O little town of Bethlehem, how still! We see thee die,
Above the violent nightmare sleep, the silenced world goes by.
But where in the dark streets shine, the everlasting Light?
The hopes are dashed, the fears increased, we need your promised Might.
For Christ is born in world of pain, as someone shoots the dove,
While Christians sleep, the angels keep their bewildered watch of love.
Morning stars might once have sung, and praised the holy birth,
But now hate reigns; walls are built and bullets kill, and proves the curse of earth.
How silently, and insanely, the wondrous land is stolen,
So God imparts to occupied hearts, a courage ever bolden!
No mouth may speak against this crime, but in this world of sin,
The slightest voice raised for Justice, is accused of anti-Semitism.
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
How can loving you hurt so much?
You came; we saw; you conquered – us.
But we have to give you away.
It hurts boy.
But you have been a joy.
A treasure, heaven sent;
But we knew the time was short,
For you, to us, were lent.
A bundle, given for a season;
Given to us, for no known reason.
Your mother and father loved you, you must know that;
But their pain told in life’s twists and turns.
In fact boy, you’ve been loved by so many,
Our home, the church, our wider family;
And true agape-love always hurts; better to have loved and lost, and all that agony!
There is no anaesthetic for open heart surgery.
Call them what you want,
Asylum seeker, migrant, refugee;
But see, a face that looks like me.
Watch them flee from land and sea,
Shining out from our latest HD TV.
Packed in boats and rafts;
Longing for half a chance.
Despising even the rank air they breathe.
No room to move or sit,
No food to eat no drink to drink;
While Europe waits and chats and thinks.
They want to live and work and play,
To see a new day, as the sun goes higher;
Just trying to live that’s all, beyond the dire,
But is this necessary, brand-new razor-sharp wire?
And they’re the lucky one’s,
For too many drown,
In the not too funny sea,
While Europe looks on, like a clown.
We all know this world is unequal,
Too few have had too much for too long.
“Fortresses of wealth in many seas of mass misery,”
No act of God, but acts of man,
A kind of perverse and sinful symmetry.
It is time to wake up, look up and see,
These are not asylum seekers, migrants or refugees;
But a stunning and worthy humanity. . . . seeking dignity.
Look closely: they are all just like you, and just like me.
Below is a wonderful hymn by Kim Fabricius. I can't sing very well, so if you'll join me in praying it I'll be delighted!
Lord, behold a wretched sinner
(Tune: Quem pastores laudavere)
Lord, behold a wretched sinner,
from the outer to the inner;
at repentance, rank beginner:
day and night my conscience cries.
Where begin? My faults keep mounting;
when I start I can’t stop counting;
huge the sum, but Christ’s accounting
crosses out and nullifies.
Good I would but can’t achieve it,
bad I hate but can’t relieve it.
God for us? I can’t believe it:
me the apple of his eye!
God forgives before petition;
grace alone shows our condition;
truth demands our self-suspicion:
like a snake the heart is sly.
While accusing scribes are hissing,
Christ portrays the Father kissing
cheek of child that he’s been missing:
Love forgives and sanctifies!
by Kim Fabricius found here.
I offer the poem below that I have stumbled across recently, not as one who finds sleep easy but one who doesn’t. That means, given the poem’s content, I struggled to wrestle with the starkness of some of the comments.
I think the point is true to all poetry, that we do not get lost in specific detail but we catch the wave, the ebb and flow, feeling the rhythm and beat of the poetry. That way we insomniacs will not lose any more unneccessary sleep.
“I don’t like the man who doesn’t sleep, says God.
Sleep is the friend of man.
Sleep is the friend of God.
Sleep is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have created, and I myself rested on the seventh day.
He whose heart is pure, sleeps, and he who sleeps has a pure heart.
That is the great secret of being as indefatigable as a child, of having that strength in legs that a child has.
Those new legs, those new souls,
And to begin afresh every morning, ever new,
Like young hope, fresh hope.
But they tell me that there are men
Who work well and sleep badly.
Who don’t sleep. What a lack of confidence in me.
I pity them. I have it against them. A little, they don’t trust me.
Like the child who innocently lies in her mothers arms, thus they do not lie
Innocently in the arms of my Providence.
They have the courage to work. They haven’t enough virtue to be idle.
To stretch out. To rest. To sleep.
Poor people, they don’t know what is good.
They look after their business very well during the day.
But they haven’t enough confidence in me to let me look after it during the night.
As if I wasn’t capable of looking after it during one night.
He who doesn’t sleep is unfaithful to hope.
And it is the greatest infidelity.”
Charles Peguy in Basic Verities, p.209-11
Having recently seen the exhibition at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster, London, my imagination was fired by the brilliance of the poetry of Malcolm Guite, that brought to life the excellently ordinary paintings by Adam Boulter.
The words and paintings also bring to life the power of God’s Word as it takes these far too familiar accounts and recasts them in genuinely powerful and contemporary ways, attempting to announce the arrival of God the Son, incarnate, yet forever unsafe in a violent and tempting world.
Or those other encounters with God in the Old and New Testaments – this is the God who pursues us, whether in wrestling, in blinding light, in silence or temptation. The wilderness is the crucible, and I just wonder why our allegedly sophisticated Western world will do anything to avoid this barrenness of wilderness. Ironically, our techno-utopias are in fact a kind of wilderness of soul, and I suspect that in this barren place of techno-babble, this app-fuelled tom-foolery, God will meet with us here too in quite unexpected ways.
Here’s one poem by Malcolm.
What joy you gave, from pain so deep;
A miracle in progress, a work of art!
Flesh of my flesh, not quite but still,
You may as well have been.
Goodbye my boy!
* * *
Sometimes a year comes and goes,
Lost to the mists of time, forgetful minds and ordinary lives.
But 2014 will always be,
Etched in the mind, carved in the heart!
The year we met you, unforgetable.
Goodbye my boy!
Not attracted, distracted!!
Ah! These modern days, we’re so busy.
We distract ourselves with microchip and 4G;
We always think it’s all about me.
I’m multi-tasking; I’m so modern.
That flicker of light, our mobile we delight!
We pick up up everything,
Before us, and in us.
We reach, we pick up, we….distract ourselves.
Did someone just text me?
Check my phone!
Did someone just Facebook me?
Check my phone.
Are my kids talking to me…..check my phone!
We are a distracted people.
A picking up people.
Let us pick up our phone, our facebook, our TV guide;
But let us not be Christian inside.
We think we’re free, but really we hide;
From the terror inside, the distraction we hide.
What do they think?
What did he say?
Who gives a damn, anyway?
Jesus said, “Pick up your cross.”
Not the dross, that is your boss;
Not the phone you think you own;
Nor the life that you’ve blown.
But the cross, from new life grown.
You don’t have to pick up the shit; take the hit.
Pick up the Cross;
It’s not your loss.
You lose your life, in His strife;
Come to Me, said He; Be free.
What are you picking up anyway?
Your phone, the TV guide, the Facebook like?
Your own little ego, fed every day….
…on the things that don’t fill; anesthetized will.
Pick up your Cross and follow Me!
That means putting everything else down;
It means no longer following self.
Check yourself now,
Do you have the courage?
I think I can hear your phone ringing……….