The weather here in St. louis MO. doesn’t feel like Christmas. A few days ago we had 70 degrees in the early afternoon! Climate change for sure! Yet in the coming days Christmas cards will arrive with plenty of snow on the front covers! This morning, I pulled from my bookshelf a few of R.S. Thomas’s books of poetry. He remains a favorite of mine despite his ongoing battle with faith and doubt and his obsession with the “unseen” and “absent yet ever present God.” I remind you that Thomas served as an Anglican priest in Wales and throughout his life he moved steadily west and always into more rural and remote parishes. He was a lover of nature and the Welsh landscape along with the people he served. Daily he walked the hills, and daily he wrote poetry. Today I looked for his poems on Christmas. There are a few, all short, and all needing some time to ponder. I settled on Hill Christmas. Take time, don’t hurry this poem, allow the words to paint a picture of rural farmers making their way across fields of snow to take bread and wine from the altar and to return to their chores of making a living from the harsh landscape. Allow the poem to settle in your heart and in response offer a prayer to the Almighty giving thanks for life and love, and please pray for those whose lives are so fragile and uncertain; the refugee, the dispossessed, the immigrant. Please offer prayer for those whose journey has not been an easy one but a costly one through Europe or through central America, across rivers and oceans, with all they have on their backs and in their broken yet hopeful hearts. A stable or manger for them would be four star accommodation. In this season of Advent, might we wait, watch and wonder! In this season of Advent, might we find a way to extend love and grace, bread and wine, food and shelter, to those who stand in need.
Hill Christmas by R.S. Thomas
They came over the snow to the bread’s
purer snow, fumbled it in their huge
hands, put their lips to it
like beasts, stared into the dark chalice
where the wine shone, felt it sharp
on their tongue, shivered as at a sin
remembered, and heard love cry
momentarily in their hearts’ manger.
They rose and went back to their poor
holdings, naked in the bleak light
of December. Their horizon contracted
to the one small, stone-riddled field
with its tree, where the weather was nailing
the appalled body that had not asked to be born.
We ask that You O Lord,
will teach us how to
wait, watch, and wonder.
We wait for your Coming
yet know that You are ever present.
We watch for your presence
not just in one starry night
but in the ordinariness of every day.
We wonder about the mystery and majesty
of Your Spirit O Lord that touches us
and brings us to life,
day and night,
night and day.
In the manger of our own hearts
be born and be present in ways
that bring to life all that is good and godly.
Walk with us toward Christmas.
Walk ahead of us and call our name.
Walk behind us and save us from being lost. Amen.