Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sent to Dwell

22 The time came for Joseph and Mary to perform the ceremony of purification, as the Law of Moses commanded. So they took the child to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 as it is written in the law of the Lord: “Every first-born male is to be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 They also went to offer a sacrifice of a pair of doves or two young pigeons, as required by the law of the Lord.

Luke 2:22-24 (GNT)

 

A pair of doves
and two young pigeons
offered as sacrifice.
Laws written
for a time passing.
Laws written for a time
when God sat on His throne,
not in the arms
of His mother.

Offerings of purification
by the imperfect.
They make their way
up stone steps
and through ornate passages
to offer symbolic gestures.
The people wish to wash away
their iniquity
with the life
of innocence.

The lamb is among you,
given now
that you might know Him
and welcome Him
into your hearts.
He is a child
without defilement,
the one sent to dwell
in the world He created.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Friday, December 30, 2016

City of a Silent Night (Matthew 2:6)


Bethlehem,
city of a silent night,
wise men watch the star
above you
and wonder.

David's city
in land of Judah,
you were never the least
among your brothers.
You were chosen
to be the birthplace
of God's own son.

Bethlehem,
city of a holy night,
do not slumber
in your contentment
and miss the infant's cry.


copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Best Gift of 2016

As 2016 begins to fade into a memory, 
I wanted to give thanks to our Lord for the best gift my family received this year.
This little guy came into our lives on October 2nd,
and we are blessed. 

~

On the fourth week of Advent we were accompanied while practicing Christmas songs at church.
He looks quite content in his gramma's arms.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A King for All

Frederic Leighton - The Star of Bethlehem

Men,
star watching,
studying the changes in the night sky.
There are prophecies
of those who speak of gods,
those who speak of covenants
between children
and their creator.

They say,
He is coming
to dwell.
And those gazing at stars
know this
by the knowledge in their minds,
not necessarily their hearts.

Let us journey far,
beneath the night's sky,
find the place
where the one star rests,
a guide
for the wise among men
who seek simplicity.

Let us bring gifts,
for He is what they say.
He is the answer
sought by life.
The one born
as a light in the darkness.
A king for all
who will come to Him.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Divine unto Flesh

Roberto Ferruzzi - Madonnina

Divine
unto flesh,
the infant breathes.
Vulnerable
at birth as at death,
from manger to cross.

Divine
unto the earth,
coming as a promise.
Vulnerable
to worldly kings,
who know not His name.

Divine
unto flesh,
the infant stirs.
Vulnerable
to a choice made
before time began.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 






Monday, December 26, 2016

In a Stable

The birth of Jesus by Cornelis de Vos

In the crude darkness of night
a gift is given to you who will seek,
a child
a sapling of our faith.

In the hopelessness of night's domain
the prophet's songs rejoice triumphantly,
a birth
the cleansing of all our sin.

In a stable
encumbered by the chill of the night
a mother,
cradling a child divine,
warmed from the cold.

A woman kneeling on moldering hay
beside the holy newborn promise,
a child
and Your highly favored daughter.

Radiant daughter of God
the vessel
of the covenant brought forth,
a birth
a gift offered to the whole world.

In a stable
lying in the hay of a manger
a child
is born
for the world to hold.



copyright 1992 - Donald P James Jr 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Word Has Come (John 1:1-18)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

John 1:1-18 (ESV)

Manger at Sts Peter & Paul's Church - Norwich, CT

The Word has come,
that we might understand the promise.
Life,
love,
repentance
all this is offered
in a single breath of the Father.

God offers Himself,
the source of life.
He brings light
into the darkness
and dares the shadows
to defuse His word.

The Word has come
to those who will listen,
be they
holy
or retched.
All are called to witness
the spoken covenant
made flesh.

The babe is comforted
in the arms of His mother.
He is
as any other infant,
vulnerable
to the world He created.

Rachel will mourn
the loss of her children.
A puppet king
will cherish power,
but for now
in the silent night,
the Word has come
with an infant's cry.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr   

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Town Beneath a Certain Star (Christmas 1989)



Christmas 1989,
the early morning hours,
a moment of silent reflection. 
I wake first in anticipation of my eldest daughter's first celebration
of our Lord’s birth. 
Waiting to see the expression of her tiny face
as she crawls across the living room floor. 
Am I more excited about a ten-month old’s joy
or my own joy of this being my first Christmas as a parent.

Six O’clock,
and I don’t expect her to wake up until eight. 
Tree lights are turned on. 
I curl up in the old green recliner and listen to the gentle silence of our old home. 
Prayer comes to me as a poem. 
I hear soft tones,
blending sounds into words. 
They are not mine. 
The manger on top of the unused Franklin stove contains the child’s figure.
A small reminder,
and the lyric fills me.

Into this world is born love.
He is born in a stable.
He is born in the coolness of night.
He is born among the scent of the animals.
He is born upon a bed of hay.
           
Into this world is born love,
and because he is born into this world, in this humility,
the child given unto me is offered salvation. 
She lies in an old crib refinished by a loving grandfather. 
She is wrapped in blankets to ward off the chill. 
Her sheets are clean and the cat is the only animal nearby.

Don’t misunderstand,
this is not to say that children are not born into this world in impoverished circumstances. 
It is to say that Jesus, through His birth, death and resurrection, has given my daughter a beautiful gift. 
He has given me a beautiful gift and an awesome responsibility.  She is one of the many gifts He has bestowed on me and I must mold the texture of her life as best I can.
           
And He has protected her from the cribs hay,
cold nights and empty mangers.




A child is born
in a town beneath a certain star
in a world
unaware of its blessing.

Quiet shepherds
foretold of the birth
come to the crib side
to behold with lambs resting
on their strong shoulders.

A child is born
in sight of ox and ass
in the innocence
of a precious new life.

Stargazers from the far east
in colorful robes
and exotic glitter in hand
Come to be filled with his sight.

A child is born
sleeping now
on this Christmas morning.
A special gift of blessing.

Protected from
cribs hay
cold nights
and empty mangers.
Protected by
the child,
born in a town beneath a certain star.



copyright 1989 - Donald P James Jr 



Unquenchable Light

Elisabetta Sirani - Virgin and Child

He has shown the strength
of His mighty arm,
the hands
that shaped Adam
from dust,
and scatters the proud
with every scheme
in their hearts.

He crushes the plans
of the haughty
and raises up the lowly,
giving strength
to the weak
and burdens to the strong.

He grants mercy
to His children,
by birthright
and adoption.
He calls home the sheep
who have wandered
in fields untended.

He feeds the empty
and takes from the self-righteous
what they never possessed.
The sinners cry out
for forgiveness
while the pious
hide their faces.

And as the night
is bathed in darkness,
a baby cries out
from a cave in the hills
and the unquenchable light is given
to those who wish to receive.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 




Friday, December 23, 2016

Pondered In Her Heart

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Luke 2:19 (NASB) 


But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart - Alice Havers

They have come 
from out of the darkness,
men of the fields,
those who were watching 
their cattle
and sheep.
They share a story,
some saw angels,
some saw lights.
They all heard the song,
a melody composed 
at the throne of God.

Mary knows
and has no doubt,
for an angel had come to her,
God's herald,
Gabriel.

They have come 
out from their monotonous stupor,
men of simplicity,
those who were bored of days
and nights.
The angels gave them joy,
excitement never before felt.
They have come looking to rejoice,
celebrating the greatness
of a song sung on high.

And Mary ponders
in her heart
the rantings of unscholared men,
singing praises
for her newborn child.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Branch (Isaiah 11:1-5)

Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato - The Sleep of the Infant Jesus

From the stump life will flourish,
Jesse's lineage,
a root
planted in deep,
fertile soil.
A branch will bear fruit
to feed the multitudes
with wisdom,
and understanding
of their God.

The descendant
will stand in the midst
of His people
and heal all their iniquities.
He will judge not by sight,
nor by the sound
of rumor.
He will embrace the poor
and the meek,
robe Himself in righteousness
for their sake.

The Spirit of the Lord
is upon Him.
He is filled with wisdom and understanding.
He overflows with counsel and might.
He is all knowledge,
never taught,
never learned
for the Spirit has always been
within.


copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 


Peace Among You

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - Song of the Angels
Peace among you
in His good will.
He has fulfilled a promise
spoken long ago.
Give glory to God
as the chorus sings
for this is the holiest of nights.

Peace among you
who know nothing but hardship.
Your days of wandering
without guidance
are passed.
A babe has come for you
as men once lived
to tell.

Peace among you
afraid of wonders in the sky.
Tidings of joy
are offered to those
who will listen,
offered to those
who will travel to Bethlehem
and see.

Peace among you
who have no claim to faith,
who've have never considered themselves
righteous.
Today your God has come to earth,
humbled himself
in your image.

Peace among you
who feel His word in your heart.
It is you who will see the babe
and measure His growth.
You are the instruments
through which
He will heal our world.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Shepherd Who Will Guide the Flock of Man

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Luke 2:8-15 (ESV)

Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds
Govert Flinck

And they were shepherds, watching their flocks in the field.  The night skies overhead were filled with an abundance of stars.  A chill was beginning to set in as the moon arched its way through the heavens.  They talked in simple words, voices of those who were not scholars.  Some of their utterances were sharp and crude, cutting on the edge of decency.  They were not men of holiness seen by the world.  They were shepherds with a flock to protect from wild animals and those who would do harm.

And at some moment during this cold night a light filled the sky.  The men were frightened by the sight.  They cowered against what little shelter they had.

And a voice spoke from the realm of heaven:

Do not fear.
Do not shield your faces from me.
I am an angel of the Lord.
And to you
on this holy day
a child is born,
a shepherd who will guide the flock of man.

And a chorus erupted overhead with an army of angels.  The sky lit up with radiance and the song the shepherds heard was glorious.  The lyric lifted God on high and praised the coming of the messiah, the author of creation.

For on this day,
in Bethlehem,
a savior has come to you.
Seek Him in a manger
amongst the animals,
in a cold stable
lying in the warmth of the hay.

And once again the sky became dark.  The chorus vacated the heavens.  The voices gave way to silence.  The night returned to what it had been before.

"Let us go and see this thing." They said to each other.  A sense of wonder filled their minds.

And so they left their flocks behind and went to seek the one who will never abandon His sheep.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

God in a Manger


Soon He will come
into the world,
unnoticed by those
who would never consider
looking for God
in a manger.

He will be held in low esteem,
lying amongst the odor of animals.
Those without status
will be the first to marvel
at the infant's hands
and feet.

There was no room
in the places where a king
should have been born.
Others occupied the inns,
those who He had come
to walk beside.

They did not see Him,
busy with their upturned lives.
Yet He comes
whether our eyes are opened or closed,
whether the inns have vacancies or not,
whether our hearts are of flesh or stone.

Soon the infant
will lie in a manger,
inhaling the smell of His creations,
Shepherds will gather
and wise men will travel
while the world wonders
and sleeps.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Monday, December 19, 2016

No Room In the Inn (Luke 2:6-7)

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7 (ESV)

Jacques Tissot - Joseph Seeks a Lodging in Bethlehem

I can see they are distraught, but there is little I can do.  The procuration of Augustus has brought so many into our tiny townBethlehem is not large enough to handle the influx of exhausted travelers.  All day I have labored to make my guests, who there is room for, comfortable.  I am tired and wearyI long to rest my head and sleep into the next morning.  

The Romans have no idea the suffering they cause by demanding this census.  Why do they need to count the people they enslave?  There are many who will rest in the wilderness tonight, among thieves and wild animals.  I can only offer shelter to so many.

This family came to my door, after being refused at another.  I am not an unfeeling man, but I do not have so much as a corner in the courtyard where they can set with their donkey.  I am the last door they can knock on, their final hope.  The guilt of refusing a woman whose time is near will pain my heart for a long time to come.

I watch the woman, a young girl, rub her swollen abdomen.  Her face shows the pain of a contraction.

"Are you sure you can not give us a place... anywhere," the man said. "The journey was difficult, especially for my wife.  I fear it has brought her time on."

I was about to lose what little patience I still possessed, when my wife moved up beside me.  She is a gentle soul, my Sara.  Sometimes I wish I had her empathy for people.

"What about the stable," Sara said in a soft melodic voice I always found to be beautiful.

"It will be cold there.  It is not clean and it smells of animals." I see a hopeful look spread over the features of the male traveler.  The woman he has referred to as his wife is murmuring a soft prayer.  I wonder if God is listening to her and the petitions of all His people.

"It will be shelter," Sara stated. "It will be warmer than the side of the road, warmer even than the courtyard."

I look at the man.  When he first knocked on my door he told his name was Joseph.  I did not catch the name of his wife.  His hopeful look has not faded.  He looks at Sara, his eyes almost pleading.

"She is going to have the child... soon.  I will bring something out to wrap the baby in.  We can use one of the feeding troths as a cradle.  I will clean one up, fill it with fresh hay, so the newborn will be comfortable."  Sara always has the final word.  She has spoken and it will be done.

The thank you I receive from Joseph and his wife warms my heart, even though I have done nothing but obey.  Sara is filled with joy at the chance to care for others.  On this night, at this moment, the whim of the emperor has been forgotten and the birth of a child is all that matters.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sing Out (Isaiah 9:6)

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

Birth of Jesus, 1304-1306 - Giotto

Sing out over the land
a song
for the waiting.
An infant
fills the heart of man.
Give Him titles that bring joy
for He councils us with wonder
and His kingdom brings peace.

Let us kneel
beside His cradle,
wrap the swaddling clothes
around His form.
If He is cold in the night
we will warm Him,
give Him
what He has given us.

For a child is born
unto us.
He is born for you
and for your enemy.
He is born to cause division
and to bring unity.
He is born in humility,
a paradox
to the scholars
a beacon of hope to the lowly.

Emmanuel,
the promised in infant form.
God chooses to come among us
as a child in simplicity.
God chooses to be everything
the prophets
have foretold.

Sing out over the land
a song
for the waiting.
Shepherds and kings
come stand at the cradle side.
Mighty and everlasting God
is coming to us.
Open the hearts 
of the most hardened
that they might see the babe.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

When He Calls Me Father (Prayer of Saint Joseph)

Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni
How am I to do this?
You said,
through your angel,
that He would be
God with us.
But I am only a man,
unable to grasp
the thoughts You possess.

This child
in Mary's womb
will look to me for guidance.
Who am I to instruct
Your son?
I am a carpenter,
not a scholar.
My hands are skilled,
not my mind.

We will travel
to the town of Micah's prophecy,
to be counted
among David's kin.
Her time is near.
The journey is long
and I am frightened
that I will be insufficient.

How am I to do this?
You have asked me
to adopt a promise,
the hope of all time to come,
a covenant so far beyond
my imagination.

Be with us always
on this journey
through life and death.
Give me the strength
to honor the words spoken
when He calls me
father.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 




Friday, December 16, 2016

A Little Town of Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-5)

 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

Luke 2:1-5 (ESV)

Joseph Brickly - The Road to Bethlehem

Augustus you were a pawn,
used by the Holy God
of Israel
to fulfill a prophecy.
A promise forgotten by some,
never heard by others,
embraced by a few.

The census
glorified
a stable in a particular village.
It bathed a herd of sheep
in angel's light
and brought a family over uneasy terrain.

They traveled seventy miles.
Did they feel the hand of God
guiding them,
over dusty roads
and through cold nights?
Did the infant know their plight?

A donkey,
an unborn child,
a husband trusted to protect.
God ordains you
father and mother
of His son.

He has used the might of the worldly
to make true His word.
The unbelievers have partaken
in bringing faith
into a little town
of Bethlehem.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr