God with Us

God with Us

The antiphon for December 23 is the last and is “O Emmanuel.” The antiphon reads, ”O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.”

It continues to be, for me, the most amazing news that God would ‘rend the heavens and come down’ in order to show the full length of his love. I am a pretty fearful person, and knowing (sometimes more, oftentimes less) that God is with us, is a particular comfort.

One more day…

Far, far away is any king from me;
Beyond his castle’s bolstered gates and doors
His ear, taken with many other pleas—
Greater than my economy and wars.

Yet I hope, and hope is not one if seen.
So say the preachers whom I’ve often heard;
I try to hope, to trust, try to believe
But life’s cares choke and hide his promise-word.

If only help would come, bring salvation
A help with heart, who keeps, safe to lean upon—
Strong, to bear the hope of every nation,
Hold in loving arms till all fear is gone.

Hope has come, lies swaddled in a stable:
God-with-us, loves us, is willing, able.

© Randall Edwards 2016
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.

The Gentle Shepherd

The Gentle Shepherd

The last in Grace Kernersville’s Advent series, The Jesse Tree is The Gentle Shepherd. A theme which flows from King David’s Psalm 23 through the prophets culminates in Jesus’ declaration in John 10, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

In this series, I write ekphrastic poems which find their primary inspiration from Adah Freeman’s paintings are also informed by the scriptures themselves. The main passage from which both Adah and I started was Psalm 23.  Keeping in mind the psalm, look or read the painting below. What do you see? Once you’ve had a moment reading the work for yourself, see my sonnet below and judge whether I read it well.

IMG_4023

Here I face the darkest darkness, the Valley defile
Where I can’t see in, can’t see the end. Will
It last feet or will it go on for a mile or miles?
Will I lie down again or will those who kill
Drive me from the waters, the valley green?
Will I ever walk beside them? Will he,
My shepherd, abide? Walk with me, lead,
With rod and staff comfort and protect me?

The shepherd is gentle as one of his own,
But his meekness hides a leonine mane;
From his gold fleece blessing follows, is blown
And sparkles like the sequins of his train.

The Lion became a Lamb to pay the full price,
And finding his flock, he laid down his life.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.
Artwork: © Adah Freeman 2019, “The Gentle Shepherd” acrylic on canvas. All Rights Reserved.

King of Nations

King of Nations

In a society and world which seems to be falling down or torn apart, today’s antiphon is particularly poignant. The antiphon for December 22 is King of Nations or Rex Gentium. The antiphon reads, “O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.”

The antiphon draws it inspiration from two scriptures. Haggai 2:7 reads, “I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty.” And Isaiah 28:16 reads, “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”

King of Nations, king of our desiring,
Come to your creation, square it and right,
Mend the marred, rebuild, be never tiring
Of pulling out darkness, ripping out night.
Builder and joiner, dovetail and make one;
As keystone, bridge the pillared-arched ceiling,
Tear down hatred’s walls, make righteousness run;
And cross-armed, gather, make whole, bring healing.
In concretion, cohesion, hold us, King;
Sustain us by your presence and power;
Make us yours, seal in promise as as ring,
Wed us in love beneath banner and bower.
The King of desiring climbs in the clay
Lays as cornerstone midst manger and hay.

© Randall Edwards 2015.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.

Dayspring!

Dayspring!

The Antiphon for December 21 is O Oriens. The antiphon reads, “O Dayspring splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

The Antiphon draws its inspiration from the following scriptures:

Isaiah 9:2 The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

Malachi 4:2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Here is my take in sonnet form.

Turned west, this sunset of humanity
Denies the dusk of death’s looming shadow.
Reviles the real as some profanity
Which pilfers profit and ruins workflow.

O Sun of Righteousness, make right and shine
On prisoners who dwell in dark dungeons,
On the worried who’s weeds choke and entwine,
And the pharisee who can’t see his sin.

O Dayspring, shine, flood our grey town in light
Drive back the darkness in which lurks our fears.
Arise! Dawn! Flood! Illuminate our night!
Speak tender mercies, wipe away our tears.

When with healing wings the Sun rise on all,
We’ll bound as joyful calves from winter’s stall.

© Randall Edwards, 2018
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
photo: Lisa Tancsics, uploaded by Pro2 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Key of David

Key of David

The Great O Antiphon for December 20 is Key of David. The antiphon reads, ”O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

It refers back to several passages of Scripture. They are:

  • Isaiah 22:22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
  • Isiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
  • Isaiah 9:2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

O Key of David, set my bound will free;
Unlock the door that I may walk your way—
Joyful, resolved, with bright alacrity
And step from the shadows, out into day.

Rise! Mount your chariot, in your courses run,
Rain down truth, pierce me with arrows of light;
Shine bright O Clavis, as the noonday sun!
Deliver me from death, dis-spell the night.
For resentment has rusted my hard heart–
The spring is broken, will not free the latch;
Use your key to loose, use your locksmith’s art
To turn the bolt, spring the pins, free the catch.

Lo, I see a door hung, see his pierced side,
And ent’ring my heart, the Key, turns, abides.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
artwork: from The Queen Mary Apocalypse, England (London or East Anglia), 1st quarter of the 14th century, Royal 19 B. xv, f. 38v

Root of Jesse II

Root of Jesse II

The Great O Antiphon for December 19 is “O Radix” or “O Root.” It derives its inspiration from the promise of Isaiah 11:1 which reads, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Referring to the how the monarchy would be cut off because of the Babylonian exile, the promise is that from Jesse’s stump, a new Davidic line will grow.

The antiphon reads,
“O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.”

Here’s a sonnet which draws its inspiration from the antiphon.

There is nothing so hopeless as a tree’s
Stump whose root has been lopped of limbs and green,
Cut down, lying lifeless, without its leaves;
Lament is all that’s left — only sorrow clings.

O Root of Jesse, the promised stump which
Buds our righteousness, mercy, joy, and peace
Who makes the poor, the meek, those hungry, rich—
The despised, exiled, cut off, counted least.

O how may hope rise from this lifeless wood,
This gallows tree, this cursed cross raised above
Which hangs with despair? Certainly no good
Could spring from death, could sing what wondrous love.

Come Root of Jesse, deliver and bring
The peace for which the nations long and sing.

© Randy Edwards 2019
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

O Lord

O Lord

In the liturgy leading up to Christmas Eve, a series of antiphons are added during the last days of Advent. These antiphons are called the Great O Antiphons.  The Great O Antiphon for December 18 is, “O Adonai” or “O Lord.” The antiphon reads, “O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.”

From Sinai’s bush which blazed in holy fire
You answered, “I AM!”, gave Moses your name.
And promised your arm would reach, never tire
’Til you saved your son from slav’ry and shame.
And even while gath’ring the bread sent each day
Sheltered beneath Sinai’s thundering peak,
The people complained, rejected, and strayed
From HIM WHO IS, deliv’er of the weak.

O Lord, redeem! My arms cannot bear
The doing demands of performance lords,
Nor can avoid the tangle of sin’s snare
Betrayed by desire, cupidity’s cords.

Baring his arm I AM reached to the lost
By taking the wood of manger and cross.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: © Jennifer Edwards 2004. All Rights Reserved.