Poems for Christmas [2001]

Source: Merry Christmas, a selection of Christmas poems written by Fr Leonard Feeney, MICM

The Welcome

No music He heard, and no angels He saw
As He lay in His wrappings of linen and straw;
And the ox and the ass could not kneel and adore
For the poor creatures never were angels before.

The palace He found was an old cattle stall
With a broken-down roof and a windowless wall,
And it looked so ashamed of its spider-worn wood;
But it tried to be Heaven, as well as it could.

A dull stable-lantern that hung dark and dim
Was the small bit of moonlight that flickered on Him.
Now it longed to be beautiful, starry and bright;
And it sputtered and wept for the dearth of its light.

But a Lady of Beauty stood over His head.
While she gathered the strewings about for His bed.
And her soul was as sweet as a fresh-budding rose
And as white as the fusion of myriad snows.

And her hands did not soil this immaculate prize,
And her breath did not sully the bloom in His eyes.
On her breast sweet and safe could He slumber and nod:
The lily-white village-maid, Mother of God.

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St. Joseph's Christmas

Not envied, not desired,
Only admired:

A girl on this will thrive
As on no thing alive.

And such was God's rare plan
For Mary's man.

He watched his loved one
Power hour after hour,

With footstep caused no fear
In angel-anxious ear,

Gave her his husband's praise
In nought but gaze:

The exquisite adulation
Of contemplation

That lets a fact reveal
ltself as real,

And, in Our Lady's case,
As full of grace.

He must have marveled most
When of the Holy Ghost

Her little Son who shivered
At dawn was delivered.

He must have feared and feared
And hid behind his beard

When was not his life
He welcomed from his wife.

And his bride's Babe and Lord
Adored and adored;

At Christ's Nativity,
St. Joseph, I  love thee.

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The Lonely Crib

I pity the slender Mother-maid
For the night was dark and her heart afraid
As she knelt in the straw  where the beasts had trod
And crooned and cooed to the living God.

And I pity Saint Joseph whose heart wept o'er
The ruined stall and the broken floor
And the roof unmended for Him and her,
And to think himseIf was a carpenter!

O Thrones, Dominions, Spirits of Power,
Where were you there in that bitter hour!
And where the Cherubim-wings withal
To cover the wind-holes in the wall!

The faded eyes of a wondering ass
Were dreamy mirrors where visions pass.
And a poor old ox in the stable dim
His moo was the song of the Seraphim!

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Good News

The night before Our Lord was born
Saint Joseph went about forlorn,
Knocking at doors from left to right,
Knocking at every door In sight,
Asking If anybody would,
Oh please, would anyone be so good
As to invite the Virgin Mary
In somebody's house that night to tarry
And had they a room to spare where she
Could wait for Our Lord's Nativity?
But poor Saint Joseph was quite unable
To find a lodging, except a stable;
And It was stuffy and cold and damp,
It had no window, it had no lamp,
It had no table, no bed, no chairs,
It had no up-stairs and no down-stairs;

A very unsuitable place it was,
Inhabited by an ox and an ass;
But they were polite to Our Blessed Mother,
They stood beside her and made no bother,
And did not utter a bray or a moo
Until the time it was proper to,
When the moon went down at the break of morn;
And Christmas began, and Our lord was born.
And Our lord was beautiful to behold
The minute He was one minute old.
And He smiled, but of course He did not speak,
He was too little, He was too weak;
But He did do all that He was required:
He lay in the manger and was admired,
And was most worthy to be adored,
For really and truly He was Our Lord!

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The Donkey

I saw a donkey at a fair
When sounds and songs were in the air,
But he no note interpreted
Of what the people sang or said.

Hitched by a halter to a rail,
He twitched his ears and twirled his tail.
In every lineament and line
He was completely asinine.

Though l had heard in local halls
Some eulogies on animals,
I thought it would be utter blindness
To show him any sort of kindness.

It seemed to me that God had meant
To make him unintelligent,
And wanted us to keep our places,
I in my clothes, he in his traces.

And so I turned my mind to things
Like banners, balls, balloons and rings,
For which I had to pay my share
And went on purpose to a fair.

But down the mid-ways while I went
On all the pageantry intent,
I stopped, and started to remember
A little stable in December,

Battered by wind and swathed in snow ,
Nearly two thousand years ago
When one poor creature like to this
Saw Mary give her Child a kiss.

So back l sauntered to the rail,
And stared at him from head to tail,
And gave his cheek a little pat
Or two-and let it go at that.

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The Flight Into Egypt

"...Behold an Angel of the Lord appeared in
sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise! and take the
child and his mother! and fly into Egypt."
                                                       Matthew 2:13.

A beautiful angel stood one night
At the side of Saint Joseph's bed.
He shook Saint Joseph! and called to him;
"Saint Joseph! Wake Up!" he said.

Saint Joseph awoke, and was quite surprised
To find who was standing there:
And the angel kept saying: "You have to fly!"
 "Fly!" said Saint Joseph, "Where? "

"Off into Egypt immediately,
Yourself and Our Blessed Lady
And little Jesus; so hurry up
And be getting the donkey ready!"

"I am not so sure that l know the way
To Egypt," Saint Joseph replied;
" And isn't Our Lord too little as yet
To be taking so long a ride?"

"Nonsense!" the angel insisted, "because
It's Our Heavenly Father's Will
To protect from danger the Infant King
Whom Herod desires to kill!"

Quickly they dressed and packed their things,
And long before break of morn
They were climbing the road that leads to the south
From the town where Our Lord was born.

And when they departed, King Herod's men
Came running with club and sword,
And many an innocent child that night
Was killed in place of Our Lord.

I envy the Holy Innocents
Who perished, dear Lord, for you;
And I'm hoping that sometime I shall be
Mistaken for Jesus too.

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The Holy One of Mary

And this is He whom Heaven hymns,
All trembling in His white young limbs,
Whom choirs adore and seraphs bless-
Unspeakable His helplessness.

A Baby's cheek the wind would kindle.
Ah, holy weaver and blessed spindle,
That spun the little swaddling clothes
To sheathe so sweet, so fair a rose!
Dull stable-lamp, my love you are-
Shine bright and be His morning star.
Full many a moon would give her light
To hang upon your beam tonight,
And flood the wondrous sanctuary
And shine on Him and His Mother Mary.

O Sacred Love and Life and Law
Whose mercy-mingled power I draw
To live, to breathe, and be aware
Of sunlight and the brimming air!
Great Bosom whence my spirit sprang,
For Whom my soul in hunger sang,
O white with Age that overflows
The showering of a million snows,
Sinew and Strength and Might unriven,
Upholder of the stars and Heaven,

How camest Thou to choose a stall?
Ah, Little Brother, how small, how small!
What need to know the bitter cold
Eternal One-an hour old!
And yet did not the Eternal Three
Foreknow how bitter the cold would be!

The dark comes over this little town,
A woman is pulling her shutter down,
A woman is making her widow bright
To welcome her Saviour on Christmas night.
The clouds are draping the starless hill,
The moon is quenched at the Father's will,
The Angels are crowding the snowy moor,
A lantern hangs on the chapel door,
The sounds of the singers arise and pass,
A beggar is crawling to Midnight Mass.
The shadowy winds are still awhile,
The children turn in their sleep and smile.
May God have mercy and shield us well
Who hear the stroke of the midnight bell!

"Good-night, sweet Jesu, and take Thy rest,
Be happy now in Thy narrow nest,
Thou must not notice Thy mother weep
Hear her lullaby and go to sleep!"

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Guess Where

Now Our Lord came down and was born below,
In a what would you say, if you didn't know?
No, there wasn't much shelter, but lots of song.
it was altogether unorthodox:
For instance, an ass, and, for instance, an ox,
Who were lacking in minds of the right precision
And who made the view while they missed the vision.
But other attendants were called at once:
Creatures, I mean, with intelligent eyes:
A distant sage and a nearby dunce,
For a shepherd as well as a king is wise;
And you had to have wisdom to get invited
When the Wordling of God by the moon was lighted.
But where were the others, the in-betweens,
Who measure Madonnas by merely means,
Who make their Messiah of potentates,
Of would-be giants and would-be greats?
They were idling in inns with the doors shut tight,
Where they've stayed for two thousand years, not quite,
Night after Night-Before-Christmas Night.

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And Still....

And still... though maybe not one tenth the town
Believes what boon this Birthday brought us down,
We go on keeping Christmas just the same
With tinsel tricks, pretenses, and a name.

And still...and still...the marvel Mother-Maiden
Is of her infant Lad and Lord unladen;
Emmanuel, grown little for our sakes,
Into our world His baby-entrance makes.

And still...above the Cave the stars are bright,
Some sheep and shepherds run with all their might,
And kings and camels from the Orient come,
While angels sing: Let there be Peace, for some!

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From a Priest's Offertory

Midnight one night was still,
Heaven was whitening a hill;
Dark floundered in the wave of morn,
Infinite Infancy was born.
Eternal power sank below ,
A frail white miracle of snow.
Eternal Wonder left the skies
And dwindled into two soft eyes,
Child limbs that could not reach,
Child lips that knew no speech
Spoken-save the murmurings heard
From breathing beast, wind and bird.
The unbeginning God began
To live the long slow hours of man.
His Mother, bending her fair head,
Straw-gathering--she laid His bed.
A whirling star-world came and halted
Above a blown-roofed, low, thatch-vaulted
Cave-Ah! are we not agreed
'Twas piteous royalty indeed!

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Like and Love

I know that God is infinite,
But like Him not that way a bit;
I love Him, yes, but like Him less;
God is too big for me, I guess.
But not too little, no siree!
In Mary's arm, on Mary's knee;
For then I like Him even more
Than I had loved Him heretofore.

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The inn that would not bed and board
The Blessed Mother of Our Lord,
That night when it had ought, when she
Was most in need of hostelry
I think I would not pay a pin
To stop at such a stupid inn.
I think it was a dive, a den;
I hereby scourge it with my pen.

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