A Christmas Day Poem

Alas, our journey to the headwaters of Advent and Fragmentia – Adventia – has reached its glorious end. The beginning of new hope, a new road; the way of peace, grace, love, forgiveness. All of it hidden consequentially, but stealthily, in a shivering child born in the trailer park of ancient Israel. To such an inauspicious entrance for grandiose purpose, I think this piece by Cecil Day-Lewis a fitting conclusion to our spiritual and literary sojourn.

Merry Christmas, dear friends…

The Christmas Rose

What is the flower that blooms each year
In flowerless days,
Making a little blaze
On the bleak earth, giving my heart some cheer?

Harsh the sky and hard the ground
When the Christmas rose is found.
Look! its white star, low on earth,
Rays a vision of rebirth.

Who is the child that’s born each year —
His bedding, straw:
His grace, enough to thaw
My wintering life, and melt a world’s despair?

Harsh the sky and hard the earth
When the Christmas child comes forth.
Look! around a stable throne
Beasts and wise men are at one.

What men are we that, year on year,
We Herod-wise
In our cold wits devise
A death of innocents, a rule of fear?

Hushed your earth, full-starred your sky
For a new nativity:
Be born in us, relieve our plight,
Christmas child, you rose of light!

Cecil Day-Lewis was once the Poet Laureate England. He was only child of Rev. F. C. Day-Lewis and father of Daniel Day-Lewis. He was born in 1904 in Ballintubbert House, County Queen’s in Ireland (now Co. Laois). When Cecil was four, his mother died and the family moved to England. This poem is from “C. Day-Lewis, The Complete Poems,” Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA (1992).

Adventia, day 28 – Christmas Eve

Advent reaches its apex on Christmas Eve. The waiting world, pregnant with longing, grudgingly welcomes a pregnant teenager who will surrender to that world a Saviour, and light is restored to all that is dark. For this, I offer you:

“Christmas” by Sir John Betjeman.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me, and…Merry Christmas!

Adventia, day 23

Currently, I am reading through a favourite book of prayers, poetry, and contemplative practice entitled “Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits” (Loyola Press, Chicago / ed. by Michael Harter, SJ 1993/2004). It is a useful and rich resource as an accompaniment and guide to the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. It is also a perfect place to start for anyone interested in exploring the highly imaginative, participatory manner Ignatian spirituality teaches meditation by drawing one to inhabit biblical narratives.

For Adventia, day 23, I am sharing this gorgeous and inventive retelling of the Luke 2 story by Michael Moynahan, SJ simply titled, “In the Out House.”

It’s been a long,

dusty ride.

A steep and winding road

weaves serpentine

up the side of mountains.

They race the sun

with prospects of a new head to tax,

albeit a small one,

an impending certainty.

Sky and mother

are visual proof.

They reach the city


but full of hope.

The husband,

mistaken on occasion

for her father,

fails to act his age

and dashes toward

a door about to close.

“Excuse me,

Could you give us a room for the night?

Some place to lay our heads?”

“Can’t you read, buster?

We’re all filled up.”

“I understand.

It’s my wife,

She’s about to have her first child.”

“That’s not my problem.”

“He’s not a problem.

He’s a fact

of life.”

“Open your ears, buddy,

because I’m only

gonna say this once.

We ain’t got no room.

So scram!”

“I understand”

is drowned

by the sound of a

slammed door.

Three times he will try

to find them lodging.

And with each failure

fell less capable

of caring for his wife

and that life within her

wanting out.

“It doesn’t look good.

All their rooms are taken.”

“Don’t worry.

God will provide.”

And all the time thinking:

“That’s what I’m afraid of.

They’re sorry

but they’re full.

It’s looking bleak.”

“God will give us

what we need.”

He shakes his head.

She believes this

and it comforts him little.

The third stop

looking like a

distant bleak relation

of the previous two.

Until the owner’s wife

spies the young girl wince

from movement she understands

all too well.

“You can have

the place out back.

It isn’t much

but it will be a roof

over your heads.

There’s fresh hay thrown.

The animals won’t bother you

and the child will be warm.

I’ll get some rags and water.

Go on now,

the mother

and baby

are waiting.”


the young girl’s face



Adventia, day 22 (fourth Sunday of Advent)

One of the most evocative songs ever. Shane MacGowan’s growly, barroom voice actually adds to the earthiness of this modern day classic. Adventia, day 22 brings you Fairytale of New York by The Pogues.

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I’ve got a feeling
This year’s for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They’ve got cars big as bars
They’ve got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It’s no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing Galway Bay
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing Galway Bay
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas day

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can’t make it all alone
I’ve built my dreams around you

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing Galway Bay
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas day

Songwriters: Jem Finer / Shane Patrick Lysaght Macgowan

Fairytale of New York lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Adventia, day 21

I am aware that this just feels lazy. Maybe it is! However, for Adventia, day 21, I’m redirecting you to another favourite site of mine, Art and Theology, where you will find a most remarkable collection of deeply considered, carefully curated, imaginatively presented artistic fare. All of it is steeped in theological depth and mystery and points us heavenward where we live with God in the perfect dance of truth and beauty.

I give you “Out of the Ash” by William Everson. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Adventia, days 19 & 20

The following prophetic poetry has always been such a seismic piece that it deserves a couple days. For Adventia, days 19 and 20, I am posting one of the most remarkable, strangely comforting, but deeply subversive prophetic passages in the entire Scripture.

These words, from the mouth of a young, pregnant Mary are as powerful now as they ever were. For those who think the Gospel nothing more than one’s personal ticket to heaven with little social impact, the poem that would become known as “The Magnificat” easily challenges such quaintly dismissive, erroneous assumptions.

In two translations, the New Revised Standard Version and The Message, I give you –

Luke 1:46-55 – “The Magnificat” 


And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
   Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
   from generation to generation.

51 He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

(The Message)

46-55 And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,

    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Um, wow.