four authors reflect on The Coming

I. "Simeon's Song" by Luke
"God, you can now release your servant;
     release me in peace as you promised.
  With my own eyes I've seen your salvation;
     it's now out in the open for everyone to see:
  A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
     and of glory for your people Israel."

Jesus' father and mother were speechless with surprise
at these words. Simeon went on to bless them, and
said to Mary his mother,

"This child marks both the failure and
     the recovery of many in Israel,
A figure misunderstood and contradicted--
     the pain of a sword-thrust through you--
But the rejection will force honesty,
   as God reveals who they really are."

II. "The Sun Comes Up" by Matthew
When Jesus got word that John had been arrested, he returned to Galilee.
He moved from his hometown, Nazareth, to the lakeside village Capernaum,
nestled at the base of the Zebulun and Naphtali hills.
This move completed Isaiah's sermon:

Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
     road to the sea, over Jordan,
       Galilee, crossroads for the nations.
People sitting out their lives in the dark
        saw a huge light;
      Sitting in the dark, dark country of death,
        they watched the sun come up.

This Isaiah-prophesied sermon came to life in Galilee
the moment Jesus started preaching. He picked up where John left off:
"Change your life. God's Kingdom is here."

III. "The Real Drama" by Mark
John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist
with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.
As he preached he said,

"The real action comes next: The star in this drama,
to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will change your life.
I'm baptizing you here in the river,
turning your old life in for a kingdom life.
His baptism--a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit--
will change you from the inside out."

At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee
and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
The moment he came out of the water,
he saw the sky split open and God's Spirit,
looking like a dove, come down on him.
Along with the Spirit, a voice:

"You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love,
pride of my life."

IV. "The Life-Light" by John
The Life-Light was the real thing:
       Every person entering Life
       he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
       the world was there through him,
       and yet the world didn't even notice.
He came to his own people,
       but they didn't want him.
But whoever did want him,
        who believed he was who he claimed
        and would do what he said,
These are the God-begotten,
       not blood-begotten,
       not flesh-begotten,
       not sex-begotten.
The Word became flesh and blood,
       and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
       the one-of-a-kind glory,
       like Father, like Son,,
   Generous inside and out,
       true from start to finish.
These four selections come from the writers of the four biblical gospels: Luke, Matthew, Mark, and John. Each of them uses either poetic language, poetic form, or both to describe the significance of the Coming, the advent of the Christ. Each author presents a unique facet of Christmas, something worth meditating on during the season when we think it's all manger and swaddling cloths.  
The paraphrases are taken from Eugene Peterson's The Message.

Craziness All Together.

The house is full
of craziness all spread out.

Crazy Dad is in the garage,
drinking Southern Comfort
from a plastic cup and deriving,
I think, very little comfort,
except for the Santa hat he's wearing,
which makes him feel like a comedian,
which makes him feel funny and attractive,
which makes him feel happy.

Crazy Sister is in the TV room
with the TV blaring. She's talking loudly to Crazy Aunt
and is using her public voice and her public face
which scrunches up and laughs at what is not funny
and which is perfectly painted
with brown eyebrows and very red Cupid's bow lips.
Her son toddles around the coffee table
and Sister unconsciously grabs for him before he falls
onto the dirty rug.

Crazy Stepmom is in the very white kitchen.
Her blue eyes are lit up like illuminated tree ornaments,
her face plastered with surprise,
even though she's not surprised. That's actually her
"I'm having fun" face. She chats with her sister
and cackles at the stories about dogs and traffic cops.
She's wearing a beret and eating rum balls.
A little sugar sticks to her lipstick. Now her mouth
is an ornament too.

Crazy Cousin is wearing a lot of clothes
because he's very thin, but his headphones are thick
and they're pumping high-decibal trance music
into his ears. He sits on the living room step,
playing with his DJ equipment and thinking about
his cats back home in Boise.

Crazy Brother and Crazy Uncle and
Crazy Other Assorted Relatives are all milling about
the house doing mostly separate activities.
It's Christmas Day, but no one seems to notice.
Green olives and cheddar cheese and mixed drinks
sit for hours on the kitchen table,
all together.

I'm breaking my own rule and posting this, a poem that I authored. Don't tell anyone; I'm afraid it will look narcissistic.

Christ's Nativity

by Henry Vaughn

Awake, glad heart! get up and sing!
It is the birth-day of thy King.
        Awake! awake!
        The Sun doth shake
Light from his locks, and all the way
Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day.

Awake, awake! hark how th’ wood rings;
Winds whisper, and the busy springs
         A concert make;
         Awake! awake!
Man is their high-priest, and should rise
To offer up the sacrifice.

I would I were some bird, or star,
Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far
         Above this inn
         And road of sin!
Then either star or bird should be
Shining or singing still to thee.

I would I had in my best part
Fit rooms for thee! or that my heart
         Were so clean as
         Thy manger was!
But I am all filth, and obscene;
Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.

Sweet Jesu! will then. Let no more
This leper haunt and soil thy door!
         Cure him, ease him,
         O release him!
And let once more, by mystic birth,
The Lord of life be born in earth.


A compact poem that startles me in several places -- "Man is their high-priest," "I am all filth, and obscene" "mystic birth". And it startles me to remember that Christ came not only to lie in a manger in human flesh, but to give me His flesh and bread and His blood as drink, that I may abide in Him and He in me. O Wondrous mystery!

To Jesus on His Birthday

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

For this your mother sweated in the cold,
For this you bled upon the bitter tree:
A yard of tinsel ribbon bought and sold;
A paper wreath; a day at home for me.
The merry bells ring out, the people kneel;
Up goes the man of God before the crowd;
With voice of honey and with eyes of steel
He drones your humble gospel to the proud.
Nobody listens. Less than the wind that blows
Are all your words to us you died to save.
O Prince of Peace! O Sharon's dewy Rose!
How mute you lie within your vaulted grave.
The stone the angel rolled away with tears
Is back upon your mouth these thousand years.

Words absolutely cannot express how much I love this poem. The stunning imagery, the meter and rhyme, and the absolute ring of truthfulness about it. This is a mournful sonnet. A beautiful, mournful sonnet to Jesus on his birthday.