The Nativity

The Nativity

This is the final poem in a series for Grace Kernersville’s Jesse Tree project. The poems in the series are attempts at ekphrasis. A gifted artist in the congregation in which I pastor have provided abstract paintings from which the poems have derived their inspiration. This painting is entitled, The Nativity.  Have a look at the painting, How do you read it?The Nativity Here’s my reading of the painting in poetic form.

Gathered ‘round the manger, the shepherds there
Had each struggled through their own unbelief—
Groping through this world’s dank and dingy air,
Jaded by dejection, wearied by grief,

But now they are bathed in color and light
Where, with this mother, they behold, ponder
The tidings foretold by angels that night.
Un-wintered by joy and warmed with wonder:

What Grace gathers us to this treasured place?
Is salvation created, swaddled here?
Are we beholding the look of Love’s face?
Is desire answered in the cry we hear?

Behold Emmanuel, David’s Lord and Key;
New life is come from the stump of Jesse’s tree!

© 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.

Wisdom III

Wisdom III

December 17 is called Sapientia, for on this day the first of the Great O Antiphons, “Sapientia” is sung in liturgy. We are familiar with the antiphons but in a lesser way as they make up the verses of the Advent carol, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

Sapientia means “wisdom.” In the antiphon, Wisdom is addressed personally as is often the case in the book of Proverbs. A translation of the antiphon reads, “O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other mightily, and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.”

This sonnet is a mediation on Sapientia and is titled Wisdom III.

In the silence, before words, songs, or speech,
The Spirit breathes over the water’s night;
The Most High speaks; Wisdom readies to teach,
Drive away darkness, sing: “Let there be light!”

O’er Sinai, I AM in glory thunders;
Wisdom speaks again, makes her precepts known,
Reveals the way, writing worded wonders,
Her purpose and promise on tablets of stone.

David’s Branch shall come, rule with right wisdom;
Prince of Peace, Immanuel, God of Might,
O’erturn the proud, exalt in His Kingdom
The meek and low whom he mends, heals, makes right.

Tonight, Wisdom waits, poised in the world’s wild–
Inhales to speak through the cries of a child.

© 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.