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Signs of the Times  •  7 December 2018  •  No. 178

IN THIS ISSUE: a poem, and a litany for worship, focused on John the Baptist. Below that, a large collection of Advent and Christmas resources for personal reflection and public worship. —Ken Sehested

The baptizer’s bargain
A poem based on John the Baptist

Such a tame name for a man
     born to inhabit the wild side
    of heaven’s incursion.
    You startle children with
    your leather-girdled, camel-haired attire,
    hot breath bidding the devout
    into Jordan’s penitential wake,
    the same waters that marked
    the boundary of beneficence: of the Hebrew
    slaves’ long march from Pharaoh’s provision
        (the latter hard, to be sure, but also secure)
    to Providence of another, riskier kind,
    though laced with promise of milk and honey.
What drove you to this scorched abode,
    abounding in wild beasts, hostile foes
    and scarce sustenance?
—continue reading “The baptizer’s bargain

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John the baptizer
A litany for worship based on Luke’s story
of John the Baptist

Such a tame name for a man born to inhabit

the wild side of heaven’s incursion into

earth’s contempt.

You startle children with your leather-girdled,

camel-haired attire, hot breath calling the

devout into Jordan’s penitential wake.

Witness to the Spirit-dove’s descent,

confirming Elizabeth’s praise and Mary’s assent.

What brings you and

your honey-smeared beard

into such a barren land?

Wade in the water. Don’t mind the mud.

A certain drowning is required as Breath

from above is delivered on the wings of a dove.

The baptizer’s bargain is this:

There’s no getting right with God.

There’s only getting soaked.

Inspired by Mark 1:4–11. Adapted from a longer poem, “The Baptizer’s Bargain.”

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Advent & Christmas resources for worship
Litanies, poems, sermons, essays, and new lyrics to old hymns


• “Silent night,” an Advent poem

• “Annunciation

• “Advent longing

• “All flesh is destined for glory

• “Behold the Lamb

• “Boundary to Benedictus: A meditation on Zechariah

• “Joseph

• “The Singing of angels

• “The baptizer’s bargain

• “Portal of praise: Praise as presage to Advent’s treason

• “The quelling word: Emancipation is (still) coming," a poem inspired by Revelation 21:1-6a”

• “The manger’s reach

• “Venite Adoremus (Come and Adore)


• “John the baptizer,” a litany for worship based on the Gospel of Luke’s introduction to John the Baptist

• “My soul magnifies you,” inspired by Luke 1: 46-55

• “Keeping watch: The angels appearance to the shepherds," Inspired by Luke 2:8-15 and Lamentations 21:8-9, 14-15

• “Big band or bluegrass,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 98

Old hymns, new lyrics

Songs for Advent and Christmas: Old hymns, new lyrics


• “Undo the folded life: Notes on the reckless folly of our season

• “The faux fight for Christmas: Backdrop on the annual year-end culture war

• “Watch night history: Awaiting the quelling word

• “Longing from below: An Advent meditation


• “Watching and Waiting in a Half-Spent Night,” a sermon based on Matthew 24:36-44

• “The Baptizer’s Bargain,” a sermon based on Luke 3:7-18; Zeph. 3:14-20; Phil. 4:4-7

• “The manger’s revolt: Mary’s Magnificat

• “Same question, different outcomes: A meditation on Zechariah

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Permission is granted for non-commercial use of the above resources by communities of faith.