Every year around this time, I try to stay afloat in the sea of chaos and consumerism. My method of survival has been to seek a quiet haven where I can dwell upon the meaning of the Season. I entitled my annual December post on this theme ‘Reading the Season’.
This year, watching the daring flash mob singing of Hallelujah Chorus in a shopping mall food court has jump started my quest for a spiritual respite. In a time where the legitimate word is Jollity over Jesus, where Christ has been declared politically incorrect at Christmas, and where God is denounced together with Bigfoot and the tooth fairy in ads on buses, I want to mull on some subversive counter-reflections.
This time, I’ve steered my search towards poetry and found this collection edited by Luci Shaw. It is the 1984 Regent College Publication of A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation. (Click on link to read excerpts from Google Books.)
Luci Shaw has partnered with Madeleine L’Engle on her literary journey, including being her publisher, co-author, fellow poet and close writer-friend. For years, I have enjoyed Luci Shaw’s poetry and her other works, and one time, had sat in her workshop learning the art and craft of journal writing.
A Widening Light is a collection of poetry by some of twentieth century prominent Christian writers and scholars, including C. S. Lewis, Eugene Peterson, Mark Noll, as well as lesser known but just as inspiring contributors. My favourite in the collection are those from Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw.
As a meager attempt to stoke the flame of faith and keep the Reason in the Season, I’d like to share some excerpts from this collection here.
After the bright beam of hot annunciation
Fused heaven with dark earth
His searing sharply-focused light
Went out for a while
Eclipsed in amniotic gloom:
His cool immensity of splendor
His universal grace
Small-folded in a warm dim
The Word stern-sentenced to be nine months dumb—
Infinity walled in a womb
Until the next enormity—the Mighty,
After submission to a woman’s pains
Helpless on a barn-bare floor
First-tasting bitter earth.
Now, I in him surrender
To the crush and cry of birth.
Was closeted in time
He is my open door
From his imprisonment my freedoms grow,
Part of his body, I transcend this flesh.
From his sweet silence my mouth sings.
Out of his dark I glow.
My life, as his,
Slips through death’s mesh,
Joins hands with heaven,
Speaks with stars.
Some Christmas stars
Blazes the star behind the hill.
Snow stars glint from the wooden sill.
A spider spins her silver still
within Your darkened stable shed:
in asterisks her webs are spread
to ornament your manger bed.
Where does a spider find the skill
to sew a star? Invisible,
obedient, she works Your will
with her swift silences of thread.
I weave star-poems in my head;
the spider, wordless, spins instead.
This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d been no room for the child.
The risk of birth
This is no time for a child to be born.
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a nova lighting the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born.
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn—
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by greed and pride the sky is torn—
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
‘Reading The Season’ Posts over a Decade:
2020: Jack by Marilynne Robinson
2019: ‘A Hidden Life’ – A Film for the Season
2018: A Verse from Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season
2017: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
2016: Silence by Shusaku Endo
2015: The Book of Ruth
2014: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
2012: Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis
2011: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle
2010: A Widening Light by Luci Shaw
2009: The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
2008: The Bible and the New York Times by Fleming Rutledge
2008: A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
Photos: All photos in this post except “Water drops on spider web” are taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, All Rights Reserved.
‘Water drops on spider web’ is in the public domain, please refer to Wikimedia Commons for further details. CLICK HERE to go there.