The Manger’s Reach

Oh, Blessed One, Beloved Abba, whose womb
squeezed forth all that is, humus and human alike,
animate and inanimate together,
sun and moon and galaxies without end.

Oh, Sweet Deliverer, fruit of Mary’s annunciation,
troubler of worlds and troubadour of heaven’s fidelity,
whose call to the table gathers the lame and binds
every shame with the promise of feast for the lost,
for the least, for the last, and all willing
to sing the angels’ insurrectionary song.

Oh, Wisdom of Days, breath of life in lungs of clay,
pregnant promise to Sarai and Abram, flaming
visage to Moses, whisperer to prophets and
confounder of priests. Answer to Hannah’s lament
and Elizabeth’s regret, tongue of fire on the
seer’s lips and Pentecost morning’s dazzling display.
Light from darkling sky that surrounds and
protects our way, even in death, sowing
Redemption’s harvest with each martyr’s blood.

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This is one of those
old-fashioned, free-range,
leap-of-faith callings.
Just when you thought
our climate-controlled,
pension-secured culture
had squeezed all the
chutzpah out of the
believing community –
no more burning bushes,
flaming tongues-of-fire,
scary angelic appearances,
even still-small voices—
the Spirit erupts again.

©Ken Sehested @ Blessing for friends prior to their year working with churches in Cuba.

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The Singing of Angels

Sisters and Brothers,
bend an ear
to the singing of angels.

Not that of seasonal
carolers who pause
at lace-curtained windows:
offering familiar and favorite
tunes in delicious harmony
and frosted breath;
providing splendid distraction
from the agonized arias of the innocent.

But for angels, who,
in the midst of
Caesar’s endless census,
erupt from darkest eclipse
with unnerving news,
startling keepers of every flock,
unsettling every sanction
with the overture
of swaddling-wrapped revolt:
Behold the light
for those who dwell
in the shadow of death!

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Millennial Meditation

Zero-one, zero-one, zero-one

The dawn creeps forward,
hesitantly, modestly,
as a shy lover to the beloved,
hidden sun
lobbing warmth and light
over the horizon
through layers of mist
in noiseless drifts,
proceeding effortlessly as
from sleep to wakefulness.

Here in the most ancient of hills
of Southern Appalachia
languid snow falls with measured pace,
neither rushed nor ambitious.
Unlike the televised revelers
from Sydney to San Francisco
during last eve’s revolving
midnight watch,
the turn of time feels
especially fraught with
meaning, moment or emotion.
“Zero” to “one”—the language
of machines, not flesh.
Bands play, parades prance,
but who would know it
short of electronic signals received
from distant satellites
brought to life, byte by byte,
via modernity’s pervasive purveyor
of desire
(in “real” time, no less)?
Amazing. Simply amazing.

What time is it, really?

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Obscured brother
consigned to the margins
of Incarnation narrative.
Carpentry-calloused hands
now shield the shame
of sagging face, drooping, disgraced.
Chiseled lines prematurely sculpting
age in youthful countenance.
Thoughts of Mary smudge the heart
as tears smear the face.
Mary. Beloved. Betrothed. Betrayed?
Mary. With child. Whose? How, and why?
Joseph, companion in confusion
over God’s intention.
No multi-colored coat for you as for
your scoundrel namesake of old.
But who dares answer, much less complain?

Made redundant by the very breath of God.
What became of you?
Obedient to heaven’s outrageous instructions
amid Caesar’s assessment.
Unable to provide more than squalid accommodation
in your beloved’s night of travail.
Enduring embarrassed encounters
with wild-eyed shepherds and
strangely-clothed pilgrims
from obscure and distant lands,
each with incredulous stories of starry encounters.
Then hurtling toward Egypt—a land still haunted
by chained voices of ancestral slaves
—only steps ahead of Herod’s rage, the
Ramah-voice of Rachel weeping in the wind.

Did compliance with heaven’s intrigue
cause your undoing?
Was it more than your pride could endure?
Or did Rome nail you to one of its trees,
anonymously, sharing the sentence
of countless other Palestinian fathers,
left hanging in imperial ambition
years before the similar fate
of Mary’s fetal promise?
Did you map that road
for him as he did for us?

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Boundary to benedictus

A meditation on Zechariah

hillbilly priest of the
Abijarian house of Aaron,
himself the brother and mouthpiece
for “slow-tongued” Moses—
What lesion confounds your speech?

With Elizabeth—
cousin of Mary, spiritual heir of
Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah—
barren and bereft, seedless and sorrowful,
pledged to you, a priest of impotent prayer.
A union with no yield but malignant shame.
What boundary of belief constricts your credulity?

Afflicted with aphasia by Gabriel’s reproach
’mid the cloud of incense.
The Holy of Holies,
designed to regulate the presence of
(the unspoken name of) YHWH, now
overwhelmed with dumbfounding Presence.

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The work of praise

Portending peace for the earth

The Blessed One does not stand in need of our praise;
nor sits impatiently, impudently, awaiting our
genuflection; nor strides restively, demandingly,
threateningly, toward our cowering pose.

No, none of this. There is no protection to be warranted by
proper groveling, calculated flattery, sustained applause,
pleading curtsies or bargaining bows.

It is, rather, we who need to praise. By it we transcend
self-serving ways. By it beggarly egos loosen their grip;
anxious trembling and toil, stilled and rested; fury, calmed;
moans, soothed; regrets, unknotted.

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Behold, the Lamb!

O Lamb of God
fruit of the Spirit
flesh-giv’n of Mary
creation shall hear it!

O Lamb of God
Joseph sits shiv’ring
Mary lies aching
creatures stir, restless.

O Lamb of God
Herod stomps, raging
shepherds peer, trembling
wise ones kneel, puzzling.

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All flesh is destined for glory

Cristes mæsse.
Ritual reminder of
a Palestinian promise
announcing Holy Intent in
swaddling attire, manager laid:
All flesh is destined for Glory.
For God
is more taken
with earth’s agony
than heaven’s ecstasy.

©Ken Sehested @ Advent 2009. Inspired by Luke 3:6.

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Advent longing

O Wondrous One,
Who rides the skies
and consorts with the earth,
haunting the heavens,
hounding mere mortals
with the expectation of ecstasy,
come and rouse hungry hearts
wandering this famined land
with the aroma of your presence.

Come, angelic envoys,
with renewed announcement
of glory (to God) and
peace (for the earth).
Your people long for
Messiah’s rejoinder,
through wombs made welcome
to the news of reversal:
the annulment of enmity
and the Advent of promise.

From Jesse’s ancient stump
raise again a voice consonant
with hope’s manger-laid disclosure,
of delight with wolf and lamb,
and children marshalling the
cavalcade astride the Lion of Judah.

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