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Dear After-Christmas Leftovers

I love this week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day! After the busy time of shopping and gifting and cooking and hosting, it’s wonderful to sink back into the chair of “it’s all over!”

These days do have their hazards, though. This little breakup note to the Christmas leftovers is a poem I wrote a year ago today.

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Where the leftovers live (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Dear After-Christmas Leftovers

 

Three days ago before the Christmas feast
I eyed you, in your cling-wrap-covered bowls
and labelled cartons, with anticipation.

On that night I gave your contents unrestricted
access, made a holiday food exception
in all its buttery, crispy, tart and tasty,

poultry, stuffing, cabbage-rolly
glory—then savoured
trifles of cake, eggnog, those very

rich chocolates filled with brandy
melted by sips of creamy
fresh-brewed coffee.

But now I view your half-full cartons
with a different eye, though they still
tease and mock: “A spoonful

of cold dressing, dollop of cranberry
doesn’t really count. Surely you wouldn’t
throw out half a dessert!”

I’m sorry, but I would.
We’ve had our little fling
though just three days ago
I said yes to everything.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All Rights Reserved)

poetryfridayThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Heidi Mordhorst, who takes us into the wonderful world of trees.

 

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Posted by on December 28, 2017 in Christmas, Light, Poetry Friday

 

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An early Christmas present (Hurry to Bethlehem!)

Last November I wrote a children’s Christmas poem just for fun. It was a countdown poem, starting with ten multitudes of angels, dwindling down to the one baby in the manger. I shared it with my writing friend Laurel, who liked it.

Fast forward to this fall, when Laurel took a job at our church in the children’s department. One of her responsibilities was to help plan the Christmas concert. She asked whether she could use that poem I’d written. Of course I gave permission, we made some changes, and I gave her carte blanche to use it as she liked.

A few weeks ago when I was setting up for a women’s class with the help of our pastor in charge of the technical stuff, he said as an aside, “Your book turned out really well.”

“My book?! I never wrote a book.”

“But didn’t you write the poem?”

Then it dawned on me. Laurel & company must have developed my little poem into a book.

Indeed, that is what happened.

So this Christmas, the little book I never knew I’d written has been distributed to hundreds of kids (the Sunday School children were given copies to help them memorize it for the concert) and on Sunday it will part of the show. That’s a pretty fine early Christmas present, I’d say!

I photographed it to show you…

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Front and back cover of Hurry to Bethlehem

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A multitude of angels
brightening the sky.
“Do not fear,” their leader says.
“I will tell you why.

“To you shepherds I bring news
of the greatest joy.
In Bethlehem is born this night
Messiah baby boy!

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Leave your sheep behind you here
travel to the town.
You’ll find Him in a manger
dressed in a swaddling gown.”

They hurry into Bethlehem
as fast as they are able.
On many streets they search and search
seeking the right stable.

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In barns they visit one by one
are donkeys, cows, and sheep
but then they hear a baby dry.
“Not all the town’s asleep!”

They race at once toward that barn
knock on the flimsy door.
“Come in,” a voice from inside says,
“What do you come here for?”

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The door swings wide, they come inside
watched by four pairs of eyes—
a cow, a donkey, man and wife
who can’t hide their surprise.

The light is dim inside the barn
shepherds can hardly see
but then, by the low lantern light
they make out there are three.

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Father stands beside the two
guarding them from danger.
Mother rocks the crying babe
then puts Him in the manger.

Here is the One in swaddling clothes
just like the angel said
in a straw-filled cattle trough
for His newborn bed.

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Then countless times they tell the tale
by their excitement driven,
“This night our simple eyes have seen
Christ the Saviour given!
Glory, glory to our God
in the highest heaven.”

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

You might want to check out my friend Laurel’s Toward Christmas blog, where she posts a poem a day throughout Advent (following the stories of people in Jesus’ lineage—sometimes called the “Jesse Tree”)

And now I wish you and yours every blessing of the season!

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poetryfridayThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Diane Mayr at Random Noodling.

 
17 Comments

Posted by on December 14, 2017 in Christmas, Religious

 

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Christmas Snapshots #haikuforhealing

Though I haven’t joined in on Poetry Friday for a couple of weeks, I’ve enjoyed reading the #haikuforhealing (Mary Lee Hahn’s idea)  that keep popping up in my Twitter feed and various blogs this December.

Today I’m  bringing my little haiku side-dish to the potluck.

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Image scanned from an old Christmas card

Christmas Snapshots #haikuforhealing

Road choked with cars.
She signals merge—let her in…
That’s the spirit!

Smell of poppycock
on my early morning walk—
only at Christmas.

🎼 Chestnuts roasting…
O come all ye faithful 🎹
I’ll be home. 🎶

Christmas Eve—all here,
lists ticked off, fridge full, feet hurt.
Soak in candlelight.

Trash bins overflow
tissue, Santa wrap, packing…
We are so blessed!

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Now, a Merry Christmas,  Happy Hanukkah (or whatever winter, or summer [if you’re down-under] holiday you celebrate) to all!

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Poetry Friday LogoThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Buffy Silverman at Buffy’s Blog.

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18 Comments

Posted by on December 23, 2016 in Christmas, Haiku, Poetry Friday

 

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Incarnation

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Image scanned from an old Christmas card

The climax of the Christmas season will soon be here. This year a book that has directed my Advent focus is Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (compiled by Sarah Arthur).

One of the readings for the first week of Advent (“Incarnation” by Amit Majmudar) especially captured my imagination over the miracle of the incarnation. Here are some lines:

1. Incarnation

Inheart yourself, immensity. Immarrow,
Embone, enrib yourself. The wind won’t borrow
A plane, nor water climb aboard a current,
But you be all we are, and all we aren’t.
….
…For eyes, just take two suns and shrink them.
Make all your thoughts as small as you can think them.
Encrypt in flesh, enigma, what we can’t
Quite English…. – Read entire…

Another poem that has expanded my view of the incarnation in the past is by my friend Darlene Moore Berg who is also a medical doctor. Her medically informed perspective comes through in “Embrylogy” with its ending that connects that event 2000+ years ago to each Love-accepting heart now:

Embryology

A subtle thing
one simple moment to the next
a rhythm, a pulsatile beat
and the heart of God
takes on a mortal cadence.

In a dark, muffled womb
four chambers form—room
to comprehend the flow
of human blood…

A coil of ear widens open
to the Voice of Heaven-
whispers of Divinity
knit into the ossicles

(last stanza)

embryonic genesis
a life takes flesh,
manifests ultimate Love
stretches forth
across a Universe
to be born within a human heart.  Read entire…

So my wish for you, for me, for all of us is that this Christmas we would experience this “birth” and the “abide” that follows:

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in;
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel. (- Phillips Brooks, 4th stanza lyric of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”)

 

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Mindfulness at Christmas

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One of the Christmas bells in my mother’s collection (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Thank you to Irene Latham for rallying us to revive our Spiritual Journey Thursday meme, at least this once. We’re invited to reflect on our One Little Word choices for 2017.

My 2017 word was / is MINDFULNESS.

I am aware that there are psychological and, in some faiths, religious overlays to the word which may bring baggage to it that I hadn’t intended. In my February post where I talked about what mindfulness meant to me, I gave it this definition:

Mindfulness, simply defined, is “being present in the moment.” It also has a psychology definition:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience” – Definition from Psychology Today.

Personally I like that second definition except for the bit about not judging. I reserve the right to judge and filter out thoughts that are critical, negative, pessimistic, hateful, etc.

Now, in the middle of December, I am relating mindfulness to Advent, the candles that are lit each week in church, and the qualities each represents. So far we have focused on HOPE, PEACE, and JOY. I suspect next Sunday when we light the fourth candle, we will hear about LOVE.

I want to possess these qualities in abundance and in their purest forms, especially at Christmas. However, the circumstances of my life change and with those changes my emotions fluctuate resulting in the needle of my Hope-, Peace-, and Joy-meters becoming virtual pendulums,

Each Sunday’s sermon has helped me focus on the lasting and unchanging aspects of Hope, Peace, and Joy that play out for us in the events of that first Christmas. Hope doesn’t dim because God took the initiative to reconnect with us, and promises us eternal life beyond this life. Peace is possible because we’ve entrusted Jesus with our lives; Joy is irrepressible because we are invited into relationship with our Creator. I’m sure next Sunday’s talk on Love will deliver something just as enduring.

My challenge to myself, then, is when circumstances change—when I get the flu, or the shortbreads don’t turn out, or the weather switches off all the power and my plans go sideways, or whatever—I remain mindful of the lasting, unchanging verities of the season’s meaning, instead of losing hope, peace, joy, and love at the whim of what’s happening in my daily life.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”—a poem that became the carol—illustrates how this worked for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who, according to this article, wrote it in the middle of the American Civil War. The carol version leaves out the two stanzas that refer specifically to the war. Here is his poem in its original form.

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Image: Pixabay

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I’m going to take ringing bells as my cue to be mindful of the truths that Advent represents that are bigger than my fluctuating day-to-day hope, peace, joy, and love.

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This post is linked to “Spiritual Journey Thursday,” hosted today by Irene Latham. At the link-up you’ll be directed to other bloggers and their Spiritual Journey Thursday posts.

 

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Journey through Advent

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Image: Pixabay

Today I’m recommending my friend Laurel’s blog for your Advent reading.

When her two children with Autism Spectrum Disorder could no longer tolerate the upheaval of Christmas, she knew she would have to find a different way than with decorations, visiting, lavish gifts and meals to celebrate. She tells her story on this video.

This new reality turned her toward the quiet, 25-day-long celebration of Advent, which she chronicles each year on a blog. For the past few years she has asked fellow-travellers to join her. (I’m honored to be one of them this year).

You can follow our Advent journey on her blog Four Parts Hope. (This year we’re doing cinquain, tanka, haiku, psalms, found poems, and Laurel’s main writings will be haibun.)

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Poetry Friday LogoThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Bridget the wise one at wee words for wee ones.

 

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“Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

Though we’re just starting December the First Sunday of Advent is already past and Christmas is in the air. Sarah Arthur’s Light upon Light (a book of readings for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany) recalled the beautiful song “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”

I first heard “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” sung by the Amadeus Children’s Choir when our daughter was a member of it. At the beginning of the Christmas concert the children entered the auditorium singing it in their clear, pure voices. What a heavenly sound!

Since then it has become one of my favorite Christmas songs. Its beautiful lyrics and plaintive tune make it unforgettable.

The words are from a poem written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413). The tune is plainsong (a type of old Catholic liturgical music), and from the 13th century. I think the plainsong aspect of it—it is monophonic and has a free (not measured) rhythm—make it so mysterious and exotic.

And then there are the words, translated from the Latin by John M. Neale (1854) and Henry W. Baker (1859). What theology! What praise! I’ve posted some of my favorites of the nine stanzas.

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Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

 

Roby Furley Davis translated it from the Latin as well. All three versions (Latin, English versions 1 and 2) are here.

And here it is in  song…

 

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