A poem that’s been on my mind lately…

The House of Christmas
By G. K. Chesterton

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam,
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

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Verses from a weary heart

I was debating asking friends for some encouragement this morning, but then this poem I wrote a few years back popped into my head. So since it’s more blessed to give than to receive, and since it suits the season as well, here’s hoping it’ll bring some encouragement your way. 🙂

Sunrise Serenade

There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.
—G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Each morning, while the world is still
At daybreak, from my windowsill
There comes a cheerful sparrow’s trill:
The night has gone, the day is come.

Whatever trials lie ahead,
Whatever dreary chores I dread,
Still pipes the sparrow by my bed,
The night has gone, the day is come.

Sometimes in bed I long to stay
To rest my head and heart all day
And listen to the roundelay:
The night has gone, the day is come.

O Lord of Hosts, Whose lowly birth
Proclaims my more than sparrow’s worth,
Sustain my heart with holy mirth
’Til Night has gone and Day is come.

Copyright © 2007 Elisabeth G. Wolfe. All rights reserved.

Looking back, looking forward

Well, I didn’t quite make my goal of posting every day of the twelve days of Christmas. But that’s okay–I got close and wrote some things I hadn’t planned, and I pray some of it blessed people.
What it did teach me, though, is that I’m not cut out to be a blogger who posts every day. Even when I’ve got a clear idea of what I want to post, which I didn’t always for this series, blogging takes up energy that I need to expend on writing other things. And again, that’s okay. I didn’t set out to become a big-name blogger. It just means this isn’t going to be that sort of blog, and I’ll figure out the sort of blog it is going to be as we go along.

That said:

Starting Monday, I’ll be trying something completely different by posting the first book in my second series, Look Behind You, here before I release the ebook and paperback versions on March 2. I’ll be posting one chapter each on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the rest of this month. I also plan to post a PayPal button where you can preorder autographed hard copies as well as autographed copies of Loyal Valley: Assassination–and I hope you will, because I’ll be working on Loyal Valley: Bystanders at the same time with a goal of releasing it later in March, and any income I can get from writing means less time I need to spend making money from other projects.
And if you can’t buy anything right now… just pray for me.

I’ll have a blue, bloo-hoo-hoo Monday…

Crabby clients, frozen fingers, blustery breezes, twits on Twitter… *checks calendar* Yup, it’s Monday. (Annnd now I have the theme song from Horrible Histories stuck in my head!) Not just any Monday, either; supposedly, the first Monday after New Year’s is the most miserable day of the year.
Ironic, then, that this year it falls on Epiphany.

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey…’
–T. S. Eliot, “Journey of the Magi”

Eliot’s onto something here. There had to be an element of what seemed like folly in the actions of the Magi, to travel so far to give homage to a Child Who wasn’t even their own king, facing who knows what obstacles from weather and the vagaries of the road in the days when camel was the only way to travel such a distance. I sometimes wish we knew what lore they’d been studying, what they expected to find when they got to Jerusalem, what they knew or surmised about the One Whose star they’d seen… and why myrrh, of all things. Among its other uses, myrrh was an embalming spice. It fits what *we* know of Jesus–“King and God and Sacrifice,” as the carol says–but what did *they* know? If they were from Persia, was it some prophecy Daniel left behind? Or did it come from some other source?
And yet… and yet. The larger issue, I suppose, is the much cheerier paradox that they were searching for Him because God had been searching for them. (This article reminds me both of C. S. Lewis’ quip in Surprised By Joy that as an atheist he’d considered “man’s search for God” to be the equivalent of “the mouse’s search for the cat” and of his later scene in The Silver Chair where Aslan tells Jill, “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you.”) Whatever lore the Magi had, the fact that it accurately led them to Jesus indicates that it came from God. Jesus was sent to the Jews, yes, but God had always intended for salvation to be available to the whole world. Odds are, if you’re reading this, your ancestry is mostly or entirely Gentile, but the coming of the Magi is the first proof in the Gospel that God’s willing to scour the earth looking for you… because He loves you and wants you to have eternal life, if only you will accept.
Take that, Blue Monday!

P.S. If you need a big batch of giggles to get out of the Mondays:

(Thanks to my friends Steve and Natalie for drawing my attention to the poem and the Magi article, respectively.)

The quality of mercy is not strained…

Argh, missed Tolkien’s birthday yesterday. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of other chances to pay tribute to the dear Professor–he is, after all, one of my all-time favorite authors and one of the chief reasons I went to grad school.

I was puzzling this evening over what to write about for today’s post and thought back to something I’d meant to say about “Maria Durch Ein’ Dornwald Ging.” It’s a lovely melody and a classic German carol, but Die Prinzen, being (from what I can tell) staunch Lutherans to a man, elected not to sing the Marian lyrics but just the refrains in each verse. Here’s the video again, but when you play it this time, ignore the words on the screen and just listen to what Die Prinzen are singing:


Did you notice what happened? Aside from “Jesus und Maria,” what’s left?
Kyrie eleison–“Lord, have mercy on us.”
I have no way of knowing whether the band made that choice deliberately or not, but it is interesting that the song turns from a cute little legend about Mary carrying Jesus through a barren forest of thorns and watching it bloom into a prayer for mercy. One can view the story as an allegory for the effects of the redemption Jesus works in our barren hearts when we turn to Him for salvation, of course, but this version makes me think of poor blind Bartimaeus crying out as soon as he heard that Jesus was near–Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
(Isn’t it intriguing, those of you who know Plato, that the son of Timaeus was born blind and received his sight from the Creator of All and the Light of the World? I can’t assume that’s a coincidence!)
See, it’s not as if people didn’t pray for mercy before Jesus’ birth or as if God didn’t answer those prayers. But from the perspective of humans within time, His mercy couldn’t have its fullest effect until Jesus came to give His life in the greatest act of both mercy and grace the world has ever known. In His earthly ministry, too, we see Him extending mercy to people like Bartimaeus through healing, teaching, rebuking, and encouraging. I don’t know in what ways Bartimaeus would have experienced God’s mercy had he lived a generation earlier, but it likely wouldn’t have been as immediate as hearing “Go, your faith has healed you” and instantly being able to see.
Mercy’s one of the many, many reasons Jesus chose–without ceasing to be God–to be born as a human, grow up as a human, live a human adult life, and spend three years traveling and teaching before His death. He could theoretically have just turned up out of nowhere, but He wanted not only to share our experiences but also to be approachable. He knows what it’s like to live as “this quintessence of dust” (to borrow Hamlet’s phrase), and so He can have mercy on us in ways one couldn’t expect from a god who’s not “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” And we can be confident that our prayers for mercy will be heard because we’re praying to Someone Who gets it.
And that is why we have Christmas. 🙂

“I hurt, therefore I am.”

I almost didn’t post today. I’ve been in a lot of pain, which always saps my energy for most things, including writing. (Definitely had worse, though–I’ve actually gotten some things accomplished today.)
But I got to thinking about my dad’s little twist on Descartes that I’ve used for the subject line of this post, along with an observation made most recently by my dear friend Alexis that God doesn’t often explain why He allows suffering but rather suffers with us. Often, we think of such things only in the context of the Cross, and it’s true that what Jesus suffered on Calvary is many orders of magnitude greater than what any individual has suffered at any given time. In the context of His earthly ministry, too, we think about His being hungry or thirsty or tired. But the Incarnation allowed Him to experience everything that’s common to humanity, so…
I bet at some point He had the flu. Common cold, at minimum.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that He got food poisoning at some point, or that He had ear infections and tonsilitis as a kid or mono as a teen, or that He had bouts of shin splints or plantar fasciitis from walking so many miles. I’m sure He smashed His thumb now and again while He was working as a carpenter. Given the prophecy in Psalm 22 that none of His bones would be broken, I doubt He ever knew that pain first-hand–but who knows what bugs the mosquitos on the Sea of Galilee were carrying?
I know, I know, it’s an odd thing to ponder, the Son of God laid up with some plain vanilla virus. But He chose to be human, with all the joys and all the hardships that entails. That probably means that He knows first-hand what it’s like to be sick.
And He chose to go through such things because He loves us that much.

How can I choose other than to love Him back? ♥

Name above All Names

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Name of Jesus, commemorating Jesus’ circumcision and dedication at the Temple, which was also the day His name was officially recorded (Luke 2:21). So much could be, and has been, said about the events of this day–about the way Mary and Joseph obeyed the Law on Jesus’ behalf, even though there was no need for a sin offering on behalf of the Sinless; about the meetings with Simeon and Anna, the way the Holy Spirit brought them there to meet the One they’d hoped to see for so long, what we know they said and what more they might have said that Luke doesn’t record; about Luke’s statement that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. But instead, I think I’d like to focus on what Scripture itself (here in the NASB, with occasional emphasis added) tells us about Yeshua Meshiach, the Name of the Man from Galilee:
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Out with the old year…

I’d always wondered why Germans call New Year’s Eve Silvester until I started looking up potential prompts for this series on Saints.SQPN.com. Lo and behold, December 31 is the feast day of St. Sylvester, who was pope during the reign of Constantine. According to his bio in the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia, Sylvester sent legates to the Council of Nicea and probably had some say in the selection of the term homoousion (in the phrase of the Nicene Creed usually translated “of one being with the Father”–the Arians insisted on homoiousion, “of like being,” which led to Constantine grouching about the bishops wrangling so fiercely over one iota). His pontificate also saw the foundation of a number of major churches in Rome, including St. John Lateran, and the development of standardized liturgy as well as the recording of martyrologies. There’s some question as to exactly how close he and Constantine were, but centuries later, the forged Donation of Constantine was addressed to him. And his feast day was recorded as December 31 on a list compiled just a year after his death.
You learn something new every day….
St. Nicholas, incidentally, was bishop of Myra during Sylvester’s pontificate.

Stay safe this night, dear readers, and here’s to a happier and healthier 2014!