Let There Be Light: A Message from Genesis During the Dark Days of Winter

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In the beginning, from ageless eternity, Almighty God looked down upon the formless void and willed creation into being. Where there was nothingness, there would be life. Where there was disorder, there would be order. The perfect, infinite love of God hovered above the shapeless sea of emptiness that was the cosmic chaos and spoke His life and light into being.

God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. He simply spoke and the light came to be. He breathed His laughter and love into the void and the perfect, pure light of His grace and goodness burst forth upon the nothingness and brought life. Like a beautiful scroll, the story of His love was opened and stretched out upon the universe, revealing awesome truth and seamless harmony. The light stood in contrast to the darkness; and everything that would come into being would be touched with the light of the Creator’s presence. God’s perfect thought breathed the universe into existence and brought wholeness where there once was formlessness, the sound of coherence where all was separation and obscurity. The light gave a voice to the forces of the universe as they took their place in the celestial order of creation. The earth would form and be suspended in space. There would be distinction between the seas and the land, the waters above and the waters below, the darkness and the light. Day was born and began the dance of the hours with the night. In speaking the light into being, order and grace filled creation and set in motion the story of God’s eternal, joyful song.

The first day of creation describes what is essentially indescribable. It is only in the poetry of the words that we gain a sense of the beauty and perfection of God’s creative power in speaking everything into being. The inspired author takes us back to the beginning to teach us the awesome truth of who God is. In attempting to define what cannot be fully comprehended, he shows us a God who is first and foremost, all-powerful. In the creation stories of the ancient world, the earth came into being through the violence of the gods, through conflict and battle, death and destruction, as one god defeated another and out of the ruin brought the order of the universe. This is a distortion of the true manner in which God brought forth His creation. He stood alone, with no one to challenge Him. He existed in eternity, in timeless perfection, and spoke all of creation into being with the breath of His word. There was no effort, no struggle to conjure up the cosmos. God simply kissed it into being with a puff of His Spirit, His “ruah” – His breath. Like a holy sigh of love, God made all that was and is.

Creation begins with light. Genesis was written with the fall of humanity in mind. In a universe cursed by the darkness of sin, God stands as the light. Light overcomes darkness. Darkness represents incomprehension, confusion, and veiled thinking. Light represents the brilliance of perfection, order, and clarity of all thought and being. The day and the night were separated to present a contrast between God’s perfect light of love and the destructive influence of hatred and sin. Because sin would eventually come into the world, God set up the light and separated it from the darkness as a great sign of His divine purposes for the universe. Genesis stands as one bookend with Revelation, with all of Scripture in between, punctuating the truth that the perpetual light of the resurrection will one day eliminate the darkness, and there will no longer be a need for sun and moon, day and night, for all will be light once more.

The passage speaks of God hovering above the “waters” of the deep. Water has a powerful meaning in the Word. It represents the swirling chaos out of which new life emerges. Noah and his family were shut in the ark and taken through the overwhelming waters of the flood, when all the wrath of heaven and earth burst forth in judgment upon the earth. They were brought through the dark storm to the dawning of a new day, where light and life would be renewed. Moses and the Israelites passed from the darkness of Egypt to the light of the Promised Land through the waters of the Red Sea. In faith, they made the passage through the mighty wall of water to come out of the place of slavery and subjugation to the place of freedom and provision. Jesus was dipped into the Jordan and rose to face the dark forces living in the desert, armed with the light of the Word of God! He brought His light to bear upon the Prince of the Air, and through His life, death and resurrection, opened the way for humanity to come out of the darkness into the dawn of a new creation in Him. The early Christians plunged men and women into the waters of Baptism where they were buried to the old sinful ways and raised to new life, cleansed and healed. In this new life, they were graced with the illuminating presence of the Holy Spirit, which enabled them to live as children of love.

It is the light of God’s Spirit that brings life and order from the watery chaos. At the end of the first day, God calls the light “good,” and evening gives way to morning. His creative act is not for some selfish end, but for His glory and our good. The weight of His presence overwhelms us and brings us the light of salvation, freedom, safety and peace; for that is what glory really is – the overshadowing power of God’s love being brought to bear against the frailty of our own existence. It is only in the light that we find salvation. As God installs creation at the beginning, forming everything out of nothing, so too, does He restore us from the emptiness of sin through His Son. In Jesus, the Light of the World, we are once more made “good.”

The power of the first day of creation finds fulfillment and understanding in the opening verses of John’s Gospel. Like God’s light that overwhelms the chaos of the deep, so too does the light of Jesus overcome the darkness of sin and lead us to a new paradise, as we become new men and women in Him. Like the powerful breath of God that spoke creation into being, God’s love has spoken His final Word into the world. Jesus is that Word and Light. He has come to overwhelm the darkness. The darkness cannot comprehend the perfection of love that manifested itself in the person of Jesus. John continues this wonderful theme throughout his Gospel, as the images of Word, Light, Water, and Love spill out onto the pages through the wonderful stories he narrates. John’s Gospel is the expression of the new creation we experience in Christ!

We who know Jesus are called to live out those sacred signs of water and rebirth. Like Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in chapter 3 of John’s Gospel, we must be born from above, born of water and Spirit. Though we cannot enter our mothers’ wombs a second time to be born again, we can be healed by the creative Word of the Gospel, buried with Christ in Baptism and breathed with the new life of the Holy Spirit as we live out our lives day to day in His name. As we put aside the old ways, drowning them in the watery chaos of our submission to God’s powerful breath of life, we are made new and given a new path to walk, with the light of God’s grace guiding us evermore on the path to heaven.

The signs of God are all around us. We cannot see the wind that blows, but we feel its influence. We did not witness the first moment of creation, yet we see its beauty and witness the working out of the order of the universe around us. Every stream, every river, every lake, and every ocean are reminders of the depth of God’s love for us. Though water can be a powerful force to flood the land and swallow ships at sea, we know that to God, all the waters of the earth are a drop in the vast ocean of His perfect love. Each day, as the dawn greets us once more, we are reminded of the hope we have that in God’s perfect time there will come a perpetual day, where darkness will be banished forever, where our sins will be thrown as far as the east from the west, and where we will live in everlasting joy in the light of God’s eternal presence. From the first moment of creation, God had all of this in mind. In His perfect plan, He spoke creation into existence, knowing that we would all come together in the perfection of his creation when the purposes of His great love would find their fulfillment in Christ.

One day, there will be a new heavens and a new earth. The old order of things will pass away. Creation, which has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth from the sinful fall of humanity, will be reborn in a baptism of fire, in a powerful cleansing that will remake all of creation once more into the perfect reflection of the Creator. Until then, we have been blessed with the beauty of all that is around us. The sun and moon are signs that God is in control of creation and is bringing His plan to completion as the cosmos ticks on like a divinely wound clock. The waters of the earth that are held at bay by the mighty arm of God are signs of the refreshing and sustaining power of rebirth that is ours in Christ. The Word that ever speaks into the world the Good News of the One who came as Light in the darkness, is our guide and our power for daily living and purposeful outreach to a lost world. As you experience God’s light this day, let it draw you closer into His presence and bring you His joy, His peace, and His love!

Tears and Transformation in Communion

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One of my favorite books I used to read to my children is Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel. It contains a series of sweet, short pieces about a child-like owl and his little adventures in his humble home. My favorite of the tales is “Tear Water Tea.” In the story, Owl decides he wants to enjoy a special hot drink. He sits with his tea kettle and begins to think of very sad things: chairs with broken legs, unsung songs with forgotten words, spoons forever lost behind the kitchen stove, unfinished stories from books with missing pages, clocks that have stopped with no one to wind them, uneaten mashed potatoes, and pencils that are too short to use. With each sad thought, he fills the kettle with tears, and afterward, savors a cup of salty tear water tea.

This simple story has been a powerful reminder to me of how Communion is a joyful celebration of transformation from brokenness to becoming, an experience where we bring the tears we have stored in our hearts to the Lord’s Table, so that we may savor the bitter-sweet satisfaction of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Surrendered Tears, Rest and Restoration 

As Christians we have been taught to come to the Communion table worthy and ready to receive the Bread and the Cup; and yet, we are reminded just how undeserving we really are, like the Centurion who said, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word…” But that is the beauty of Communion. Christ calls us to come before Him, bringing our brokenness and our battered lives, our trials and our tears, so that we may receive the food that brings us newness of life. As we receive, we partake of the healing our souls so desperately seek.

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Believers in Christ have discovered that only when we give our tears to the One who is big enough to bear them, can we find the satisfaction for which we long. Anything else just leaves us empty. We cannot bury our hurts or cover them up. Nor can we wish the burdens away, drown them in addiction, or share our pain with a therapist or a friend in order to find rest and restoration. As we surrender our sorrows and our very lives to Christ in Communion – making our own tear water tea – we experience real and lasting peace.

The Blessing of Tears, The Longing for God

The Bible has a lot to say about tears. To David, they are the natural expression of his grief and anguish (Psalm 6:6-7), and become his “food” when men seek to mock the God he loves (Psalm 42:3). Here the man after God’s own heart is so distraught and his tears so many that they become his food and drink, his tear water tea. His suffering is so great that he becomes completely caught up in his desire for God, to the point that his tears become his sustenance. Nothing else matters except pouring out his heart to the Lord. David teaches us that it is in our deepest sorrow that we discover our deepest need for God. 

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In Psalm 80:5 we read, You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. Instead of manna from heaven or water from the rock, God gives His ravaged, exiled people the bread of tears. In their sinfulness and sorrow, it is their tears that draw them back to God, making them thirsty for the Living Water of heaven. When we experience the trials and troubles of this life, we too taste the bitterness of our tears, and it makes us long for the satisfaction only God can give us in Himself as together we share in Communion

A Bottle of Tears, A River of Restoration

 Another thing we learn about our tears is that they are very precious to God. For example, in Psalm 56:8 we read: You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle! Are they not in your book? This is a picture of God being so concerned for the griefs of His people that he records their tears, collecting them in a heavenly container to preserve them. This is how dear our sincere sorrow is to our heavenly Father. In New Testament times, people were known to store their tears in bottles as an expression of sorrow, usually for someone who had died. These bottles were known as “lachrymatories.” Loved ones would place these bottles into the graves of the dead as a precious sign of love for the person.

This is what God does with our tears. He collects them and stores them, only in a much greater and more blessed way. He keeps a record of tears shed in genuine faith and places them in the tomb of the One who gave His life for the world. Our Father deeply desires His people to weep openly for sin, injustice, and the lost. Consider what the book of Jeremiah says in chapter 9 verse 1: O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people. And in Lamentations 2:18 we read, Cry aloud to the Lord! O daughter of Zion! Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite.

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The prophet knows that he could cry an ocean of tears but they would never be enough to pay for the sin of God’s people. Yet he understands that God accepts our tears of repentance and records them. He takes our tears and turns them into blessings as He draws us to His Son. He turns rivers of tears into pools of restoration, renewing His people so they may go from strength to strength (Psalm 84:5-7). In Communion, we can draw from this great source of strength because we pour ourselves out to the One who has poured himself out for us.

Pouring Out Our Tear Water Tea

Perhaps one of the most moving stories of tears takes place in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 7, verses 36-50. It is the story of the sinful woman who anoints our Lord’s feet with her tears and dries them with her hair at the home of Simon the Pharisee. The language and the context of the story suggest that this woman is someone given over totally to a sinful life – most likely a life of sexual sin. For so many men she has dared to let down her hair, to disgrace herself in defiance of the Law of God. And yet, we see her pushing through the crowd in the courtyard of this prominent Pharisee to touch the One she knows can rescue her from her sin.

Most likely this woman had witnessed the words and deeds of Jesus. She had heard Him call for love and repentance, and offer rest for the weary and light for those in darkness. She had watched him eat with sinners, heal the sick, and welcome the outcast. Perhaps she had been present when Jesus fed the multitudes with the five loaves and two fish. She may have known of other women who had come to our Lord in tears, like the widow whose son had died and was raised to life again. She had been so moved by this mysterious man that she was compelled to seek Him out. And so she braided her hair, made herself look beautiful, and put on her finest clothes. She took a jar of her most expensive perfume and came looking for something to fill her empty soul, ready for whatever was to come.

When she arrived, she met a man who looked at her with love and forgiveness. She let go of her past life of sin, broke the flask of her heart, and poured out all the secret tears she had stored up over a lifetime, flooding His feet as she wept unceasingly. Then, she let down her hair, this time to wipe away the tears and surrender herself to the One who would free her from every sin and sorrow, and offer her a new beginning.

Tears Transformed into Heavenly Bread

Jesus then proceeded, in a masterful way, to contrast the actions of the woman with the behavior of Simon. Simon gave Jesus no kiss of greeting, no water to wash His feet, and no oil to anoint His head. He offered no real hospitality to Jesus, making the meal they shared meaningless. Yet this woman could not stop kissing our Lord’s feet. She washed His feet with her precious tears and anointed them with her most costly perfume. She brought all she had to the meal – her sins and sorrows, her hopes and desires, and a sincere repentance born of a deep love. And in return, Jesus offered her new hope and the Bread of His very Life.

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The woman came and made her own tear water tea with Jesus. She took all the tears she had stored in the bottle of her heart and then let it be broken and poured out before the Master, giving them meaning and bringing cleansing to her heart. In fact, if we look deeper into the story, we can see that all she did for the Lord, He did in a greater way for her. He cleansed her with the water of His word of forgiveness, anointed her with the oil of gladness, and gave her a kiss of divine peace. He gave her the gift of Himself, restoring her life by taking her tears and giving her Living Water.

Communion and Tears

This is a perfect picture of what Communion is all about. As we approach the Table of the Lord each Sunday, we bring all that we are to the celebration. We break open our hearts and pour ourselves out before the altar, knowing that Jesus gives us His Body and Blood, the perfect gift of love that can restore our brokenness and strengthen us for our journey of salvation. Our Lord takes our tears and stores them up, recording our love in His Book of Life, as He empties out His life for us in the once-for-all sacrifice of the cross. In the celebration of Communion, we hear the words that restore our lives, strengthen our weary souls, and bring lasting peace. Like the women who followed Jesus and served Him out of their means (Luke 8:1-3), we who have received freely, are free to give all we have in service to the Kingdom of God.

Our tears are a precious gift that lead us to the Table where we experience the very life of Christ. Rather than withdrawing from the bitterness of our sorrows, let us come unashamed before the altar to open our hearts and offer our lives to the One who forgives us of sin, causes us to love much, and exchanges the bread of our affliction for the Bread of Life.

 

Christmas Poetry

As we approach Christmas Day, I am reminded of what the celebration of Advent means. For four weeks before Christmas, we light a candle and take time to read the stories that relate to the incarnation and the coming of Christ. I thought that for this blog post, I'd feature some poetry/songs I've written that carry that theme of remembering the story and celebrating the wondrous fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy and the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams. I hope you enjoy them!

 

The Glory Comes Into the World

Come, come rejoice at the sight,
Of the Glory of heaven, the true guiding light.
For the people in darkness on this Holy night,
The Glory comes into the world.

Hark, hark as angels descend,
To the city of David, they call and they send,
Hear the voices that echo from World Without End,
The Glory revealed to the world.

See the child sleeping, in stable so lowly,
In small earthen manger upon the sweet hay.
Sing, sing out with heavenly chorus,
The Savior is born now this day,
The Savior is born now this day.

Smile, smile at mother and child,
At such tenderness cradling love undefiled,
For in meekness and virtue and purity mild,
The Glory is born in this world.

Hear, hear the Shepherds draw near,
With a heavenly calling, no more do they fear,
At the sight of this baby, the message is clear,
The Glory shines forth in the world.

Chorus…

Watch, watch as Wiseman and king,
Follow starlight’s true rising, as new anthems ring.
Bowing low as they offer the treasures they bring,
(To) The Glory who walks in this world.

Look, look as future is told,
Of cross and of Calvary of new made from old,
Rising up from the grave the refiner of gold,
The Glory who reigns in this world.

Chorus…

Oh…sing, sing now rejoice at the meeting,
Of heaven and human, of Godhead and man,
Praise, praise for the coming of Jesus,
The fullness of God's holy plan!

 

Chosen Mother

Quiet morning, breath of heaven, lights so soft upon the door,
Lowly maiden, terror rising, swoons and lowers to the floor.
Mighty angel, now appearing, speaking words of purest praise,
Of the coming King Messiah, and of distant future days…

“Greetings highly favored daughter, may the Lord now be with you,
Cease your trembling, calm your worries, for the words I speak are true.
Do not fear for you are blessed and will soon be wide with child,
You shall name the baby Jesus, He is God’s Son undefiled…”

Chosen Mother of the Savior, was it fear or was it joy,
Causing you to kneel at heaven’s mighty plan?
Did you wonder, did you ponder, that this sweet young baby boy,
Would grow up to be the Chosen Son of Man?

She a virgin, was bewildered, longing now to know the pow’r,
That would cause her, not yet wedded, to conceive this very hour,
“Heaven’s light, celestial shadow, Holy Spirit, will embrace,
So the child shall be called Holy, and restore the human race.”

Mary answered, “I am ready, here the handmaid of the Lord,
There is naught beyond His sovereign will, whom David so adored.
As you did for barren women, for my cousin, once was she,
So now grant what you have spoken will now here unfold for me.”

Chorus...

Lonely journey through the country to the home of dearest kin,
She expectant, though once barren, takes the sweet young woman in,
Marvels that her Savior’s mother should now walk upon her ground,
Baby leaps within her womb for joy at mother’s greeting sound.

“How my soul exalts my Savior, who has looked on me with love,
I am blessed by Mighty Father, Holy Helper from above.
For His mercy and His power is extended age to age,
Now His promised plan unfolds upon this humble earthly stage.”  

Bridge…

Great will be His honor, Son of God Most High
Born to sit on David’s Royal throne,
Ruling Jacob’s kingdom, heaven drawing nigh,
His the glory and the pow’r alone.

Virgin mother, waits and wonders, ponders all within her heart,
Yields her will to heaven’s myst'ry, takes her place and does her part.
Though she knows not what will happen as the future now unfolds,
She her will has now surrendered to the One her womb now holds.

Chorus (Repeat)

 

Long Ago in Bethlehem

Once upon a lonely night on silent city street,
Walked a man with wife, her days with child now complete,
Searching for a sheltered room, for the child within her womb,
His appearing once foretold, prophecy to now unfold,
Long ago in sleeping Bethlehem.

No room in the place where travelers gather for the night,
Led to lowly stable dimly lit by shepherd’s light,
Child is born at break of day, in the manger he will lay,
Born to save the human race, purest look upon his face,
Long ago in waking Bethlehem.

Out beyond the hills where lowly shepherds watch their sheep,
Lonely outcasts solemnly their faithful vigil keep, 
Hear the news of coming King, child for whom the angels sing,
Rush to witness his repose, wrapped in humble swaddling clothes,
Long ago in breathless Bethlehem.

High above a blazing star burns brightly in the sky,
Glory of the Mighty God shines forth as love draws nigh,
Follows to the baby’s birth, here to show his matchless worth,
Pausing at the precious sight, heaven’s awesome holy light,
Long ago in shining Bethlehem. 

Least among the princes, unregarded, so obscure,
Heaven opened, glory emptied, undefiled and pure,
Chosen to receive the King, star now shines and angels sing,
Ruler of the nations cries, Shepherds pause and mother sighs
Bethlehem, O Bethlehem, long ago in Bethlehem,
In the chosen town of Bethlehem. 

Magi come from far away to greet the new young king,
Bowing low with royal gifts, their treasures now they bring,
Frankincense and myrrh and gold, for Messiah’s hands to hold,
Sacred signs of glory, fame, man’s rejection, sorrow, shame,
Long ago in wondrous Bethlehem.

Jealous king inquires of men the birthplace of the child,
Rages now against the One who entered life so mild,
Searches through the ancient text, so disturbed and much perplexed,
Issues now a cruel decree, man and wife and child flee,
Long ago in weeping Bethlehem.

Chorus...

Sleeping child now resting silent at young mother’s breast,
Came in pure obscurity to bring to us our rest,
Born to die for sinful man, living out the Father’s plan,
Soon to face the cruel cross, we to gain from heaven’s loss,
Long ago in chosen Bethlehem. 

Bethlehem, O Bethlehem, long ago in Bethlehem,
In the chosen town of Bethlehem.

 

Lullaby for a Savior

A great light breaks forth in the new dawning sky,
A small flame flickers in a warm stable stall,
As angels chorus to a newborn King’s cry,
And shepherds marvel at a wonder so small…

Sleep now little Savior, rest and be warm,
Your tender voice will rebuke every storm.
Your gentle hands will bring healing and grace, 
Your perfect life will redeem Adam’s race.

Oh…sleep Savior sleep,
Treasure the joy of communion so deep.
Oh…seek now within,
Dreaming the dream of our rescue from sin.
When you awake may you drink deep of love,
Touching the grace of your Father above,
But for now…Oh…sleep Savior sleep.

The Godhead is draped in humanity’s vein,
A tiny form wrapped up in swaddling clothes.
Cries out for comfort, in hunger or pain,
And weeps too for sorrows that nobody knows.

Hush now little Savior, mother is here,
She your disciple when the hour draws near,
Joseph your guide and protector will be,
(But) your Father’s plan is for Calvary’s tree.

Chorus…

Oh, how can it be that the Father’s dear child,
Should lay down the glory of His kingly pow’r.
To come to the earth as an infant so mild,
And travel the path to the cross and the hour.

Rest now little Savior, for this hour is mine,
Now but a child, but in manhood a sign,
Time soon for teaching and mission and plan,
Time soon to live as the Great Son of Man.

Final Chorus…

Oh…sleep Savior sleep,
How can I measure that tears that you weep
Oh…dream child dream,
One day the lost you will seek and redeem.
When you arise I will watch as you grow,
Loving with joy only mothers can know
But for now…Oh…sleep Savior sleep.

 

Hymn for the Holy Child

In the fullness of the ages,
Word of God in flesh was born,
God from God, the light of Heaven,
Came to earth on Christmas morn.

Hope for man, our sinless Savior,
Infant child at mother's breast,
Sleeping still in straw-filled manger,
Holy Lord and Sabbath's rest.


Shepherds in the wasteland watching,
First to hear the angel's call,
Hasten now to lowly stable,
To their knees in reverence fall.

Host of Heaven now united,
Mighty chorus, hymn of praise,
Yahweh’s presence shining brightly,
Blessings ‘till the End of Days.


Star shines brightly, Sacred Godhead,
Fills the sky with radiant light,
Perfect peace and Holy Power,
Bringing day to darkest night.

Wisemen seeking, search the heavens,
Follow star to House of Bread,
Bowing low to new King rising,
At his feet their gifts they spread.


Men rejoice for your salvation,
As our God breaks into time,
Fall before the child in worship,
Pure transcendent truth sublime.

Sing with joyful hearts surrendered,
Praise the babe on manger throne,
All creation in submission,
He is God and God alone!

 

When You Came Down (on that First Christmas Day)

Sweet quiet evening, pure blessed hour,
Night steeped in wonder, birth dressed in power,
Word now descends from the Heavens to earth,
Veiled in the child but revealed by His birth.

Leaving your throne and the praise of the host,
Humbled yourself so that no man could boast,
Taking on flesh to face tempting and trial,
Wearing the garment of man’s sin denial.

You are the Savior, born as a child,
Helpless and holy, lowly and mild,
Bethlehem's treasure, Heaven's sweet prize,
Glory of Godhead shines through your eyes.
Why did you favor your children with grace?
Leaving your throne and your true righteous place,
I'll never know all that you had to pay,
When you came down on that first Christmas day.

Son of Man weakened yet still Son of God,
Great Shepherd King, gentle staff, mighty rod,
There is no measure to value your worth,
Or your great grift of our new second birth.

Still little baby at young mother's breast,
Godhead in form yet in slavery dressed,
Singer of stories with your infant sighs,
Speaking your truth into man’s empty lies.

Chorus...

Prophecy spoken, this child to fulfill,
Following fully in your Father’s will,
Earth’s sinless Savior, so Holy and free,
Loving the lost one and still loving me.

Jesus my Savior, my brother and Lord,
One who by Heaven and earth is adored,
Rest by your mother, for morning is near,
Now by your Advent no more do we fear.

Chorus…


Unto Us

Unto Us a Son is given,
To our Race a Child is born,
In Him all our sins forgiven,
Love fulfilled on Christmas morn.

Bethlehem of Judah’s numbers
Not among the least you be,
In you now your ruler slumbers,
Israel’s Shepherd God is He. 

In the wilderness preparing,
Way made straight and hill brought low,
Broken reed His life repairing,
Seed now planted, soon to grow…
Our Messiah, King and brother,
Sinless Savior, One so mild,
Holy God alone, no other,
Born to us as lowly child.

Days are coming, branch increasing,
King from David’s royal line.
Righteous Judgment, never ceasing,
Sacred ever-living sign. 

Holy Scepter rightly reigning,
Kingdom rule without an end.
Promised Land forever gaining,
Broken staff His law will mend.
.
Chorus…

Lo the Virgin, hour nearing,
Calls His name Emmanuel,
King of kings in flesh appearing,
Saves us from the pow’r of hell.

Chorus…

Unto Us a Son is given,
To our Race a Child is born,
In Him all our sins forgiven,
Love fulfilled on Christmas morn.

 

The Reason Why He Came

Firelight and candle glow, festive greens and Christmas snow, 
Carolers who stroll along, lifting up the season's song,
All remind me Christmastime is here.

For there is a light that came, to a world of sin and shame,
Shone as angel voices praised, and as shepherds stood amazed.
For the Savior of our race drew near. 

Sentimental Manger scene; what can this great myst'ry mean?
Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, mother poised in calm repose,
On a sweet and silent, holy night.

As the infant Jesus cried, God with us did now reside,
Came to earth to suffer loss, to be raised upon the cross,
All our wrongs the Savior would make right. 

The days they come, the days they go, it's Christmas once again,
The treasures and traditions stay the same. 
And yet the story's ever new as once more I'm reborn, 
Salvation is the reason why He came. 

And in each gift and blessing shared, my spirit sings with joy,
The child in me comes once more shining through, 
For Christmas brings alive again, the hope of life redeemed,
The love He shared that lives in me and you.

 
Ornaments upon the tree, signs of love and family,
Secrets shared and Memories made, never from our hearts to fade,
Warmth and welcome, precious times to hold.

Every sacred living sign from eternity is mine,
Linking past with future hope, climbing Zion's joyful slope,
This our journey in the stories told.

Chorus... 

So I seek the creche and cross, my life broken, heaven's loss
For they lead to empty tomb, resurrection, heaven's womb,
Christmas links my life to heaven's peace.

All I celebrate with grace, now creates a sacred space,
Where in awe I grasp the love, that descended from above.
Christmas joy within will never cease. 

Chorus...


 

 

 

Our Advent Journey – Days of Comfort and Restoration

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Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service has ended, that her guilt is expiated, That she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1-2)

For as long as I can remember, Advent has been for me a time of great personal loneliness and deep spiritual restoration. I think the reason is because I have learned to view Advent through the lens of my own restless heart. I freely admit that finding contentment and satisfaction has always been a struggle for me. I further admit that my personal human condition has caused a great deal of distress in the lives of my family and friends. Transformation is a painful process that leaves many casualties in its wake; but it is certainly a necessary part of what it means to belong to Christ. Advent is a deep reminder of how God has spoken into our lives through the incarnation.

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If we are to gain any meaning from the Season of Advent, we must come to terms with the fact that we are restless sojourners, traveling a singular path that each person must walk in his or her own way. We need to embrace our aloneness in order to take hold of the powerful message of Advent: that God has come to our world as one of us to bring comfort, forgiveness, and peace; that the poverty of the Nativity leads to the nakedness of the cross; and that the Savior who faced separation from the Father longs to manifest His presence in our solitude. Only then can we experience the joy of restoration that Advent brings.

Double Punishment, Singular Joy

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The beautiful words from Isaiah were spoken to a people made weary by their sin, wayward children who were to be transformed in the fires of suffering and captivity in order to experience the incomprehensible joy of rebirth. It seems odd that comfort should be linked with punishment; yet this is the message of the prophecy. There is more joy in the ending of hostilities rather than there is bitterness for the years spent under the heavy hand of the Lord. The time of penance has past. The voice of God has turned from judge to tender Father. The days of trial are over. The Messiah has entered the world and salvation is at hand!

God uses the time of Advent to remind us that our lives are an ongoing journey of transformation – from sin to salvation and from tribulation to triumph. Our sufferings, our struggles, and our lonely searching for peace find their answer in the ever-unfolding work that is the coming of Christ. Jesus arrived on the earth as a helpless baby so that He could share His life with ours. He walked the same roads, suffered the same temptations, and experienced the same joys as all humanity so that He could overcome it all and rescue us from the slavery of sin. Our suffering finds meaning in the cross He endured for our sake. As we work through our sufferings we are renewed in our character and driven into the arms of Hope:

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Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

The Wonder of Discovery

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Advent is a time of self-discovery, where our journey moves from faith to faith, through trials to the victory, and from sorrow to the joy that is ours in Christ’s coming into our hearts at Christmas and in our daily lives. The rest of the reading from Isaiah goes on to talk about the voice calling, "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!" (Isaiah 40:3) The rough road shall be smoothed over and the burden made easy and light. The glory of God will be revealed and our fragile lives will be forever transformed. We are like the flowers that fade, like the grass that is here today and tomorrow is burned in the fire. And yet, in Jesus, we are given eternal life. Our meaningless, dead, sin-filled existence is transformed by the cross and given new birth in Christ. As we wait for Christmas, we are comforted by the hope that the baby brings by his humble entry into the world. As we look forward to His Second Coming, where every tear shall be wiped away, where every knee will bow before the throne of heaven, we become bathed in the light of hope that shines so clearly upon our lives. As we meditate on the story of the Bible through the lens of Advent, we see that every page points to the coming of the Messiah and the victory that He brings.

In the End, Peace…

Though the time of waiting in the dark days can be painful and lonely, the message of Advent brings us joy and peace. All our restless wandering through this life gives way to a purposeful walk centered on the Word made flesh who left the realms of heaven to pitch His tent among us. I know that I can continue to travel the road to heaven because my Lord and Savior travels with me. Therefore I embrace this time and take in its wonderful lessons. My solitude becomes the empty womb ready to receive the new life that is mine by the miracle of Christmas. My sorrow becomes the power that breaks the shell of my hardened heart, so that I may surrender to One who entered this world to take away my sin. My restless heart beats with the anticipation of the days of Christmas to come and I ache within for the coming of the Lord on that final day when together we will experience the perpetual rebirth of the resurrection. That is peace indeed!

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No matter where you are on this Advent journey, through the incarnation of Christ God offers us comfort, restoration, and new life. Our time of turning back brings us to the place where we may receive the blessings that Christmas brings. Rejoice in that hope as you meditate on the story of the birth of Jesus today! Meditate on the generosity of Christ and how His perfect, complete, and total surrender to His Father has gained for us the comfort and peace of eternal life. Let that truth penetrate your mind and heart as you wait for Christmas to come!

Thanksgiving, Traditions, Gratitude and Grace

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Every year, my family and I must make one of the toughest choices ever: where to eat Thanksgiving dinner – my siblings or her parents. I seldom see my brothers and sisters, so it is always nice to have a mini McCann family reunion. However, the Davinos sure know how to put together a food-filled traditional Italian Thanksgiving feast! It is a difficult pick – decisions, decisions, decisions!

Thanksgiving always reminds me of my need to look upward and offer my praise and thanksgiving to the One who provides those great family times that fuel my growing faith. My life is a journey through triumphs and trials, steps of faith that build on the traditions and the ever-unfolding graces that come my way. As all of us move along the narrow road to heaven, let us not forget to be thankful for all we have been given.

 

Family Traditions We Follow

We have a number of traditions we follow at Thanksgiving. For my family, we meet at my brother Tim’s, sample from a big buffet of foods my siblings bring and grab a seat around the house for beautiful recollections late into the evening. My wife’s family gets together and gathers around the extended family table to eat until we drop and laugh until we settle into a place of peace so wonderful we know we are home.   

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There is a realm that exists in the heavenlies where God inhabits the praise of His people, where joy fills our hearts and joins us to the grace that flows from the celestial city. When we enter those places of peace that have grown out of our traditions, we discover just how solid our faith is. The struggles of life are no less real in those moments; but they are given perspective from the vantage point of the rock of refuge upon which we stand.

Being with family is as real as it gets; and I know that not all family interactions are so wonderful. There are past hurts that may remain or personal struggles that are ongoing. There is the pain of loved ones lost or family members not present. Tomorrow’s tasks will still be there for us to face. Yet, in this precious moment of solidarity and love, we find the strength – the grace – that comes from the One who has knitted our family together and ever holds us in His heart.

 

Feasting and Memories

God has given us all stories to share and paths to follow. As we sit with our loved ones around the banquet table and remember the past, we join our hearts to the greater story of our salvation. We recognize that we are all on a continuing journey toward our heavenly home. Our memories bring to mind the struggles we have overcome and the blessings we have been given in one another. In our laughter we see our humanity. In our tears we witness the divine. As we remember, we connect those who have come before and those who will come after us, for we all share the same journey.

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The Thanksgiving feast is a place where the pain of our past can find revision and restoration as we heal our memories by the grace of the love we now share. It transforms us by opening our eyes to the miracles that have come our way. We look at one another and realize that our family is a great gift that has been given to us. Our stories help us to see the depth of the divine love that has held us together and continues to lead us forward day by day.

Being together with my family in this way helps me to hold each person in my heart. I bask in the warmth of the love we have shared in good times and bad. I discover ever-deepening understandings of just who these family members are and how much they mean to me. Our memories tie us all together and reveal the Savior who has given us all purpose in our common bond. Our journeys are intimately connected because of the past we share and the future for which we all hope.

 

God Moments and Goodness Given

My greatest joys at Thanksgiving, however, come in the new stories we share with one another. Hearing that my niece’s new daughter is beginning to walk recalls those similar moments with my own children. Learning about the achievements of my family members – everything from violin recitals to new jobs to home projects completed – brings me contentment. Even sharing our current struggles brings us closer as we lend our strength to one another and offer hopeful prayers and healing words.

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I see God’s presence in each word we speak and experience we share. His goodness lies in the reality that we are one in Him as we walk the journey together. We may not see clearly the road ahead, but we know we will make it because we have one another and we share a common faith that cannot be broken by trial or snuffed out by the world.

Like taking photographs at Thanksgiving, I know I must store up within my heart each conversation, every tender exchange and all the laughter that takes place. These are the God moments we must never miss or ever forget, the gifts of grace that pass all too quickly, but become a part of who we are and what we are to one another in Christ.

 

Gratitude and Grace

In the end, no matter where we choose to spend Thanksgiving, our family remains a vital link to the God who has made us to live and love in His name. Family is the great sign of our Savior’s love for the world and a reminder of the way in which He relates to His people of faith. This yearly celebration helps to ground me in the joyful reality of what family love is all about. I am grateful for my family members, their caring support, their wonderful spirits, and even their many flaws and failings. They are to me a conduit of the grace that is ours because of the God who created us for gratitude.

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This year, as you celebrate Thanksgiving with your family, take time to remember the past and find healing and hope in the future, to share memories and new happenings, and to bask in the joy of what it means to be grateful of heart. Give thanks to God who has placed you together on the road that leads to a wonderful heavenly home. Strive to overcome the hurts and seek the blessings that are the grace-filled inheritance of being part of a family under the care of our heavenly Father. Enjoy the feast and find peace and God’s presence in the prayers of thanksgiving you share. God bless!

I Know a Man: Gratitude and the God of Thanksgiving

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I know someone in Christ who, fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows), was caught up to the third heaven. And I know that this person (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter. About this person I will boast, but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12:2-5)

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Every year in November I look forward to that special Thursday when I get together either with my family or my wife’s family to celebrate Thanksgiving. I confess that while I miss my brothers and sisters and the craziness of a road trip to Pennsylvania, I truly enjoy when we choose to visit my wife’s Italian family for a loud and loving festival of food and fun that is their yearly holiday dinner. Such a joyful feast causes me to reflect on what it means to be truly thankful, truly forgiven in Christ, and truly caught up in the glorious journey that is my Catholic faith. This year, at this point in my walk of faith, I wanted to reflect on the life of a man I know and hope that seeing his struggles turned into strength in Christ will inspire you to experience the gratitude and grace of God.

I Know a Man, and the Boy He Was…

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I know a man who remembers a lost and lonely childhood without a father, a special box of secret treasures that only a boy could cherish being lost in a family move, and the struggles of coping with so many days of confusion, insecurity and uncertainty. But that man remembers also the father who worked so hard away from home to provide for the family he missed, and the mother who labored in love to keep her family together on her own. He remembers days when disaster struck, when lives were almost lost, and when there was little to go around. But he also remembers the strength that came from pushing through the hard times and holding onto hope that the days to come would be better.

I know a man who saw his boyhood home submerged in the waters of a local flood, who experienced the loss of material possessions, security, and safety. But the man also saw a refuge in the home of distant relatives who took his family in; and he experienced unconditional love, despite his misbehavior and acting out. I know this man experienced the challenge of helping his father and mother rebuild and resettle in their flooded out home, and deep down, learned the power and the joy of personal sacrifice for the sake of those he loved.

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I know a man who struggled with loneliness in school, as he tried so hard to fit in and to make sense of the fears he faced every day from bullies and those who rejected him for who he was. But this man determined to study hard, find true friends, and search for simple joy in the everyday experiences of adolescence. That man grew stronger as he attended daily Mass and learned to pray to the Savior who was becoming more and more real to him with each passing year. 

I Know a Man who Found His Way into Adulthood…

I know a man who stumbled his way into young adulthood, finishing his high school studies and attending college, where for the first time he felt truly connected to his faith and future. The man continued to learn and to grow, to stumble and to get back up again, and to seek his way in the world. That man made many mistakes and went down many wrong paths; but that man also found his way back to the things that meant the most to him: his family and his faith. That man experimented with bad behavior and saw the worst of himself; but he also discovered a deeper relationship with the God who had been carrying him through. He watched his parents part ways, but found ways to deepen his relationship with each of them. Day by day, he walked his way into a his grownup world.

I know a man who failed in many relationships, lost jobs, ventured away from home only to return a broken soul. But that man found new strength and new hope in the family who always welcomed him back again. And he found beauty in the woman he would eventually marry. Though he had many missteps on the journey of courtship and marriage, he experienced great joy in beginning a new life of joy, sharing his faith with the one he had come to love. And when there were no children due to unforeseen events, that man and his bride prayed and trusted in the God who never let them go. In time, a son was born. Then the joy that man knew was powerful and precious and perfect indeed!

And I know a man who experienced the loss of a mother, the struggles of a lost job, the fears of bills piling up, and the frailty of a strained marital relationship. That man became ill and discouraged and began to re-experience all the same fears and fragility of his early childhood all over again. But God spoke to that man through faithful believers and though that man found himself uncertain about his finances, his family, and his faith, he discovered an even greater stability in the strength that God provided in the woman he loved, and the miracles that came into his life one by one. And though that man strayed from his faith, he never lost hope in the God who never gave up on him.

I Know a Man Who Has Been Truly Blessed…

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I know a man who fathered two more children, who moved to an unfamiliar place and saw the sacrifices his spouse made on his behalf, though he was unworthy of the love she gave. I know how the man continued to stumble along the way, changing jobs, watching dreams fade away, and forgetting the things that were truly most important. But I know also how that man slowly came around once more to a place where his faith was central to his life. Though he could never take back the mistakes and failures, the unkind words and selfish actions, he found in the forgiveness of Christ a way to become a better man and to spend his days seeking to rekindle the love he and his family shared together.

I know a man who has regained a sense of himself, who has rediscovered his love for the written word, who has also reclaimed the incredible gifts of his family and his faith. I know this man has walked a lonely road, a rocky road, a broken road; but he has found the narrow way and planted his feet firmly on the path toward heaven. I know the man has set his face toward heaven, has recommitted his life to his Savior and his family, and has determined to never let the failures and fears of the past dictate the direction for his journey in the days to come. That man is flawed and often floundering; but that man is also graced and gifted. He looks back on his life and sees the blessings of eternity that broke into his life from the realms of eternity. The sorrow has given way to solace. The brokenness and bondage have given way to forgiveness and faith. The confusion has given way to courage and the regret to recommitment. 

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As you reflect this Thanksgiving on all for which you are thankful, perhaps you will remember a man – or woman – whose life has been guided every step of the way by the One who knew us from eternity, formed us in the womb, and guided our lives along the narrow path through Calvary to heaven’s joy. Happy Thanksgiving! 
 

Just for Fun: The Raken

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Just for fun, I thought I'd print the words to my "scary masterpiece," The Raken! It's a fun parody of Edgar Allan's Poe's The Raven! Enjoy! (PS - Catch the video as well!)

 

The Raken

Once upon an autumn dreary, while I pondered raking, weary,
Over this my summer’s browning and forgotten grassy shore.
While I labored, fairly hustling, suddenly there came a rustling,
As if something lightly bustling, bustling through my tedious chore.
“Tis a squirrel,” I muttered, “looking for some nuts to store –
Only this, and nothing more.”

How distinctly I remember, should have done this in September,
Not a dear longstanding member of the neighborhood’s décor.
Eagerly I wished to borrow, lawn machine brought on the morrow,
But had only rake and sorrow, sorrow for this horrid chore –
For the everlasting and back-breaking tedious garden chore –
Thrust upon me evermore.

And each leaf, so gently falling, job completion now forestalling,
Chilled me, filled me with such apprehension never felt before;
So I raked, my heart its beating, tempting my faint soul’s retreating
And with wife and child’s entreating, rake until my sinews sore
Bearing now their sad entreating, bones, and sinews aching sore -
Tis a job and nothing more.

But my pleas on deaf ears falling, kept this pace though it was crawling,
Yard my earnest prayer was that there be an ending to this chore;
Vainly was my nervous talking, for to me I felt a stalking,
And so faintly I kept walking toward the gloves I wore – 
Gloving now my hands and taking rake resumed my awful chore,
Raking piles of leaves once more.

As I contemplated napping, heard the sound of thunder clapping,
Wishing for the clouds to now descend and drenching rain to pour
But the thunder soon it ended, so my respite now suspended
Bade me come to spot untended, and to take up rake once more –
Vainly now I whispered, “Horror!” and I heard the sound once more –
Scraping, chanting, “Nevermore!”

‘Round the yard my head was turning, all my soul within me burning,
Still I heard the scraping voice say what it called out twice before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is, some young squirrel upon the lattice,
Or a bold stray dog or cat is, clawing at my cellar door –
Let my raking still itself now and this mystery explore –
But the sound was heard no more!

Then turned I to do some bagging, yet above my family’s nagging,
Was the cold hard sound of something, calling as it had before.
Wished that I had leaves been blowing, for the blower’s rage bestowing
Would have drown the sound now growing, growing as I raked some more –
Still its hideous form not showing, haunting now this wretched chore,
Calling, calling, “Nevermore!”

Gazed down toward my two feet trembling, clarity, my thoughts assembling,
Knowledge of the true cause mocking heart and mind and soul and core.
Long and jagged teeth descending, to the grass as I was bending,
So reproachful, my heart rending, as the stiffened rake began to roar
Scraping on the crimson foliage, causing stiffened form to roar,
Quoth the rakin’, “Nevermore!” 

Marveled I as wood and plastic, making sounds so brash and spastic,
Spoke its harsh reproof so coldly, into flesh and marrow bore;
Contemplated I the science, of this object’s gross defiance,
Yet on this was my reliance, still my darkest heart it tore,
This which lacked a soul or feeling, still it mocked me all the more
Scratching out its “Nevermore!”

But the rake it seemed so fitting, here to do my very bidding, 
That one tool, so fashioned thusly, did perform yet offer more.
“So absurd!” I came to mutter, “that this rake should choose to utter,
Cleaning yard and walk and gutter, could this implement implore?
And with such a tool before me, would I win this raking war?”
Then it answered, “Nevermore!”

Startled at the stillness broken, from a rake, a word thus spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “This is madness, my mind’s wanderings, nothing more.”
I this moment should be tarping, heeding not this objects harping
Else this siege of my mind’s warping, should delay this daunting chore,
‘Til the hope of job’s completion, should recoil in me no more.
Yet it called out, “Nevermore!”

But with all my futile raking, goal unmet and thirst un-slaking,
Straight I wheeled around this forest, gazing down at leafy floor.
There upon I set to thinking, and in horror set to linking,
Fancy upon fancy, thinking that this drama must mean more – 
Stuff of tales, so gruesome, ghastly, drawn from fearful days of yore,
Meant by rakin’s, “Nevermore!”

Thus I paused, my mind engaging, in a story newly paging
Here within my mind a tempest – leaves be gone and fall no more!
Fighting now a futile battle, herding leaves like many cattle
Hearing still that dreadful rattle, haunting me within my core.
Seething terror, my transgression, being frozen at death’s door
Shall it cease now? – “Nevermore!”

Then methought, the leaves fell thicker, causing me to rake much quicker,
Wondering if unseen hand hath shaken bough and branch once more,
“Rake!” I cried, “the ground is covered, with the leaves that one time hovered,
Respite, I am not recovered, thou dost vex me, wretched chore!”
Calling thus in desperation, to the sky I did implore,
Quoth the rakin, “Nevermore!”

“Prophet!” said I, “Demon garden. Rake, yes still, but without pardon.
Whether tool or instrument of hell I cannot now ignore
Your unceasing leafy taunting, filling this my yard with haunting
For the gruesome task so daunting – tell me truly, I implore?
Is there end to falling foliage – thus that I may cease this chore?”
Quoth the rakin, “Nevermore!”

Horror upon horror dancing, on my grass these leaves advancing,
By that Heaven there above us – by that God we both adore –
Tell this man with leaf piles laden, up to knees so he must wade in,
If I may with my rake made in, distant land triumph once more –
O’er this sea of leaves and pots of flowers dead by front porch door!
Quoth the rakin, “Nevermore!”

By that word, I thus departing, threw the rake and stopped my carting,
Shrieking now to lawn and branches, “Thou wilt have my heart no more!”
Let these piles stand as a token, of the soul that now has broken –
This my final word has spoken! Quit have I, to rake no more!
Take thy tines from out my heart, as now I leave you at the door!”
No more hear I, “Nevermore!”

But the rakin, never stirring, leaves by wind are still there whirring,
In the yard now buried under rustling rotting leafy floor.
There to mock my vain evicting, with now winter storm’s predicting
Flakes begin to fall convicting, endless shoveling in store…
Wilt there be an end to this my chilly wintry shoveling chore?
Quoth the shovel, “Nevermore!”

Click the Image to the right to watch “The Raken”