I've just completed this year's Christmas poem ... to be read, Lord willing, at tomorrow evening's Christmas Eve gathering at PRBC (6:30pm). Keep in mind, as always, that these poems have a good deal of reading between the lines in them ... as I try and place myself into the history and wonder about the sorts of things that may have gone through the minds of the various players in the incarnation accounts. I'm wondering these things aloud, not to try and re-write the story (much less to assert that my imaginings are factual), but simply as a way of getting at the narratives afresh, and trying to draw some lessons from them.
You can listen to the poem here, or read it below the page break.
A Thousand Thoughts Ran Through Her Mind
Imagining the sorts of thoughts that may have been swirling through Mary’s mind as she listened to Gabriel’s prophecy in Luke 1:26-38 (or at least the sorts of thoughts that often run through our minds when we consider the assignments that God has given to us) … and how they all came together into a faith that was able to obey the Lord.
The spindle whirled in Mary’s hands.
And, gath’ring up a thousand strands
of wool, she spun them into yarn
that evening in her father’s barn.
It was like any other day.
Carving a seat upon the hay,
she'd spread a comfort blanket down,
and – fancying a woolen gown,
or hat, or shawl for mother’s back –
she’d snatch an armful from the stack
of fleeces piled against the wall
around behind the cattle stall.
And then she’d perch upon the pile
of fodder for the cows, and smile.
And, fingering her spinning tool,
the fleece would morph into a spool –
a thousand fibers woven taut
as strands between her fingers caught
and laced into a single thread.
And, so the girl, now soon to wed,
would while away the evenings, calm –
whirling her thread, humming a psalm,
and spinning dreams about the life
she’d make with Joseph, as his wife.
That evening, though, her humming stopped;
her breath gave way, her spindle dropped.
For through the door there strode a man
dressed in a dazzling robe that ran
from neck to foot, wove from a yarn,
spun somewhere higher than a barn.
“Greetings, thou favored of thy God,
the Lord’s with thee,” he said.
sensation twirled round Mary’s spine.
All thoughts of robes and spinning twine
unraveled now as Mary thought
about the words the angel brought.
‘An angel here in father’s stalls?
What summons him from heavn’ly halls?’
“Fear not, my lass,” continued he,
“God’s favored servant you shall be.
A Son will grow within your womb –
God’s Son – who’ll David’s throne assume,
and over Israel live to reign
forever. ‘Jesus’ is the name
you’ll give to Him.”
“How can this be?”
she cried. “A baby born to me?
A little boy my womb to fill,
who's known no man, a virgin still?”
“O’er shadow-ed by God Most High
you’ll be. His Spirit will draw nigh
and come upon you, favored one.
And thus the Child shall be God’s Son.”
Her spindle lay now on the floor;
her thoughts tangled like wool before
a girl has spun it ‘tween her thumb
and fingers. Could she count the sum
of thought’s now spinning round her head –
of fear and faith, of joy and dread?
Promise and doubt all intertwined!
A thousand thoughts ran through her mind!
‘Oh my! Why this? Why now? Why me?
Will Joseph be able to see
in this God’s hand and holy stamp?
Or will he take me for a tramp?
And even if he sees it right,
what of our fam’ly’s fiscal plight?
Can woodwork here in Naz’reth bring
a lifestyle fit for Yahweh’s King?
And me the mother of God’s Son?
I am the least adequate one
For such a messianic task!’
And yet her questions could not mask
excitement, hope, and faith, like braids,
woven in brighter, fuller shades
between the doubts and halting fears.
‘Is this the fullness of the years?
Will the Anointed One come down
and settle in this backwoods town,
and from this humble start fulfill
the purpose of God’s sovereign will
to make the wolf lie with the lamb?
Is this the seed of Abraham,
who’ll with his light scatter the curse,
and in His bosom ewes will nurse?
And who will take away our sin,
and bring the tribes and nations in
to be one flock with Israel?
And who’ll surely do all things well?’
‘And if this is the hand of God …
must I not be willing to plod
ahead and trust Him for His grace,
believing He will interlace
each fiber of His wise, good plan
for Mary as for Abraham?’
These varicolored strands of thought
now wove into a sense of ought.
Fingers of faith had woven tight
a certainty beyond all sight.
A thousand thoughts ran through her head,
but whirled into a single thread:
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
be it according to thy word.”
Assignments given by the king
are not a trite or easy thing.
He’ll ask what only grace can do.
And yes, He’ll ask these things of you!
A thousand thoughts run through your brain:
‘Will other people think me sane?
Can I afford to give it all?
Am I the right one for this call?’
But if you will do what you must,
weave in with doubt the strands of trust!
Believe the promises of old,
that made a girl like Mary bold.
Believe the prophecies of Christ!
Believe that He is coming twice –
Once to lay down His life for sin;
a second time to usher in
the golden age, and the reward
for those whose faith is in the Lord.
So take the spindle in your hand,
and gather up all of the strands
of doubt and fear and promised hope,
and weave from them a single rope
of faith. And may you always say
with Mary on that fateful day:
“Behold the servant of the Lord;
be it according to thy word.”