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Poems for Advent and Christmas


Advent I

Humanity in such a tangled snare

… where did this all come from?

A warning rises

A prophet’s voice

“WATCH” into the darkness

A people called again to turn an eager, weary head

In a resistant time

To look through the darkness of a Judean night and

Trust that in the darkness of a Virgin’s womb

The Creator of Light begins to form.

As Advent begins, watch now and trust that

In your own unfamiliar darkness —

Inadequacy, job loss, depression or distance

There is a taste of the Bethlehem darkness,

Containing a flavor of the Promise

A Savior already forming from the Overshadowed One.

Patience, then.

         – – –

Advent II

The cruel axe once wielded cut short the tree of Jesse

The wound in the wood leaves an empty, shorn base

The human family suffers a crude cut — Sin — we are sapped of possibility.

God, leaving no such scar, reaches down

moving freely

to such an impossible place: the womb of the Virgin becomes sheer fertility.

God has poured himself out … so probe then —

Has the axe, with cruel decisiveness, touched your life

leaving a hollowness you fear to enter?

Step with determination; feel along the empty dark

and you’ll come upon the One Poured Out

Who overflows the impossible place

and brush close to a stirring most rare:

Hope in motion.

         – – –

Advent III

A nightly mission, the operative at last dispatched from the

real to unreal world.

The Angel enters the corridors of sleep where the troubled Joseph swims;

Interrupting one wonder with Another

whispering the long-treasured saving Plan,

prophecy becomes reality as

A seer’s vision brims.

Joseph’s sleep continues in the wake of the Almighty

At the noiseless morning breaking (or is that sin’s back?)

the Angel close to now returned to his haven, glances round

And sees as Joseph stands and stretches

the preview of Another Rising much more final and profound.

         – – –

Christmas Night

The destination is enclosed by the timber of a stable

as the endurance of pregnancy gives way.

Newborn arms unfold to welcome a kingly quest:

wise men, shepherds, and angels close their trail today.

yet this child’s eyes start a search far more severe;

His Mission turns attention beyond the guests humbled, bowing near.

He grasps for a splinter of the manger’s


His mother quickly bends and supplies

substituting her finger to satisfy

a Savior’s scream.

One day his insistent reach, undeterred will find

the object of his grasp:

a beam far more sure than this stable

which he will muscle well and wield and be death’s slay

His thirst-filled cry complete at last.


— Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield

(Msgr. Bransfield is general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. These poems are in his book, “Meeting Jesus Christ, Meditations on the Word,” originally published by Pauline Books & Media, and used with permission.)


• • •


Advent as a season reminds us more intensely of Christ’s promises — that he has goodness planned for our lives and that one day, we will be reunited with him.

“Christian joy, like hope, is founded on God’s fidelity, on the certainty that he always keeps his promises,” Pope Francis said during Advent in 2013.

“Fidelity” means faithfulness. It derives from the Latin words “fidelitatem,” faithfulness or adherence; “fidelis,” trusty or sincere; and “fides,” faith.

Is God trusty or sincere? Are we? Do we trust that God is good? That he has good planned for our lives? Or do we doubt and despair?

God “comes to save us and … seeks to help, especially those who are fearful of heart,” Pope Francis said. “He gives us the strength to go forward.”

During Advent, we recall God’s fidelity to us and strive to renew our fidelity to him.