Henry Vaughan – Christ’s Nativity – Lectionary Poem for Advent 4A

With the dawn of a new church year, The Englewood Review of Books is curating a weekly series of classic and contemporary poems that resonate with the themes of the lectionary readings. Here is one of the poems for this coming Sunday (Advent week 4– More poems for this Sunday can be found here)

 

Christ’s Nativity
(to accompany the lectionary reading: Matt. 1:18-25)

Henry Vaughan

 

AWAKE, glad heart ! Get up, and sing !

It is the birthday of thy King.

        Awake ! awake !

        The sun doth shake

Light from his locks, and all the way

Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day.

 

Awake, awake !  hark how th’ wood rings,

Winds whisper, and the busy springs

        A consort make ;

        Awake ! awake !

Man is their high-priest, and should rise

To offer up the sacrifice.

 

I would I were some bird, or star,

Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far

        Above this inn

        And road of sin !

Then either star, or bird, should be

Shining, or singing still, to Thee.

 

I would I had in my best part

Fit rooms for Thee !  or that my heart

        Were so clean as

        Thy manger was !

But I am all filth, and obscene ;

Yet if Thou wilt, Thou canst make clean.

 

Sweet Jesu !  will then ; let no more

This leper haunt, and soil Thy door !

        Cure him, ease him,

        O release him !

And let once more, by mystic birth,

The Lord of life be borne in Earth.

 


Henry Vaughan (1621 – 1695) was a Welsh metaphysical poet, author, translator and physician, who wrote in English. 

Crisis of Faith

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 33:12-22
Luke 12:32-40

“Crisis of faith.” So often, these words are used to describe the process in which someone begins to ask questions, to make probing inquiries, about the doctrines and the traditions handed down to them.

To emerge from a crisis of faith, then, is to reach some level of comfortable affirmation that what we said we believed all along was, in fact, true. That the questions and even the doubts that vexed us during that brief period of spiritual struggle were not ultimately a threat to our certainty. That we can return to the way things were, before our convictions were unsettled by this unwelcome crisis. Read more

Freedom Sunday

Third Sunday After Pentecost
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62
The invitation came across my Twitter feed last week: a prominent evangelical pastor sharing the news about a “Freedom Sunday” gathering to be held at his church on June 30th. In the video that accompanied the tweet, a narrator described the event as “A patriotic service featuring worship, fireworks, and a message from our guest speaker, Lt. Col. Oliver North,” as an enthusiastic crowd waved flags, a large worship band played, and a choir sang, “Oh I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in!” The video ended with the proclamation that this powerful service will provide a wonderful opportunity to celebrate “The freedom we have as Americans, and the freedom we have in Christ.” Read more

By the Sea, on the Road

Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 9:1-6(7-20)
John 21:1-19

A few years ago, my wife Lisa and three young kids joined me for the first time at the EP Gathering in Chicago, making a family vacation of it. During the time we spent in that metropolis, we took in some museums, visited Lake Michigan, and saw the fish at the aquarium. It was a busy few days. But of all the things we did, simply getting around might have been the most stressful. For kids used to walking down the sidewalks of Erwin, Tennessee (population 8,000), attempting to navigate the hustle and bustle of a city of millions was a new experience altogether, and as a parent, it was important to me to make sure they did it safely. It was up to me and Lisa to take their hands when we came to a busy intersection. It was up to me and Lisa to speak clearly and sometimes firmly as we gave instructions about how we were going to catch a bus or hop on a train before the doors closed.

Throughout those few days in Chicago, our chief responsibilities as parents were to keep everyone together and to keep everyone safe. The kids’ chief responsibilities were simply to trust us, to listen to us, and of course, to obey us. It’s hard to be an adult sometimes. But it’s hard to be a kid, too. Responsibility is hard. So is dependence. And for those of us called to follow Christ, living in that tension is sometimes the hardest thing of all. Read more

The Witness of the Vulnerable

Presentation of the Lord
Psalm 84
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40
In a 2016 interview, Peter Mommsen, the editor of Plough, posed a question to Stanley Hauerwas about the campaign for the acceptance of euthanasia and its connection to a desire for control. In response, Hauerwas said, “I say that in a hundred years, if Christians are identified as people who do not kill their children or the elderly, we will have done well. Because that’s clearly coming.” Hauerwas’ words, which have been oft-quoted in the two years since, have been on my mind in the past couple of weeks, as the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. and policy discussions in New York and Virginia have thrust the issue of abortion, always a prevalent topic, into the spotlight of social media and other contexts of debate. In the midst of a discussion that can be so inescapably polarizing, Hauerwas’ words remind us, as followers of Jesus, that so much of our witness and so much of our identity hinges on how we value—not just in word, but in deed—the most vulnerable among us. Read more