This poem originally appeared, along with visual art and a prose piece, as part of an advent series on the Emmaus Church blog. The featured image is an original by Brady Quarles and is used by permission. You can find it here.
Advent is a time of unique emotions. Most look to it as a time of waiting for Christmas to come — a time to celebrate the “spirit of the holiday” in whatever way gives them the most childlike joy. Elation of this kind is worthwhile, but as Christians we should know that Advent means much more: it’s worship. When we remember what lengths Christ had to go to condescend, then the baby in the manger is way less cutesy and way more awe-inspiring. Christmas carries weighty emotions when viewed through the appropriate lens.
In light of this, my wife and I were asked to pen some poetry for our church, Emmaus. We were asked to convey four distinct emotions, or to write following four distinct themes: Desperation, Glory, Humility, and Immanuel. All four of these themes hit at the heart of Christmas. We wait for Christ longingly, struck by the glory of the eternal son, who humbles himself to not only be one of us, but to be with us and in us. We chose the sonnet form because of it’s unique ability to elicit various feelings in the midst of one, compact stanza. It’s distinct rhythm and rhyme creates helpful parameters and links all four pieces together.
The first poem, written by my wife, is one of desperation. In the octave (the first eight lines), it strikes the reader with a sense of deep longing and waiting for breakthrough, release, rescue, and cleansing. This is the kind of desperation that was commonplace before the condescension of Christ, and is often echoed in the hearts of Christians who lose sight of the significance of the inaugurated kingdom. Waiting is a difficult task. And yet, as we see in sestet (the last six lines), we find that waiting with hope in something that is worth waiting for is a noble and life-giving enterprise. This is the joy of Christmas: as we wait longingly for the day to come, we remember all those who waited for centuries for Messiah to arrive. And yet, the time is short, it flies by, because like our faithful forebears, we wait with hopeful expectation.
How long must we still shout “Savior!”
Will one come near to gather up the lost?
Who will intercede for us? Is the cost
Too high? Is man too low for kings to fore-
Go the throne? How long will you ignore
The cries of your people? Have you exhaust-
Ed all of your compassion? We wait, unwashed,
Unkempt, scattered, scathed and unsure.
Yet, woe to us if we cry out for less,
Boasting hope as just a treasure to touch.
Hope is lost when she’s a prize to posses:
So find her where she cannot be clutched.
Then, what little is wasted, waiting as clay
For the Christ that will not fade away.