December 24, 2008

The Day I Leapt for Someone Else

Marveling at the humility and Christward focus of John the Baptist in John 1 and 3, and pondering what went into the making of such a man, I wrote this poem for tonight's Christmas Eve Service:

When I was just a tiny lad
I’d crouch down on my knees with dad
Leaned back, with age, upon his bed,
Three pillows stacked beneath his head.
He’d whisper stories of our faith,
But often pause to catch his breath.
Time had conspired to take its toll.
He’d withered like an ancient scroll
So full of truth, and yet so frail –
Long pauses between every tale.

He’d nap sometimes and I would wait
An hour to learn of David’s fate
After he’d sinned; or what came next
When Job was by his friends perplexed.
He’d tell of Moses in the sands,
The bread, the quail, the Promised Land;
Of Jonah and God’s mighty gale;
Of Sis’ra’s head, and Jael’s nail.

But he was tired; his lungs were weak;
The color faded from his cheeks.
And so he spoke with head laid back,
Eyes often closed, and muscles slack –
Except … Except for now and then
He’d say to mom, “Remember when
The angel came?” Eyes open wide
Now he would raise up on one side.
With grimaced face and teeth clinched tight
He’d slowly push himself upright.
This story was too full of grace
To tell it from his normal place.

“Remember when the angel came?
Son, he’s the one who chose your name.
God really did, I guess I’d say.
I remember like yesterday.
He spoke of you – your mission great;
And how we’d have a baby late.
But most of all He spoke of Him
Who’d come and save us from our sin!”

And so he’d give us his report,
But mom would always stop him short –
You know how older couples do –
She wanted in the story, too!
So she would rise up from her chair,
And her side of the story share:
“As I recall, now, six months passed.
Your aunt came by. She talked so fast
I had to calm and slow her down.
And angel’d come to her home town,
To her, in fact – she grinned so wide –
‘Before’ she said, ‘I’m made a bride,
I’ll give birth to God’s very Son.
Messiah! The Anointed One!’
And do you know what happened then?”
Mom always asked. “You leapt within
My womb, dear son. I don’t know how
You knew.”

And then she’d always bow
And thank the Lord for giving both
A Son and Savior, by His oath.

She’s right. Somehow I always knew
That, though among the chosen few,
And though a preacher of God’s word
Whose voice is by the thousands heard,
“I’m not the Christ; I am not He.”
So let my voice drown in the sea
Of waves that crash upon His shore;
Of Christward praise forever more.
I publish this from east to west:
"He must increase, I must be less."

I guess I always knew these things.
I leapt before I knew to sing.
The Spirit came, and from the womb,
In my small heart prepared Him room.

But it sure helped, as days went by,
To have a dad whose lips were dry,
Whose heart was weak, whose eyes were tired …
But who, for Christ, became inspired.
It helped, that twinkle in his eye,
And how he’d push and pull and try
To sit up straight and tell it right,
When speaking of that holy night;
When speaking of God’s only son,
Before whose path I was to run.

It helped that mother’s fav’rite part
Was not how Johnny won her heart;
Was not her infertility,
Was not the miracle of me!
Instead, the part she always tells?
The day I leapt for someone else!

So moms and dads, your kids adore …
But let them know you love Christ more!
Train them to like the Baptist be:
“More of Jesus … less of me!”

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