POETRY: Bethlehem, Indiana by Susanna Childress

December 17, 2018

Which glacier faltered in silencing your hills, Bethlehem? Which Shawnee woman foraged your wild gooseberries? Where but a knell of spruce and flowering dogwood, the smallest of starlings crossing the Ohio River to a province once known as Ken-tah-ten, could we find cascading-haired Mary, whose fingers hover the unquestionable beauty of her new son’s thighs, their tender fat rolling, their slight spoonful of tendons kicking with the certainty of impulse, unknown to him yet as the body’s subtlest joy. No heifer lows against her bale, for this is the Midwest, and our cows are happy cows. But Mother & child are not in the barn, its rafters housing a dozen fidgeting pigeons, nor are they in the east shed where the combine neighbors the [...]

POETRY: Into The Darkest Hour by Madeleine L’Engle

December 4, 2018

It was a time like this, War & tumult of war, a horror in the air. Hungry yawned the abyss— and yet there came the star and the child most wonderfully there. It was time like this of fear & lust for power, license & greed and blight— and yet the Prince of bliss came into the darkest hour in quiet & silent light. And in a time like this how celebrate his birth when all things fall apart? Ah! Wonderful it is with no room on the earth the stable is our [...]

POETRY: A Christmas Carol by G. K. Chesterton

December 26, 2017

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap, His hair was like a light. (O weary, weary were the world, But here is all aright.) The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast His hair was like a star. (O stern and cunning are the kings, But here the true hearts are.) The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart, His hair was like a fire. (O weary, weary is the world, But here the world’s desire.) The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee, His hair was like a crown, And all the flowers looked up at Him, And all the stars looked [...]

POETRY: Nativity by John Donne

December 25, 2017

Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb, Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment, There he hath made himself to his intent Weak enough, now, into our world to come. But O!, for thee, for Him, hath th’inn no room? Yet lay Him in this stall, and from th’Orient, Stars and wise men will travel to prevent The effects of Herod’s jealous general doom. See’st thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eye, how He Which fills all place, yet none hold 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 [...]

POETRY: A Christmas Carol by Christina Rossetti

January 18, 2017

In the bleak mid-winter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak mid-winter Long ago. Our God, Heaven, cannot hold him Nor Earth sustain; Heaven and Earth shall flee away When he comes to reign: In the bleak midwinter A stable-place sufficed The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. Enough for him, whom cherubim Worship night and day, A breastful of milk And a mangerful of hay; Enough for him, whom angels Fall down before, The ox and ass and camel Which adore. Angels and archangels May have gathered there, Cherubim and seraphim Thronged the air; But only his mother In her maiden bliss Worshiped the Beloved With a kiss. What can I give him, Poor as I am? If I [...]

POEM: Joseph At The Nativity, by Tania Runyan

January 4, 2017

Of any birth, I thought this would be a clean one, like pulling white linen from a loom. But when I return to the cave, Mary throws her cloak over the bloody straw and cries. I know she wants me to leave. There he lies, stomach rising and falling, a shriveled pod that does nothing but stare at the edge of the feeding trough with dark, unsteady eyes. Is he God enough to know that I am poor, that we had no time for a midwife, that swine ate from his bed this morning? If the angel was right, he knows. He knows that Mary’s swell embarrassed me, that I was jealous of her secret skyward smiles, that now I want to run into these hills and never come back. Peace, peace, I’ve heard in my dreams. This child will make you right. But I [...]


December 30, 2016

From The School of Charity Nothing in this story, perhaps, is more significant than the quietness and simplicity of its beginning.  The birth of the Child, the Shepherds, and the Magi, the little boy of Nazareth and his wonderful experience in the Temple, and the long quiet years in the carpenter’s shop; there seems at first sight nothing very supernatural in these things.  Indeed, one of the most convicting aspects of Christianity, if we try to see it in terms of our own day, is the contrast between its homely and inconspicuous beginnings and the holy powers it brought into the world.  It keeps us in perpetual dread of despising small things, humble people, little groups.  The Incarnation means that the Eternal God enters our [...]

CHRISTMAS STORY: The Christmas Story by Walter Wangerin

December 29, 2016

From Once Upon a Christmas: A Treasury of Memories And there were shepherds in that same dark country, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And God turned to his angel.  And God said, Gabriel. And the angel answered, Yes, Lord? And the Lord God said, Go down.  All of the people must know what I am doing.  Tired and lonely and scattered and scared, all of the people must hear it.  Go, good Gabriel.  Go down again.  Go tell a few to tell the others, till every child has heard it.  Go! And so it was that an angel of the Lord appeared to the weary shepherds.  Their dark was shattered, for the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. The angel said to them, Don’t be [...]

POETRY: Nativity by Li-Young Lee

December 29, 2016

In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world? just to hear his sister promise, An unfinished wing of heaven, just to hear his brother say, A house inside a house, but most of all to hear his mother answer, One more song, then you go to sleep. How could anyone in that bed guess the question finds its beginning in the answer long growing inside the one who asked, that restless boy, the night’s darling? Later, a man lying awake, he might ask it again, just to hear the silence charge him, This night arching over your sleepless wondering, this night, the near ground every reaching-out-to overreaches, just to remind himself out of what little earth and duration, out of what immense good-bye, each must make a safe place of his [...]

POETRY: Christmas by George Herbert

December 26, 2016

All after pleasures as I rid one day, My horse and I, both tir’d, bodie and minde, With full crie of affections, quite astray, I took up in the next inne I could finde. There when I came, whom found I but my deare, My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief Of pleasures brought me to him, readie there To be all passengers most sweet relief? O Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light, Wrapt in nights mantle, stole into a manger; Since my dark soul and brutish is thy right, To Man of all beasts be not thou a stranger: Furnish & deck my soul, that thou mayst have A better lodging then a rack or grave. The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be? My God, no hymne for thee? My soul’s a shepherd too; a flock it feeds Of thoughts, [...]


December 26, 2016

From The School of Charity Not long ago, I was standing in an artist’s studio before an altarpiece which she had just made.  It represented the Nativity: or rather, the eternal incarnation of the Holy, self-given for the world.  In the foreground one saw the Blessed Virgin, its ordained instrument, and Saint Joseph, watching by her bed.  There was a patient grave simplicity about them both; reflected in the serious young angels, whose majestic scale suggested the greatness of that world of spirit from which they had been drawn.  Below, the sheep were feeding very quietly too: innocent nature entirely at home among the mysteries of the supernatural order, one lamb turning from its mother to press more closely to the mother of the [...]

POETRY: The Nativity Of Christ by Robert Southwell

December 25, 2016

Behold: the father is his daughter’s son: The bird that built the nest, is hatched therein: The old of years, an hour hath not outrun: Eternal life, to live doth now begin. The Word is dumb: the mirth of heaven doth weep: Might feeble is: and force doth faintly creep. O dying souls, behold your living Spring: O dazzled eyes, behold your Son of Grace: Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring: Up, heavy hearts: with joy your joy embrace. From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs: This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs. Gift better than Himself, God doth not know: Gift better than his God, no man can see: This gift doth here the giver Given bestow: Gift to this gift let each receiver be. God is my gift, Himself [...]


December 25, 2016

From Light of Christ We are being shown here something profoundly significant about human life – “God speaks in a son,” a baby son, and reverses all our pet values.  He speaks in our language and shows us his secret beauty on our scale.  We have got to begin not by an arrogant other-worldliness, but by a humble recognition that human things can be very holy, very full of God, and that high-minded speculations about his nature need not be holy at all; that all life is engulfed in him and he can reach out to us anywhere at any level. As the Christmas Day gospel takes us back to the mystery of the Divine Nature – In the beginning was the Word – so let us begin by thinking of what Saint Catherine called the [...]

POETRY: Christmas Eve, by Máire Mhac an tSaoi

December 24, 2016

With candles of angels the sky is now dappled, The frost on the wind from the hills has a bite, Kindle the fire and go to your slumber, Jesus will lie in this household tonight. Leave all the doors wide open before her, The Virgin who’ll come with the child on her breast, Grant that you’ll stop here tonight, Holy Mary, That Jesus a while in this household may rest. The lights were all lighting in that little hostel, There were generous servings of victuals and wine, For merchants of silk, for merchants of woollens, But Jesus will lie in this household [...]

STATIONS OF THE NATIVITY: Birth Of Jesus by Raymond Chapman

December 16, 2016

From Stations of the Nativity: Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ Before the Stations Almighty God, whose blessed Son took our human nature so that we might regain our lost innocence and be restored to the divine image that was disfigured by sin, grant that as we meditate on the mystery of his humanity we may share the glory of his divinity, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. A hymn may be sung: the familiar Christmas hymns tell of the wonder of the Incarnation and the following is particularly suitable (click on hymn title to be directed to the YouTube video of its performance): Creator of the Stars of Night 6: Birth of Jesus V: We adore thee O Christ and we [...]

POETRY: Christmas Carol by May Probyn

December 30, 2015

Lacking samite and sable, Lacking silver and gold, The Prince Jesus in the poor stable Slept, and was three hours old. As doves by the fair water, Mary, not touched of sin, Sat by Him,—the King’s daughter, All glorious within. A lily without one stain, a Star where no spot hath room— Ave gratia plena— Virgo Virginum. Clad not in pearl-sewn vesture, Clad not in cramoisie, She hath hushed, she hath cradled to rest, her God the first time on her knee. Where is one to adore Him? The ox hath dumbly confessed, With the ass, meek kneeling before Him. “Et homo factus est.” Not throned on ivory or cedar, Not crowned with a Queen’s crown, At her breast it is Mary shall feed her Maker, from Heaven come down. The trees [...]

POETRY: Fellow Hymn by Sidney Godolphin

January 1, 2014

(Sidney Goldolphin died fighting in the Royalist army in the English Civil War.) Lord, when the wise men came from afar Led to thy cradle by a star, Then did the shepherds too rejoice Instructed by thy angel’s voice. Blessed were the wise men in their skill; And shepherds in their harmless will. Wise men in tracing nature’s laws Ascend unto the highest cause. Shepherds with humble fearfulness Walk safely though their light be less; Though wise men better know the way, It seems no honest heart can stray. There is no merit in the wise, But love, the shepherds’ sacrifice. Wise men always of knowledge past To the shepherds’ wonder come at last. To know can only wonder breed; And not to know is wonder’s seed. A [...]

POETRY: Minstrel’s Song by Ted Hughes

January 1, 2014

(Ted Hughes writes about a minstrel who fell asleep in the stable where Joseph and Mary come to rest.) I’ve just had an astounding dream as I lay in the straw. I dreamed a star fell on to the straw beside me And lay blazing. Then when I looked up I saw a bull come flying through a sky of fire And on its shoulders a huge silver woman Holding the moon. And afterwards there came A donkey flying through that same burning heaven And on its shoulders a colossal man Holding the sun. Suddenly I awoke And saw a bull and a donkey kneeling in the straw, And the great moving shadows of a man and a woman— I say they were a man and a woman but I dare not say what I think they were. I did not dare to look. I ran out here into the freezing world [...]

POETRY: The Shepherds by Henry Vaughan

December 31, 2013

Sweet, harmless livers! (on whose holy leisure Waits innocence and pleasure,) Whose leaders to those pastures, and clear springs, Were Patriarchs, Saints, and Kings, How happened it that in the dead of night You only saw true light, While Palestine was fast asleep, and lay Without one thought of day? Was it because those first and blessed swains Were pilgrims on those plains When they received the promise, for which now ‘Twas there first shown to you? ‘Tis true, he loves that dust whereon they go That serve him here below, And therefore might for memory of those His love there first disclose; But wretched Salem once his love, must now No voice nor vision know, Her stately piles with all their height and pride Now languishèd [...]

HOMILY: A Cold Coming by Lancelot Andrewes

December 31, 2013

(Preached between 1605 and 1624 before the court of Saint James) Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2) Now, for venimus, their coming itself.  And it follows well.  For, it is not a star only, but a load-star, and whither should stella Ejus ducere, but ad Eum?  Wither leads us, but to Him, whose the star is?  To the Stars Master. All this while we have been at dicentes, saying and seeing.  Now we shall come to facientes, see them do somewhat upon it.  It is [...]

POETRY: Christ’s Nativity by Henry Vaughan

December 30, 2013

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 [...]

POETRY: Descending Theology — The Nativity, by Mary Karr

December 25, 2013

She bore no more than other women bore, but in her belly’s globe that desert night the earth’s full burden swayed. Maybe she held it in her clasped hands as expecting women often do or monks in prayer. Maybe at the womb’s first clutch she briefly felt that star shine as a blade point, but uttered no curses. Then in the stable she writhed and heard beasts stomp in their stalls, their tails sweeping side to side and between contractions, her skin flinched with the thousand animal itches that plague a standing beast’s sleep. But in the muted womb-world with its glutinous liquid, the child knew nothing of its own fire. (No one ever does, though our names are said to be writ down before we come to be.) He came out a [...]

POETRY: Arc of the Lily by Loretta Watts

July 25, 2012

for Susan The movements of the Madonna— moment of maternity, passion of the Pieta are the same stance. See first her skyward gaze open-handed, empty, bloom to full arms. Follow the arc of her head downward, beholding the babe. She wraps the cloth tighter around hot baby flesh, gathering Him to her face, her breast. She wraps another cloth around his still warm body broken, gathering Him to her face, her breast. His head in her lap has the heft of her newborn boy.  Her hand drapes over the man.  Her white face turns upward, a lily seeking [...]