Exploring 12 Days of Advent poetry

Cathedral Square Park & Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist decorated for Christmas

When I saw Christmas decorations and trees begin to populate Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square Park as early as November 1st, I thought, Is it that time of year already? Unbelievable. With this weekend’s snowfall, the Cathedral Square Park’s decorated Christmas trees looks particularly Decemberish.

Screen shot of internet search

Earlier this month I searched online for some Christmas card ideas. Imagine my surprise when the search displayed a block print I created five years ago.

It seems so long ago and so far away. So much has happened in those few short years that it is difficult to catalog. Curiously, I clicked in the Pinterest link. Then I read the original blog post. It is the most visited post on the blog.

For the last few years, I have received modest feedback on a post I published titled “Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry).”[1] The most intriguing comment regarded a poem by W. S. Beattie. I could not locate the poem online. And the mystery of it excited me. Are there really poems people read that are not on the internet? I thought to myself. A lovely thought.

This year, a digital trail lead me to a PDF file posted by the Brentwood United Reformed Church.[2] Here is the poem recommended by a reader with the preface that the poem’s topic regards the misuse of Advent.

Advent Longing
by W.S. Beattie
These are the greedy days.
It used to be
That Advent was a longing fast,
A time to feel our need
in faith and tingling hope
And keen-eyed looking forward.
Now we cannot wait
But day by day and week by week
We celebrate obsessively
Clutching at Christmas.
When at last it comes,
The day itself,
Our glass is empty.
We have held the feast
Already, and the news is stale
Before it ever reaches us.
We cheat ourselves.
Yet – somehow – still we hope
In these spoiled days
That there may be a child.

It is a humble poem with a good reminder.

Another reader suggested the inclusion of T. S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi.”[3]

CCCA’s The Advent Project

And yet another reader pointed me in the direction of Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts (CCCA) The Advent Project.[4] I truly enjoy CCCA’s Advent project as it includes art, literature, music and video.

I need to revisit my “12 Days of Christmas” poetry list. Maybe next year it will expand to a “24 Days of Advent” poetry list. For now, please enjoy reading 12 days of Christmas poems.

  1. December 14 – “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov
  2. December 15 – “Advent Calendar” by Rowan Williams
  3. December 16 – “Advent” by Donald Hall
  4. December 17 – “Mosaic of the Nativity (Serbia, Winter 1993)” by Jane Kenyon
  5. December 18 – “The God We Hardly Knew” by Óscar Romero
  6. December 19 – “The House of Christmas” by GK Chesterton
  7. December 20 – “Into The Darkest Hour” by Madeleine L’Engle
  8. December 21 – “The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold” by Madeleine L’Engle
  9. December 22 – “Nativity” by John Donne
  10. December 23 – “A Christmas Carol” by Christina Georgina Rossetti
  11. December 24 – “Mighty Mercy” by John Piper
  12. December 25 – “For Christmas Day” by Charles Wesley

NOTES:
[1] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry) https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2012/12/13/2013-advent-poems-or-the-12-days-of-christmas-poetry/
[2] Brentwood United Reformed Church, The Courier, December 2014/January 2015. Accessed December 11, 2017. http://www.brentwood-urc.org.uk/The%20COURIER%20-%20Dec%20January%202015.pdf
[3] The Poetry Archive, T. S. Eliot, “Journey of the Magi,” accessed December 11, 2017. https://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/journey-magi
[4] Biola University, Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts (CCCA), The Advent Project, accessed December 11, 2017. http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/2017/#day-dec-7

PODCAST: Poems and readings for the First Sunday of Advent

Advent

by Donald Hall

When I see the cradle rocking
What is it that I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
Of Calvary.

When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
At Tenebrae.

When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
Horror vacui.[1]


This audio podcast features “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov, “Advent” by Donald Hall, “Into The Darkest Hour” by Madeleine L’Engle[2] and a selection from the Book of Common Prayer.

NOTES:
[1] Source: Poetry Foundation
[2] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)

Baby, it’s cold outside

dscn6640sqr-basic-lomo-sunkissedlores
The outside air temperature this morning, when I woke up, was -6°F. Won’t event mention the windchill factor. The window completely frosted over. It is December. Wonderfully cold and beautiful.

Almost wanted to spend the day in bed composing a new list of twelve Advent poems to accompany the ever popular post Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry). Here’s one Advent poem I am considering for a new list.


The birth of wonder[1]
by Madeleine L’Engle

When I am able to pray with the mind in the heart, I am joyfully
able to affirm the irrationality of Christmas.

As I grow older
I get surer
Man’s heart is colder,
His life no purer.
As I grow steadily
More austere
I come less readily
To Christmas each year.
I can’t keep taking
Without a thought
Forced merrymaking
And presents bought
In crowds and jostling.
Alas, there’s naught
In empty wassailing
Where oblivion’s sought.
Oh, I’d be waiting
With quiet fasting
Anticipating
A joy more lasting.
And so rhyme
With no apology
During this time
Of eschatology:
Judgement and warning
Come like thunder.
But now is the hour
When I remember
An infant’s power
On a cold December.
Midnight is dawning
And the birth of wonder.

NOTES:
[1] “The birth of wonder” by Madeleine L’Engle. Published in the book WinderSong by Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw.

Poetry podcast for the First Sunday of Advent

Advent

by Donald Hall

When I see the cradle rocking
What is it that I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
Of Calvary.

When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
At Tenebrae.

When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
Horror vacui.[1]


This audio podcast features “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov, “Advent” by Donald Hall, “Into The Darkest Hour” by Madeleine L’Engle[2] and a selection from the Book of Common Prayer.

NOTES:
[1] Source: Poetry Foundation
[2] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)

Repost: It’s that time of year

Block print Christmas card

Last weekend, the fields around the village where I live started to turn from green to harvest gold. Like the changing of the season, I noticed the first uptick in traffic to this web log. Or rather to one post in particular — Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry).

Fourth Sunday of Advent — Poems

The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold

by Madeleine L’Engle

 

The winter is cold, is cold.
All’s spent in keeping warm.
Has joy been frozen, too?
I blow upon my hands
Stiff from the biting wind.
My heart beats slow, beats slow.
What has become of joy?

If joy’s gone from my heart
Then it is closed to You
Who made it, gave it life.
If I protect myself
I’m hiding, Lord, from you.
How we defend ourselves
In ancient suits of mail!

Protected from the sword,
Shrinking from the wound,
We look for happiness,
Small, safety-seeking, dulled,
Selfish, exclusive, in-turned.
Elusive, evasive, peace comes
Only when it’s not sought.

Help me forget the cold
That grips the grasping world.
Let me stretch out my hands
To purifying fire,
Clutching fingers uncurled.
Look! Here is the melting joy.
My heart beats once again.[1]


This audio podcast features the poem “The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold” by Madeleine L’Engle and concludes with a selection from the Book of Common Prayer that is often read on Christmas Day.

NOTES:
[1] Source: The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold by Madeleine L’Engle
[2] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)

Third Sunday of Advent — Poems

The God We Hardly Knew

by Óscar Romero

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God- for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.[1]


This audio podcast features “The House of Christmas” by GK Chesterton, “The God We Hardly Knew” by Óscar Romero and a selection from the Book of Common Prayer.

 

FolkAngel_GladTidingsAlso, special thanks to Folk Angel for permission to use “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” from their album Glad Tidings – Christmas Songs, Vol. 4. If you are looking for some great Christmas records, check out their website, FolkAngle.com.

NOTES:
[1] Source: The God We Hardly Knew by Óscar Romero
[2] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)

Second Sunday of Advent — Poems

Nativity

from La Corona

by John Donne

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.[1]


This audio podcast features “Mosaic of the Nativity (Serbia, Winter 1993)” by Jane Kenyon, “Nativity” by John Donne, “A Christmas Carol” by Christina Georgina Rossetti and a selection from the Book of Common Prayer.

 

FolkAngel_Comfort&JoySpecial thanks to Folk Angel for permission to use “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” from their album Comfort & Joy – Christmas Songs, Vol. 3. If you are looking for some great Christmas records, check out their website, FolkAngle.com.

NOTES:
[1] Source: “Nativity” by John Donne
[2] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)

First Sunday of Advent — Poems

Advent

by Donald Hall

When I see the cradle rocking
What is it that I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
Of Calvary.

When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
At Tenebrae.

When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
Horror vacui.[1]


This audio podcast features “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov, “Advent” by Donald Hall, “Into The Darkest Hour” by Madeleine L’Engle[2] and a selection from the Book of Common Prayer.

NOTES:
[1] Source: Poetry Foundation
[2] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)

[Podcast] Advent Poems – special edition – 4

DEC2014_iTunes_Image

Happy Christmas Eve! Here is the final episode of the Advent series for this year.

This episode features the poem “The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold” by Madeleine L’Engle and concludes with a selection from the Book of Common Prayer that is often read on Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas from the Coffee Den!