In my Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word,The poem I have chosen for December 26th, is The Song of the Shepherds by Richard Bauckham. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above was created by Linda Richardson. Linda writes:
‘The night could not contain their boundless praise. We thought that just a poem – until the night a song of solar glory……’ As I conceived this image I thought it would be ridiculous to try to capture ‘solar glory’, but nevertheless I did try to do that in an image that is pure imagination. At the centre is a blazing star directly above a tiny stable on the great curve of the Earth. Bethlehem is silhouetted on the right, and the wise men on the left, journey towards the Holy Family.
In our lives we are familiar with disturbing sounds, unprovoked rages and savage dreams, and often there is little to say, particularly for people who have tedious jobs, who pack our food on production lines, who deliver our parcels or clean up our streets. But occasionally, we may experience the ‘Glance’, spoken about in the poem of the 1st December. Those are the moments when the veil is drawn back from our eyes and we see the great wonder of our being. Maybe we cannot explain that surge of sweet joy that lasts for only a moment before we return to our humdrum lives, but it is often an unforgettable and incomprehensible moment of pure grace. These strange moments remind us that God is always around us and in us, and our part is to prepare an opening for God who may be seen or unseen, but who wants to irradiate us and will only be constrained by our own refusal.
We were familiar with the night.
We knew its favourite colours,
its sullen silence
and its small, disturbing sounds,
its unprovoked rages,
its savage dreams.
We slept by turns,
attentive to the flock.
We said little.
Night after night, there was little to say.
But sometimes one of us,
skilled in that way,
would pipe a tune of how things were for us.
They say that once, almost before time,
the stars with shining voices
the new born world.
The night could not contain their boundless praise.
We thought that just a poem —
until the night
a song of solar glory,
eclipsed the luminaries of the night,
as though the world were exorcised of dark
and, coming to itself, began again.
Later we returned to the flock.
The night was ominously black.
The stars were silent as the sheep.
Nights pass, year on year.
We clutch our meagre cloaks against the cold.
Our aging piper’s fumbling fingers play,
night after night,
an earthly echo of the song that banished dark.
It has stayed with us.