People asked for the poem, “The Struggle for Redemption,” on the traditional Nine Lessons that we used stanza by stanza in the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.
It is one single poem, even though in the service on Christmas Eve, it was read, alternating, by the pastor and congregation, in separate stanzas, paired with the texts they reference. It is in part about how sacrifice is always a part of our human experience, and how in love, sacrifice becomes holy and can be redemptive.
Here it is, tidied up a bit (in the space and perspective that happens after the Christmas crush!)
- The Cost of Our Irresponsibility (Genesis 3:8-19)
Sweat on our brow.
Dirt on our hands.
Hard labor in birth and work.
Thorns and thistles prick and sting,
like death from a serpent’s tongue,
Our lot on earth
til we return to the ground,
ashes and dust.
- Paying Our Debt (Genesis 22:15-18)
Sacrifice to save ourselves?
The death of children appeasing the Divine?
Grace always delivers an alternative –
ram caught in thicket,
wool held by thorns.
Animals as scapegoats
for our sins.
- God’s Plan (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)
In hard labor
– from the darkness –
a light begins to shine.
Bringing peace and goodwill,
will usher in justice and righteousness
without end and without measure.
- Messianic Kingdom (Isaiah 11: 1-3a; 4a, 6-9)
A child leading followers
From nature red in tooth and claw
to co-existence, shalom.
Carnivores to herbivores,
drawing the sting
from the serpent’s tongue.
- God’s Co-conspirators (Luke 1: 26-35; 38)
shown in the Spirit’s overshadowing.
A virgin birth
subverting patriarchy —
birth of a first born son
who will neither marry
nor have blood offspring.
Human agency saying ‘yes’ to God,
opening a new way,
Kingdom-community greater than kin.
- Making Room on Earth for Heaven (Luke 2:1, 3-7)
No place in our world
for the Lord of life and Prince of peace.
Squeezed in among animals kept for human needs,
for humans’ daily existence and eternal forgiveness.
Born poor —
the struggle for survival from the start
that one day this child will redeem.
- High and Low (Luke 28-160 )
peace and goodwill
rendered in a child
found by night workers,
lying in a feed trough.
The new mother
– dead tired –
ponders eternal mysteries
— prophecy, epiphany, new birth –
in her young heart.
- Paradox (Matthew 1:1-120
Star struck yet wise,
seeking a prince
in a place proud with power and opulence,
but finding him in humble obscurity, yet exposed.
Giving that prefigures
his divinity and sacrifice –
a servant King
who, in birth and death,
gives life for others.
- God At Work In the World (John 1:1-5, 9-14)
called into being, enfleshed.
Divine life flowing
in and through the child.
Divine light exposing
our self-serving demand for power
Divine love birthing
A new way, a way of compassion.