The following acrostics, which appear on my New Testament: Gospels page, were written as a combined reflection on Christmas, Epiphany and Advent. I haven’t written an accompanying commentary: instead, they are offered as a free-standing starting point to our own thoughts.
We might expect the gospels to start with the triumphant and imperial entry of a warrior-king, but Jesus arrives as a vulnerable baby. The first two acrostics are about the birth of Jesus, followed by one about the ‘epiphany’ (the arrival of gift-bearing wise men when Jesus was a toddler), i.e. the ‘revelation’ of Jesus to Gentiles.
Business booms for innkeepers – this census of population
Emperor Augustus ordered has got the whole nation
Travelling, each family to their native city.
Hostels are crammed, inns full, there’s little pity
Lost on two stragglers, the girl pregnant, needing a bed.
Eventually there’s a hovel where she can rest her head;
Hoping for warmth, they find a chill stable instead.
Each huddles the other; they’d almost caught their death.
Mary gasps in labour – and angels hold their breath.
Cold, fragile and aching, this carpenter’s wife
Held her defenceless newborn fearfully;
Responsible now for his every pulse of life,
Isolated from kinswomen, intuitively and tearfully
She somehow kept him warm and fed,
Tried settling him in a makeshift bed:
Motherhood was harsh on this young slip, barely wed.
And then, bearing awestruck certainties, sent to reassure,
Shepherds came rattling at the stable door.
Eastern magi crossed hills and deserts to seek a king,
Princes in their own realms, they brought a royal offering;
In distant Judaea they knew God would reveal his face,
Prophecy and star now combined to fix time and place.
Herod sought a death – to him, God’s new thing posed a threat,
Although the magi sought a revelation and became wiser yet.
Not all who see the Christ-child will accept him in their heart:
You must personally encounter his gift of a fresh start.
Many people lived in expectation of a promised Messiah who would liberate Israel from Roman occupation. John the Baptist, who had a powerful following amongst ordinary people, announced that ‘one greater than he’ would soon appear. He would not usher in an easy life, but would bring judgement and reckoning. Nowadays, we treat the period of Advent (the month before Christmas) as period of reflection on John’s solemn message.
After the old-style prophets had long gone,
Desert-dwelling, locust-eating, hair-clad John
Vented his venom on viperous visitors,
Excoriated extortioners, faced down inquisitors:
Now was the time to flee from the fire,
To bear fruit of repentance for the promised Messiah.