Saturday, December 26, 2015

Keeping Christmas

©2015 Susan Noyes Anderson

When every guest has taken leave,
and gifts are all unwrapped and gone,
I take a little time to grieve
before good memories linger on.

I find a special place to store
the footsteps coming up the path,
the bells a-jingle at the door,
the eager eyes, the boisterous laugh.

I call back moments by the fire,
each face that I hold dear aglow,
remember words that still inspire,
spoken today and long ago.

When family gathers all round,
the love lives on in every heart.
Therein is Christmas always found,
preserved in every sacred part.

Hope your Christmas was warm and wonderful!


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Monday, December 21, 2015

Elias and His Lamp: A Nativity Story

©2014 Susan Noyes Anderson

Elias was a thoughtful lad
whose family lived in Bethlehem.
His parents ran a humble inn
that fed and sheltered all of them.

They had not much of worldly goods;
their daily food was sparse and plain.
But love flowed through their happy home,
sustaining them like wholesome grain.

Hard work was what Elias knew,
long, busy days and weary nights.
But he took pleasure in his senses:
golden sounds and smells and sights.

The world showed wondrous things to him.
He looked and listened way down deep.
In truth, Elias was a dreamer,
while awake and in his sleep.

And so he traveled far and wide,
as wide as his own mind could go.
His eyes were open doors; his heart
sought all the truth a boy could know.

Perhaps that is the reason why
this tale is here for us to tell.
Elias saw a role to play
and, in his wisdom, played it well.

It started with an evil king,
Caesar Tiberius by name.
He loved his wealth more than his people,
took from them what he could claim.

A centus was required to gauge
the taxes he would put in place.
This burden, levied on the poor,
was difficult for them to face.

Each citizen was forced to journey
to the city of his birth;
there, to register for Caesar,
who ruled Rome and plagued the earth.

His harsh decree, ironically,
brought business to their humble inn.
The weary travelers would need
a room, a place to settle in.

How strange that one’s misfortune should
become another’s milk and meat.
As they prepared to host, the family’s
thoughts were mixed and bittersweet.

It troubled them to benefit
from unfair treatment by the State;
but people needed shelter, and
their family needs were also great.

Supplies were low, with few reserves;
perhaps the best that they could do
was make their inn hospitable
to everyone who journeyed through.

A meal prepared with love would warm
a flagging spirit, sore distressed.
Caesar had served his people ill,
but at this inn, all would be blessed.

And so they toiled from dawn to dusk;
fresh herbs and linen lined each bed.
The pilgrimage was underway,
and some to Bethlehem were led.

Most came by foot across the desert,
plodding through the shifting sand.
Elias gladly welcomed them
and offered up a helping hand.

The rooms were full before nightfall.
Elias gazed up at the sky
and felt a sweet foreshadowing,
a whisper coming from on high.

Whatever could it be? he mused.
Some kind of magic is at play.
The earth is humming in my ear.
I feel a secret in this day.

And there was lightness in the air;
a soulful stirring, soft and deep.
But he moved on, with much to do
before he finally took his sleep.

He had not oil enough to set
the empty lamps aglow that night,
but in each room a candle stub
would lend, at least, a friendly light.

Elias served the supper and
was heartened by his father’s smile.
The inn was full. His hungry family
would be well fed for awhile.

But hold, a knock upon the door!
His father, startled, slowly turned.
Elias felt a beckoning;
the sense of mystery returned.

The lodgers had retired quickly,
for the hour was growing late.
His father sighed aloud, exhausted;
knowing he had marked the gate.

“The inn is full,” he muttered.
“How could anybody fail to see?
I placed the symbol right in front,
exactly where it ought to be.

“I’ve nothing left to offer, so
I’ll leave these stragglers at the door.”
“You cannot do that, Papa,” urged Elias.
 “Please. You must do more.”

Some wonder why the father yielded
to his son’s advice that night.
But when Elias used that voice;
most often, he was proven right.

The innkeeper flung wide the door.
Elias followed close behind.
A man stood there, pleading for help,
in a determined frame of mind.

He gestured to a young woman,
wide-eyed, disheveled from the trail.
“My wife is great with child, and now
the time has come for her travail.

“Do you think you might find some room,
a simple place to lay her head?
She’s come so far on this old donkey.
Have you nothing for a bed?”

And then Elias knew. He knew!
These two were meant to use the manger.
Earlier, he’d changed the hay.
“It’s clean,” he reassured the stranger.

His father frowned; the man stepped in.
“I’m called Joseph,” he humbly told.
“My Mary takes your manger gladly,
for the night yawns bleak and cold."

And so Elias let them in,
with ox and ass and lamb nearby.
But oh, the place was dark, too dark…
with nary a glimpse of starry sky.

A baby should not come into
a world devoid of any light.
Convinced of this, Elias sought
a worthy plan to make things right.

His heart was telling him to do
a thing his loyal mind refused…
to fill his lamp with one last bit
of oil their family hadn’t used.

His parents would not understand,
for beaten olive oil cost dear,
but something in the midnight sky
was speaking to him loud and clear.

This was no ordinary day;
‘twould be no ordinary night.
He’d felt the stirrings earlier.
Was something wrong? No! All was right…

More right than it had ever been.
Elias sensed it all around.
Like voices, raised from far away,
in strains of joyful, sacred sound.

He wondered if the others heard
or was it vision, his alone?
He thought, perhaps, the woman did;
because her eyes, once tired, now shone.

She smiled upon Elias, grateful,
when he gave his lamp to them.
She said it burned as pure and true
as any light in Bethlehem.

And when her baby came at last,
greeting the world with his first cry,
those silent strains Elias heard
rang out across the midnight sky:

Glory to God in the highest!
Peace on earth! To men, good will!
For unto you is born this day
a Child, a Lord, who shall fulfill
the promise of eternity…
of life beyond this fallen earth.
Your newborn King is here at last;
come celebrate the holy birth!

With those hosannas, rose a star,
so bright it pierced the mudded walls.
The stable glowed with beauty from
the hallowed manger to the stalls.

And just as that great star appeared,
as if in sync with heaven’s time,
Elias’s small lamp burned out.
No longer did his vessel shine.

The young man drooped; his selfless gift
now seemed a mean and shoddy thing.
A lamp of clay, half-filled with oil,
could be no valued offering.

This Baby came with His own light.
It was the everlasting kind.
Elias found a bushel box
to hide his meager lamp behind.

“What are you doing?” Mary asked.
“Please, do not hide your lamp away.
The oil is gone, but you’ll find more
and share your light another day.

“When I was in the dark tonight,
you calmed my fears and helped me see.
You gave up all the oil you had
to make the stable bright for me.”

Elias smiled. “My light is small,
too small for such as you and He.

Mary sighed softly, took his hand,
and said, “You do not understand.”
He needs your light that shines so true,
to help Him save the world, and you.

“Of every light, He is the Source:
your little lamp or that great star.
The Light of Christ is in us all,
and we must shine it where we are.”

“Your words are wise.” Elias beamed,
taking his lamp into his hand.
“When we hold up our light and share,
there’s less of darkness in the land.

“No lamp is small against the dark;
each spark or flame is lit from His.
And when we choose to shine that light,
we see more clearly who He is.”

The promised Babe, born in a stall.
The hero of our Christmas story.
He is the Savior of us all.
May every soul reflect His glory.

“I am come a light into the world, that whosoever 
believeth in me should not abide in darkness.” –John 12:46

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”                                      
  Matthew 5:14-16