Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Poetry

For some reason I felt a need to find some Christmas poetry last night. I thought that the Swedes might provide, so I worked my way through Nils Ferlin (not a terribly religious poet), Tomas Transströmer and Gustaf Fröding. All great poets and there were great poems. But no Christmas poems. There is the classic Rydberg: Glans över sjö och strand. Beautiful. But actually typical of 19th century orthodoxy.

I wanted something that wasn't the orthodox piety of the 19th century, nor the Pietism of Lina Sandell. I wanted a poem that both moved my heart and made me think.

The poem I found is actually a hymn: Richard Wilbur's "A Stable Lamp is Lighted." Looking thru Youtube I found - to my great surprise - that the text has been set to a number of tunes. This one is a folkie tune, so it's one I like.

I didn't find the tune that I first learned when I was in seminary. I like that version a great deal, probably because it is the first version I learned.

What I like about the Wilbur text is that it draws my mind to the simplicity of the event and its far reaching consequences. How simple and how unnoticed. Is that the way that the great changes of our lives and of our world actually take place? Not among the big and noble and noticed, but among the little and lowly?

I like to think that it is. I like to hope that it is. Because that means that it is possible, even probable, that somewhere out of sight the seeds of our salvation as a race has already been born. My role then is to watch and wait and hope and keep my cynicism in check. The first three are difficult. The fourth may be close to impossible.

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