I am not a poet. As I assume all writers do I dabbled in poetry. I went into fields and climbed trees and looked for inspiration in all the usual places I imagined poets would
go to find their muse. I never found mine except once.
It was 1979 not long before Christmas when I realized I had no money to give my folks a Christmas gift that year. It was my first semester in college and as all college students are, I was broke. I thought and thought and slowly an idea came to mind. I would write a poem. Initially I must have thought it would be a Christmas poem, but it turned into something slightly more elaborate. I wrote the poem, bought some poster board and hand printed it out with some small amount of artwork for the borders. I was no great poet, but I was and am an even worse artist. Still, it was a heartfelt gift and I present it to you now as I presented it to my parents as a Christmas gift.
They say he was born in Beth’lem town,
And on that night there was the sound,
Of trumpets from the heavenly host,
And in all this the saints would boast.
He grew up alongside men,
Who in their sight he would begin,
A ministry of peace and light,
And leading people toward the right.
For three short years he labored strong,
And taught the people to go along,
A path of wisdom both just and bright,
To walk not in darkness but in light.
The leaders feared what this man taught,
And in their fear a man they bought,
A follower to betray the lord,
For they knew he feared no earthly sword.
They hung him on a wooden cross,
And men believed that they had lost,
A friend much closer than a brother,
Their only friend man had no other.
He died upon that cross so high,
And they placed him in a tomb nearby,
They placed him there while women moaned,
Then covered the entrance with a stone.
For three long days he lay there dead,
The world lost hope and all men said,
That he was good and just and wise,
But like all men he had to die.
But on the third day God shook the earth,
And when the stone rolled from its berth,
He rose again then into life,
And took away all pain and strife.
The world for long awaited this,
For this man he brought a gift,
Of everlasting life for us,
If in Him we put our trust.
As I have stated in other places you can’t have Christmas without Easter. If Easter did not happen then there would be no reason to celebrate the birth of Christ. We would still be partying in one way or another. After all, Christmas did replace the roman feast of Saturnalia. And that feast had parties and bringing in the green form outside, as well as gift giving. But the church, as her job, redeemed the pagan holiday and its customs and turned it into one of the most beautiful times of the year. It makes us know that we are loved and somehow instils in us the need to love and help others. As Dickens wrote it is “a time when want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices.”
Dickens further writes in A Christmas Carol.
“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come around, apart from it’s sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it could be apart from that, as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time. The only time in the whole calendar of the year when and women, seem by one consent, to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as fellow passengers to the grave and not another race of creature bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good and will do me good and so I say God Bless it.”
This was speech given to Scrooge by his nephew in A Christmas Carol. Very few stage or screen productions ever let the actor have the whole speech but in those words is the true meaning and heart of Christmas.
Earlier this week a fellow Christmas Carol fan, Michael Castellano wrote a poem that embodies the whole story of A Christmas Carol. He did this all-in-one day and I think it’s pure genius. With his permission I present it to you now.
A chill to my Christmas
with harsh blowing winds,
I’m mean and I’m ornery
when my story begins.
My hearts made of stone
I may never reform,
and to be quite honest
I should have never been born.
Money and power is all that I crave
and my earthly delights,
will end soon
at the grave.
Bah Humbug to Christmas
with its tinsels and lights,
my hatred is strong
where others delight.
my partner in life
has returned from the grave,
“I’ve come here to assist you
your soul I’ll help save.”
You’ll be visited by three spirits
you’ve nothing to dread
they’ll take you on journeys
from the foot of your bed.
The first spirit came
with a bright shining light,
to show me my past
on this cold winters night.
We visited scenes
from my boyhood at school,
where I sat all alone
with a spoon and some gruel.
Then on to the Fezzywigs’
with their great Christmas fete,
with plenty to drink
and abundance to eat.
The love of my life
my very own Belle,
she had me entranced
I fell under her spell.
But greed overtook me
I lost at loves game,
now everything’s different
and nothings the same.
The spirit soon left me
as the city clock struck two,
where I met a gentle giant
who sipped a strange brew.
” Come know me better!”
he said with a laugh,
a crown of live holly
adorned his large staff.
with a touch of his robe
such a soft gentle touch,
we flew over mountains
to a boy with a crutch.
He showed me my life
and my cold frozen heart,
although I saw much
it was only a start.
The giant soon left me
at the end of his haunt,
but inside his robe
I saw ignorance and want.
The last of the spirits
appeared from the mist
a silent spirit
my life to assist.
He showed me my future
my life at its end,
he scared me this spirit
but he was truly a friend.
My name on the grave
I was truly alone,
“I’ll change” I cried
please don;t leave me alone.
Now I’m a new man
the old man is dead,
I’ll help Mr Cratchit
and a visit to Fred.
I’ve finished my story
I’m finally done,
so Merry Christmas to all
and God Bless Us Everyone.
If you have no time to read A Christmas Carol or watch one of the film adaptations, you at least have this poem.
One more note about A Christmas Carol. I have a tradition of reading the book every year. I start at night on the 21st reading the First Stave Dickens uses the word Stave instead of Chapter in his book as it is a musical term meaning the verse of a song. For the next three nights, I read a single Stave usually right before bed. On the 25th Christmas morning I read The Final Stave entitled The End of It and live with Scrooge all the joy he found that Christmas morning. For me, it’s a meaningful and touching way to read the classic. It’s also something a family could do together.
One last thought before leaving you. Several years ago I was working in dialysis at a local hospital and one of the docs gave me and the rest of the unit employees a little card with a free verse poem on it. It was beautiful and very timely, and it is a reminder that the celebration of Christmas is only the beginning. That little card did not have the author’s name, but I found that out recently and I present the poem to you as a last gift of Christmas.
The Work of Christmas
When the star is the sky is gone,
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas Begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among the people,
To make music in the heart.
- Howard Thurman