If you're anything like me, you start organizing details well in advance of Thanksgiving to ensure the month of December goes off without a hitch. I find myself making shopping lists, sending greeting cards, planning exquisite dinner menus, scheduling Christmas parties, and attending Christmas services. At the heart of many of my preparations is carrying out the traditions our family has handed down from one generation to the next. Having celebrated many Christmases, I've come to realize how easy it is to get distracted by all the hustle and bustle of our Yuletide celebrations.
Although some planning and preparations are necessary to make sure the family gets fed and transported from point A to point B, it is important to take some time and meditate on the reason for this season. JESUS. As part of our family tradition, we read the story of the nativity in the Bible, recite "The Night Before Christmas" and sing "Away in a Manger". I'm concerned that these traditions have become rote over time and we do them without actually experiencing the season in a way that touches our soul.
This year, I'm choosing to find new and intentional ways to reflect on Christ's birth, so I don't get stuck in the rut of complacency. This means that I may have to break tradition somewhat and find some new ways to celebrate this special time of year. Starting with the Bible, which is rich with beautiful poetry and has spoken to many hearts over the years, I decided to explore some non-traditional Christmas poems to help me stop and reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you'd like to break tradition and share these Christmas poems with your family, too.
Even though it is fun to exercise our imagination with the story of Santa Claus, Christ's birth often takes a back seat to the popular imagery stemming from the poem titled "A Visit from St. Nicholas". More commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas", this prose was dreamt up by Clement Clarke Moore. He envisioned a jolly old elf with a sleigh and eight reindeer delivering packages to well-behaved children around the globe in less than 24 hours. Although fun to pretend, I challenge you to share this alternate version of "The Night Before Christmas" with your family. What a beautiful reminder of the miracle of Christ's birth set to the anapestic tetrameter we are all familiar with.
The Night Before Christmas
By: Sister St. Thomas, B.N.D. de N
This season is a time to remember what a blessing it is to be obedient to God's calling. Mary served as a vessel to carry the unborn child of God, and her example inspires me. The following poem is one of the non-traditional Christmas poems that touched my heart as I read it and thought about how I can follow God's will, even though I don't always understand his purpose. Here's a mother's perspective on what it might have felt like to be Mary as written by Madeleine L'Engle.
Three Songs of Mary
By: Madeleine L'Engle
I can only imagine what it would have been like to be the mother of Jesus. Joseph also took upon many responsibilities and risked his reputation for embracing the role as husband to Mary and Jesus' earthly father. Although they were told they'd be the guardians of the unborn King, they did not receive the traditional fanfare and welcoming of earthly royalty. Instead, their journey as parents began humbly. This poem challenges me to walk in humility when my life circumstances seem unfair.
Journey to Bethlehem
By: Valsa George
The Angels depicted in the poem above and as told in the scriptures, shared the joyous news that Jesus had been born. Apparently, they were the first to begin celebrating Christ's birth, but not long after, there were three Magi who came from afar and they brought gifts worthy of a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This poem, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, describes these gifts as symbols of the wise men's acknowledgment of Jesus as the King, His priestly role, and the foreshadowing of his death and resurrection.
The Three Kings
By: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Although not the traditional Christmas poems you're used to reading this time of year, I hope these samples of prose have made you slow down and think about the treasures this season holds. I know I'm going to spend more time reflecting on how I can serve as a vessel, walk in humility, acknowledge Jesus as my King, and rely on his redeeming power; not just during Christmas, but every day.
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