December 23, 2011

A Christmas Poem Written in 1983 Resonates Even More Today

This poem was written in 1983 by John C. Harper, rector of St. John's Church, Lafayette Square (the "Church of the Presidents") for 30 years. John was a treasured friend, as is his widow Barbie -- who used this poem as part of her Christmas card greeting this year. The poem seems even more appropriate now.

Who knows if Bethlehem's star will shine
This year among the rubble of Beirut,
Or whether once again its light will come
Upon those seated in the power's seat;
Whether it will bring into a world forlorn
A glimpse of joy and hope and peace;
Or whether now in this our calloused time
Men will not see its ray or else
God will deny his warmth to us?

Who knows if those who man the guns and tanks
Will find the body of the Prince of Peace
Amid the discord and grimy waste
Of city street and love's forgotten souls
Who this year are wandering lost
As human discards within the urban vale
And like the Babe himself have no other place
To lay their heads than on some steamy grate
Where hope is only in the moisture of another night?

Who knows if war and devastation of what's good
Can ever let Christ come into our lives
At Christmastime to give one chance to see him
Face to face and love him as our Lord of Love?
He knows; this Deity who dwells in people,
Palaces and temples, battlefields and alleys of deep pain;
He lives in spite of rubble, hurt, and loss
And in his light we find our way again
To Bethlehem and from it hence to Calvary's hill.

"O come, O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel."
Rescue us who have no reason
Save that we need this holy season
To make ourselves now fit for thee
And in thy light thyself to see.

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