tearing down our proud facade
erected for our friends;
forgive the slights of others just
as Christ forgives our own;
lay down our all and wholly trust
on Jesus' name — alone.
You need not wait for New Year's Eve
to turn the page anew;
if you don't ask, you won't receive
the things God has for you.
So, may the joy of Christ be in
your life as next year starts;
and may his love and peace begin
to mend your broken hearts.
A week or so ago, I wondered what I would blog about this week. After all, I had already shared this year's Christmas poem in my last blog. I settled on recycling one of my favorite Christmas poems from a dozen years ago; but, for whatever reason, decided to read the Christmas story from the second chapter of Luke once more.
Let's see, the census . . . Jesus . . . swaddling . . . shepherds . . . Mary treasures the events in her heart. Check. This is where I would typically stop reading. Again, for whatever reason, I read a little further and reconnected with . . . the story of Simeon.
I went to bed struggling with an opening line. I wasn't happy that Simeon had a 3-syllable name!
I was thinking on it at work the next day (Friday) and not getting anywhere with it when all of the sudden something clicked at noon. By the time I hit the microwave in the lunch room I had the first two lines. By the time I got back to my desk I had another two lines.
By the time lunch was over I had written the first and third stanzas. My initial idea was to have those two verses of questions/answers back-to-back and then have two more verses containing Simeon's words. I couldn't wait to get some quiet time to finish it off! I thought, this will be done tonight!
Sadly, I had four more hours of work. Beyond that, my wife and I were in the midst of a little bathroom remodel (wallpaper removal/painting) with a deadline of finishing up by Sunday night. So, I had that to look forward to after work. Ugh!
FINALLY, late Friday night I returned my attention to Simeon once more.
When I got back to writing (and reading), I realized that Simeon really had two different "songs" — one for God and the other for Mary. So, it wouldn't work to have them back-to-back without causing some confusion. Rearranging the verses was another big "click".
I really thought it would have been finished Friday night, and went to bed a little disappointed that it wasn't. All the lines were there, but it had issues. Saturday morning, after a few tweaks, I was surprised that it was "finished". I say "finished" because I struggled until Tuesday night before it was really done.
On the weekend, in between the patching and painting, I realized a potential issue. You see, I had copied the NIV version of the story as my main guideline but had consulted other versions as well and thought everything was fine. But, I finally noticed that the NIV was different from most of the other versions!
As I see it, there are four main points to Simeon's words to Mary, and I wrote my poem around them in that order: 1-2-3-4. But, I found that most other versions had them written as 1-2-4-3. So I rewrote most of the last verse in order to comply with the majority. But as I reread them over and over (and over), I realized that the two lines concerning "Mary's pierced soul" was much better as the final two lines rather than having them elsewhere.
As a reminder, this is Simeon's story:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
Luke 2:25-35 [NIV]
I contemplated saving this poem until next year and presenting it as my 2019 Christmas poem. But, I don't have the "pass" that Simeon had — a promise from God that I won't die before a certain event in my life. Both of these last two Christmas poems (almost) wrote themselves and are among the fastest that I've ever written; so if God wanted to bless me (and hopefully, you) with two Christmas poems for 2018, then who am I to hold one back?
The Song of Simeon
Simeon, where have you been?
I've been to the temple to pray.
Simeon, what have you seen?
I've seen the Messiah today.
Simeon, how did you know?
The Spirit of God told me so.
O Sovereign Lord, as you have vowed,
now let me rest in peace and grace.
For all my years that you've allowed
to finally see the Savior's face:
whose light reveals the world's needs;
whose glory is what Israel bleeds.
Simeon, tell us again.
A child was brought to be blessed.
Simeon, what happened then?
I cradled the boy to my chest.
Simeon, what did you say?
I blessed them and sent them away.
This child will cause the fall and rise
of many people, great and small;
a sign rebuffed and much despised,
with many hearts revealed for all.
But, Mary, as his mother — you
will have your very soul pierced through.
A month or so ago was the first time I ever heard of the lambs of Bethlehem. Apparently, the lambs that were sacrificed on a daily basis in Jerusalem were born and raised in Bethlehem. Consider the following excerpts:
Migdal Eder, the Tower of the Flock, was the place where lambs destined for the Temple were born and raised. Every firstborn male lamb from the area around Bethlehem was considered holy, set aside for sacrifice in Jerusalem.
Although obscure and often overlooked, Micah [Micah 4:8] disclosed that the Messiah, who embodied the hope of the Kingdom of Israel, "was to be revealed from Migdal Eder - 'the Tower of the Flock'." Close by where the shepherds were camped that night, in the northern part of Bethlehem on the road to Jerusalem (less than an hour's journey by foot), was the tower known as Migdal Eder, the "watch-tower of the flock." This was the station where shepherds brought their flocks destined for sacrifices in the Temple. For animals found as far from Jerusalem to the north of Bethlehem and within that circuit on every side, the males were offered as burnt-offerings, the females as peace-offerings.
Once birthed, the priestly shepherds would routinely place two lambs in the double-hewn depression of a limestone rock known as "the manger" and "wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes," preventing them from thrashing about and harming themselves "until they had calmed down" so they could be inspected for the quality of being "without spot or blemish"
The second article goes on to explain that the language in Luke 2 that says "in a manger" should have been translated "in the manger". And further: When the angelic announcement came, they knew exactly where to go, as Luke 2 indicates, for the sign of the manger could only mean the manger at the base of the Tower of the Flock.
Well, after digesting this information, I thought this year's Christmas poem would sort of head in this general direction.
This poem started off being entitled, The Christmas Lamb. Then I changed it to The Lamb of God — before I remembered that I had already written another poem by that name. The image used in this blog is a painting, called Agnus Dei — Latin for Lamb of God.
Last Easter I wrote a poem, The Final Sacrifice, based on the teachings of Ray Vander Laan when he came to town. It was a little shorter than I had intended it to be and I felt that it had missed the mark of what I really wanted to say.
With this Christmas poem, I feel that I came a little closer — but still may have missed it. I'm already thinking of next Easter's poem, possibly calling it, Lamb Selection Day, that will hopefully get to the parallels of Jesus as the Lamb of God.
O Bethlehem, of olden days,
where temple lambs were born and raised;
could these unblemished sheep have grazed
in fields where David played?
Where shepherds, with their pastured flocks,
try keeping them from jutting rocks;
protecting them from wolves and hawks —
or bear like David slayed.
Once born, selected from the rest —
whose coats and features were the best;
the lambs were swaddled tightly, lest
an injury caused scars.
These year-old lambs from Bethlehem
on altars in Jerusalem;
the blood of every one of them
was spilled instead of ours.
Behold, God's plan was unconcealed
to awe-struck shepherds in the field:
the promised Lamb of God revealed
and in the manger lay.
This swaddled babe was born divine —
for he'd change water into wine
and raise the dead and heal the blind
and save the world one day.
Those sacrificial laws are done!
The final sacrifice has come;
the Lamb of God — his only son
was born for you and I.
From Nazareth to Galilee,
from manger to Gethsemane,
from Bethlehem to Calvary —
this Lamb was born to die.