Christmas on the Edge

'small stars that edge a galaxy...'

Here is a sonnet for Christmas Day. I post it a little early  in case people want to print it or use it on Christmas day and also because on the eve of the feast and the day itself we will all have better things to gaze at than a little screen! As usual you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the ‘play’ button, if it appears or by clicking on the title of the poem.

Christmas On The Edge

Christmas sets the centre on the edge;
The edge of town, the outhouse of the inn,
The fringe of empire, far from privilege
And power, on the edge and outer spin
Of  turning worlds, a margin of small stars
That edge a galaxy itself light years
From some unguessed at cosmic origin.
Christmas sets the centre at the edge.

And from this day our  world is re-aligned
A tiny seed unfolding in the womb
Becomes the source from which we all unfold
And flower into being. We are healed,
The end begins, the tomb becomes a womb,
For now in him all things are re-aligned.

Christmas sets the Centre on the edge


Filed under christianity, literature, Poems

19 responses to “Christmas on the Edge

  1. Reminds me of the saying about God being a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. Beautiful. And I love that painting too.

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks. Yes, I know and love that saying about God having his centre everywhere, I thin it is attributed to Nicholas of Cusa. I also love the painting which is Botticelli’s Mystical Nativity. The details of the stable make it clear that it is, in human terms, an edgy outcast place but the centered circles of the dancing angels make it clear that it is aligned to the heart of Heaven!

  2. Ah, thanks for the attributions. I love Botticelli.

  3. Elizabeth

    Thank you for your inspiring sonnets since you have been a fb friend. Blessings this Christmas time and in 2012.

  4. This is a fine sonnet, beautifully crafted, and I love the way you extrapolate from the Nativity on the edge of town, the edge of empire, to our world on the edge of its galaxy:
    “… … itself light years
    From some unguessed at cosmic origin.”
    I can’t share your Christian faith, but you draw this theme out most adroitly. I wonder whether, in future poems, you might be inspired to (I nearly said ‘tempted to’) explore that question of the world on the edge of the cosmos, especially at a time when there is renewed scientific speculation about life on other earth-like planets?
    But I know that’s not your purpose in this piece, and the lines build up to their perfectly expressed conclusion:
    ‘For now in him all things are re-aligned.’

    • malcolmguite

      Dear John thanks for this encouraging and thought-provoking comment. I am fascinated and awestruck by developments in astronomy and cosmology and I think it is good for us whatever our faith to place the apparently familiar in its bigger cosmic context. I share your interest in speculation about life on other planets. In fact the meditation on edges and centres in this sonnet is partly inspired by a fine piece of science fiction, CS Lewis’s novel Perelandra which is set on Venus and has a brilliant passage at the end in which a human being and various inhabitants of Venus speculate together about what and where the ‘cente’ is. Do you know that book?

  5. Beautiful. Brings to mind C.S. Lewis’ “The Turn of the Tide”.

    • malcolmguite

      Yes, well spotted!I know that poem and the ideas in it, also expressed in Perelandra, are part of my own outlook. Turn of the tide is itself a brilliant reworking of Milton’s Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity. 🙂

  6. I found this beautiful poem so inspirational that I’m using it for lectio this week (and possibly beyond). I intend to do the same with the Advent sonnets. Thank you for them all, they’ve really deepened and broadened the experience of the O antiphons this year. Thank you!

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  9. We just read this one in class the other day. It’s one of my favorites. Very Boethian.

  10. We read this one in class the other day. Very beautiful. It is one of my favorites. Very Boethian.

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Ian. You are of course right about Boethius, though there is also a touch of Nicholas of Cusa who says if God that his ‘centre is everywhere and his circumference is nowhere’

  11. George Roberts

    Hi Malcolm, I am an Episcopal priest who spent my sabbatical in various and sundry spots of the UK and just recently introduced to this truly lovely and powerful sonnet. I was a professional actor and teacher of acting before I became a priest and love poetry. The readings for Christmas resonated so much more richly for me, as they speak of this stunning reversal that God has wrought by coming among us. He has truly set this world on the edge. Thank you for this beautiful piece which will be the cornerstone of my little reflection on Christmas morning in my little church in Connecticut. Merry Christmas and thank you for this wonderful piece.

    • malcolmguite

      Dear George thank you for this. You may like to know that on the morning of 29th December BBC radio 4 will broadcast a service which will include this poem and my reflections on it. The program is called Sunday Worship and it should be available on the BBC website. Have a good Christmas M

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